Let me get something off my chest first, most people will not consider what I do running, because I am that slow. However I am not writing this post for those people. I am writing this post for my former as well as future self and people in a similar position: Obsessed with running, but not yet good enough to compare myself to guys that have been running for years, although I don’t like to admit that!
I spend a lot of time looking online, but got bombarded with people writing about their superior mile splits and while it is entertaining to some degree to just ignore the “mile” and read it as “km”, it’s just not the same. Reading all those blogs and books (see below for lists), I came to see a vision of where I want to be, so all I had to do is figure out a way to get there. I also wanted to document and share my progress or lack thereof.
Learning from past mistakes, injuries and burnouts I knew I needed a different approach to my usual one (crash and burn) and much more patience as well as consistency was required. If I want to be running my best in x years from now – they say it takes up to 10 to reach your potential – the most important point on the agenda is to stay healthy enough to keep up consistent training.
What I was looking for was a low risk approach to improve on a consistent basis, a rough plan I could follow and tweak as well as adjust as I went along.
I started again with running in April 2015. This is why I don’t do speed workouts, hill repeats or races. You won’t see any PRs here, at least for a while. I don’t have a base that is big enough, good enough slow twitch fibres, a metabolism that burns mainly fat as fuel, strong enough bones and ligaments, the right mix of every other benefit running long distances slow enough brings.
But let’s start at the beginning:
I started with walking back in April last year and gradually added running intervals, similar to any C25k program out there. I used minimalistic shoes from the beginning to get my feet strong.
After I could run 5 k I worked on getting to 1 hour running following this guide http://breakingmuscle.com/running/week-week-guide-becoming-runner-later-life-andor-safely.
Once I was running one hour 3 times per week I noticed how tired I was after each run. I then found my current plan/structure which is Barry P’s plan as listed on slowtwitch.com. If you don’t want to click & read here is the gist:
- follow a 3:2:1 ratio for your runs – 3 easy runs, 2 medium runs and 1 long run per week
- a medium run is twice as long as a short run
- a long run is three times as long as a short run
- all run at easy pace in the beginning
What I love about this plan?
It allows me to use a simple formula and track my progress, yet I don’t have to oblige to beeping noises. I run by duration and not distance, so a typical week right now looks like this:
When I started using this plan/structure I ran by pace as calculated on https://www.mcmillanrunning.com.
After monitoring this for a while, I noticed huge descrepancies in my heartrate and I would run faster as I wanted, because of wind, terrain and whatever other reasons there were.
I also had been tracking my resting heartrate and marveled at how it was going down over the months. At some point recently I noticed that it was higher than normal. The first sign of overreaching! So … what to do to ensure I don’t overdo it? I decided the simplest way for me to stick to slowness was targeting a heartrate instead of a pace. I now try to stick to around 143, which seems to be my number based on different formulas – how neat is that! How can you find your number? Try Maffetone’s 180 minus age as the quickest way and as I learned … better slow than sorry!
Now to the bigger picture:
This is an overlay of my core data which helps me get a good picture and stay motivated. The gradient area is my general fitness curve, I like to see it as consistency rating. This will go up in time, if I don’t get injured (as you can see from the dip in the curve in the middle of the year). I overlayed the red (average heartrate) and blue (pace) from Endomondo over the PMC chart from Trainingspeak. Trainingspeak offers a free 7 day trial and you can import your data via https://tapiriik.com/. What I like about this chart is that I can visualise how fatigue builds up, bad form develops and see consistent training over a long period improve my general fitness.
Looking back at last year and it’s mistakes, as well as this week of running at the recommended low heartrate I can say that I am getting more used to the super slow running and at least think I can feel a change. I feel also much better after each run and have even more energy than ever before.
I will keep this up for a couple of months, at least that’s my plan, and then I hope to see an improvement of my pace for that heartrate. With the days getting longer, I can also think about increasing the time by 10%, however I want to get a couple of weeks of solid running around 143 or lower behind me to see if my pace increases. If it doesn’t, going longer is the way to run!
Does all of this make sense? I don’t know, I am no expert, but as they say, every runner is an experiment of one, so time will tell if it works for me!
Books I read on this topic
Running to the top by Arthur Lydiard
Daniels’ Running formula by Jack Daniels
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas
Endurance Training and Racing by Philip Maffetone