Archive for December, 2008

A relaxed tempo run

December 7, 2008

It was a wonderful morning to be out running. The sky was blue and the low-angled winter sun sparkled off the ice crystals that had formed overnight. I had awoken with a scarcely perceptible dull ache in my right calf at the site of the recent injury, but little else in the way of muscle aches or pains to remind me of yesterday’s interval session, so I decided to go ahead with my planned moderate tempo run. I settled on 5Km at half-marathon pace. After about 25 minutes of warming-up which included a few easy stride-outs, I set out along the path beside the Trent. The slight ache in my calf had disappeared during the warm-up, and troubled me no more. I covered the 5Km in 24:14 (4:51 per Km) at an average heart rate 139. In days gone by, such a run would have been of very little significance, but today it signalled that my body is coping with the gradual build up of training intensity reasonably well.

My primitive early-model Polar heart monitor does not allow me to record average rate during split intervals, but I was aware that my heart rate rose from 136 to 142 during the run, despite a fairly constant pace that I had anticipated would be comfortably below lactate threshold. This substantial rise in heart rate while running in the aerobic zone suggests that I am lacking endurance. I should not have been surprised by this as I have run only a total of 61 Km in the seven weeks since I injured my calf in mid October. My preceding aerobic base fitness was probably rather fragile as it was based on training earlier in the year that had been fairly consistent but low in intensity and only modest in volume. Unfortunately a fragile base dissipates very quickly during a lay-off. It is clear that I cannot hope to achieve any really worthwhile performances until I have re-built a sound aerobic base. Nonetheless, because I do not anticipate much opportunity for day-light running in the next few months, I will persist with my plan to focus on moderate intensity sessions during the winter and then when spring arrives, I will include long runs in the lower aerobic zone to establish a solid foundation for next summer.

I will also experiment with the use of elliptical cross training in the next few months to determine how useful it might be as an adjunct to building an aerobic base – though my experience so far is that it is far less enjoyable than running.

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Plans deflected by reality in the first week

December 6, 2008

Last week I decided to try back to back moderate intensity sessions (to kick-start the super-compensation process) followed by 2 easy days (to allow super-compensation to occur). Back-to-back moderately intense days on the weekend fits well with the short days of winter, as it makes it possible to do the effortful sessions off-road in daylight. However that leaves unanswered the question of what do mid-week. In light of my wish to minimise pounding the sidewalks (which is hard on my congenitally misshapen feet), I think the best option is a fairly intense mid-week session on the elliptical cross-trainer. So the general plan is moderately intense running on Sat and Sun, rest on Mon, easy session on Tues; intense elliptical session on Weds, and again easy sessions on Thurs and Fri in preparation for the back-to-back more intense sessions on the following weekend.

Last weekend had worked out well with a cautious start to the program consisting of 2x1Km repetitions on Sat and 3x1Km on Sun. I rested on Mon and did an easy session on Tues. But before I had a chance to implement the first fairly intense Weds session of my newly formed plan, I was knocked of course by work. My working day on Weds didn’t finish until 11pm, so I deferred my intense elliptical session until Thursday. I did a half hour of easy circuit training to relax after a pressured day, and didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. On Thursday I did an elliptical session consisting of 5x5min at 7/10 effort with 3 min recuperation at 2/10 effort. On Friday I did an easy elliptical session as planned, and hoped that I would awake with freshened legs on Saturday.

Saturday was a brilliant cloud-free winter’s days with a crisp breeze. I felt quite energetic but my legs felt heavy in the early afternoon when I set out for my run, with the plan of doing 6x1Km at upper aerobic pace along the path beside the river Trent. Despite a thorough warm up, my legs continued to feel sluggish, and during the 1Km repetitions I found it difficult to slip into a comfortable rhythm. If I tried focussing on maintaining a steady cadence around 180-190 steps per min, my stride length felt very restricted; when I focussed instead on lifting my legs briskly from stance, stride length increased but cadence became erratic.

My times for the 6 x1Km repetitions were 4:22; 4:19; 4:22; 4:16; 4:22; 4:25 giving an average of time of 4:21, and overall mean heart rate of 142. Thus, I achieved an average pace that was 6 sec per Km faster than during the 3x1Km last Sunday, at the same mean HR.  So despite the lack of rhythm and erratic variations in pace, and the noticeable tiredness in the final repetition, I felt quite pleased with my run. However, I suspect my legs will feel even more sluggish tomorrow. I plan a tempo run, but I will see how I feel during the warm-up before making the final decision. Sticking with a plan is important, but maybe it is even more important to adjust to accommodate the demands of everyday life.