running

My crazy plan of slowness

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:

week
A typical week from early December.

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:

fitness-increase

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

 

24 thoughts on “My crazy plan of slowness”

  1. I’m actually reading a book called 80/20 Running which seems to promote slow running for 80% of your runs, and running 20% of your runs at a fast pace. I’m a very slow reader (I know, the irony…) but it’s pretty interesting. It also seems to have a low risk of injury or burnout.

    That’s good going with the running though, that’s a lot more than I have done this week 🙂

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    1. Next book on my list then! Fortunately I read faster than I run. I am a fan of the pareto principle and have thought about how it could be applied to running. Thanks for sharing this.

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      1. No problem, I have started to run a lot more slowly recently, just trying to clock up the miles without getting too tired or sore. It seems to be working so far… 🙂 Yeah, have a look on amazon for it, it seems to be a good book so far.

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      2. It does doesn’t it? Right now I do the 20% as in hiking up steep hills or stairs, or run up a hill. Nothing planned yet, but I feel as if it gets easier especially the 80% part.

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  2. Wow! Thanks for the incredibly in depth and interesting post! That’s some data analysis going on! It makes a lot of sense to me, in my case I have no idea of whether I’m pushing too hard or not and I’m a little afraid of burnout. Luckily I don’t worry about pace either, you can’t on trails really anyway. So thanks again for the post, I think I’ve learned more from people’s blogs than I have from any other source

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  3. 10 years, huh? I might qualify for Boston yet!

    On another note, way to know your body and do what you gotta do. Our biggest competition is always ourselves. I actually ran into a mental battle at the beginning of my distance running when I started running with people. I felt like I sucked just because I couldn’t keep up. But I was training more consistently and putting in the miles! What was wrong?

    So go you! Running is hard on the body, and it can be even harder on your body if you’re not taking care of it properly. Your blog is a great resource for people intimidated by running but still want to start. It doesn’t matter where you start!

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  4. OH WOW!!!! Bl**dy wow! That’s an incredible post!!!!
    The data is so interesting!!!! Wanna coach me?
    Is it takes 10years to reach your best OMG I will be old, retired and hopefully still solve LOLOLOL!
    Thanks for sharing! Loved this… Reading in my phone so will read it again when I get home xxx

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    1. Lol thanks for reading! Makes me feel like less of a maniac. We’ll see how it all turns out. There was a first part somewhere as well … how time flies. I guess a summary post is needed at some point. Will be interesting to see how it all stacks up after a whole year as well.

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  5. Interesting data chart. Can I ask some questions? (Sorry I’m a bit geeky)? So was that a whole year? If so how did you feel about the fact that although you kept your heart rate steady your pace didn’t get faster? And how did you measure fitness, form and fatigue, where they subjective scores or was there some other measurement? It’s just that I’m hoping to get fitter by exercising at the same HR, and I thought that if I was getting fitter I would run faster at the same HR? Am I misguided?😱😱

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are not misguided 🙂 I am just in the process of making sense of all the data. I hope to write a post on it soon. First the chart was before I switched to Maffetone and it does not cover a whole year. The pace is quite misguiding as I run on different terrain. Even 1 run on the beach is hard to be compared to another … I also can’t say that I was yet able to keep the HR as low for 3 months to judge it. However there is not only Maffetone that convinced me to do this. Oh and more point … I have been increasing duration of my runs. I did not work on increasing speed. I guess it is time for more analysis as soon as I am done reading the current book on it!

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  6. Crash and burn ! That sounds familiar! I think I may be crowed the king of crash and burn! I should print your article and frame around the house so I can read it constantly.

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    1. Thank you so much! Sometimes it takes some crashing and burning to get it all right. I suppose this is how we learn. Thanks for checking out my blog! I hope you enjoy Aikido tomorrow 🙂

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