Heartratezone Slow Running one year

Data Geek Alert: Stats for a year of slow running

I’ve been using Trainingpeaks (a software for performance management) on and off and now finally got time to read the book “The Runner’s Edge” by¬†Stephen McGregor and Matt Fitzgerald from my running book list. While it dates back a bit, it is quite relevant to me and while I am digesting all the information and try to apply it to my own “beginner” situation I want to write it down and possibly learn from it. I am not in any way affiliated with Trainingspeaks, just found it super useful. Depending on your obsession with stats it might be useful for you as well. All the above can also be calculated with simple formulas and either tracked manual or via excel – I just happen to love software ūüėÄ

As in all things with life, there are 3 steps relevant to improvement:

  • Monitor
  • Analyse
  • Plan

Monitor

I’ve been monitoring everything from the start, so I am covered well in this area or so I thought! Now after a year has past, I am ready to look at all the data and make some sense of it!

Analyse

This is the interesting part, where I get to connect cause and effect. Initially I get to list all questions I want to answer:

  • Rate the quality of each workout: I blog about how I felt in each run, that should be enough
  • Is my Training hard enough or too hard?
  • Do I need to rest?
  • Am I getting fitter?
  • Is my training appropriately balanced?

All more or less difficult questions. So what do I do? I turn to what I know … business! What I need in business to get a clear head are KPIs.

Here is what Wikipedia tells us KPIs are:

“KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular activity in which it engages. Often success is simply the repeated, periodic achievement of some levels of operational goal … and sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward strategic goals. Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs relies upon a good understanding of what is important … Since there is a need to understand well what is important, various techniques to assess the present state of the business, and its key activities, are associated with the selection of performance indicators. These assessments often lead to the identification of potential improvements, so performance indicators are routinely associated with ‘performance improvement’ initiatives.”

Now if you replace “organization/business” with “runner” and are still reading you are getting my idea. In plain terms what I need to improve as a first step are an initial set of KPIs. So let me get started on a list:

My KPIs for Running

  • CTL: Chronic Training Load (how hard I’ve been training over the past 6 weeks) (see below)
  • ATL: Acute Training Load (past week’s load) (see below)
  • FORM: The result of the above or how well I can expect to perform (see below)
  • Training balance in % of heartrate zones per week (see below)
  • Average Pace for aerobic heartrate (need to be disciplined and run only at that heartrate lol)
  • MAF test results (need to get started on doing those properly!)
  • Resting Pulse (tracking this via my phone, need to find replacement)

Here is a chart showing the data for my first year:

performance-management-slow-runner

Trainingpeaks: Performance Management Chart

The blue gradient line is my CTL. As you can see I had 3 breaks where my fitness dropped. Each red dot resembles a run. The higher the dot, the more intense the run was. The yellow line is my Form, and the pink one is the ATL. FYI that is why people taper before running their marathons: to make their form go up so they are fresh and rearing to go once dooms marathon day arrives.

Below is a look into how balanced my training was. Unfortunately it wasn’t … but I am getting better with the slowness! You can see since the start of the year the dark red is getting less and less!

hr-zones

Heartrate zones in % per week

 

Plan

I’ve tagged all my plan related posts here. In essence I still follow the 3:2:1 ratio for my runs, do one recovery week every month and if I feel bad I don’t run. I do all my runs in super slow running motion and continue on as described. I might have bad runs, but they seem to be quite rare. I will try and keep tagging them, so maybe I can spot a pattern there at some point.

Generally I follow a couple of principles:

  • never increase more than 10% per week and only intensity or duration
  • A hard day is always followed by either a rest or a recovery day
  • if I can’t keep the HR down or need some fun, I want to make sure I don’t go over 80/20 (80% easy and 20% above)
  • Do a recovery week every 4 weeks

Further thoughts

It is extremely difficult to figure out if and by how much I have become faster. In the beginning I wasn’t fit enough and I walk fast. I also ran at a much higher heartrate. This skews the data … additionally it is difficult to judge the surface. I observed this during today’s run and there was over 1:30 difference between running on soft sand vs. pebbles or rocky beach. I didn’t think it was that much …

I also noticed that my difference in pace isn’t as big if I run 130 vs 139 HR, compared to 140-145. Is this a thing or was that a surface or software bug?

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