Snow drops and improved aerobic fitness

I am just back from an easy 10K run in the woods and along the river bank. We are now at the mushy end of a thaw that set in two days ago. At the edge of the village, two slumping lumps of snow are all that remain of a snowman and his partner; a sad demise on St Valentine’s day.  In the woods a few drifts of mushy snow remain and some mini ice floes float in scattered puddles, but the paths are mainly mud. 


Staying upright is almost as difficult as it was on the sheets of icy snow last week.  Mud does not raise the spirits in the way that snow does.  However, the clumps of snow drops in full bloom provide some compensation and the thick green carpet of bluebell shoots indicate that spring is not too far away.


The River Trent is in spate, swollen with melt-water but still far from bursting its banks.  Nonetheless, the ancient mill race on the escarpment side of the riverside path, but connected to the river by a tunnel, is full of water.  On account of the mud it took some time before I developed a good rhythm, but in the final few Km I was running fluently and comfortably at about 5:30 min per Km.


In November, at the time when I decided to re-introduce several elliptical cross-training sessions into my weekly schedule, I had developed a simple test of aerobic fitness.  I record heart rate in the final 15 sec of a series of consecutive 2 minute intervals.  At the beginning of each interval I increase the resistance but maintain a constant cadence so that power output increases in a series of 7 steps spanning the aerobic zone.  Before my run today I did this aerobic test as a warm up, and was pleased to find that my heart rate at each level of the test is about 12 BPM lower than it was on November. 


In part this improvement is due to the fact that my asthma is much better today.  There was scarcely a trace of a wheeze. My performance on this test fluctuates day by day depending on how wheezy I am.  It is probable that I will not do as well in future on days when the wheezing is worse.  However even if I were to take the average the most recent three tests and compare with the average of three tests done in November to smooth out the daily fluctuations, there would still be a definite improvement, perhaps by around 5 BPM at each level. 



Heart rate v power on the elliptical cross trainer

Heart rate v power on the elliptical cross trainer





This improvement has occurred over a period of three months during which I have done 2 or 3 easy (or moderate intensity) running  sessions and 3 to 5 elliptical sessions per week, apart for a few weeks in which training was curtailed by injury.  The majority of the elliptical sessions have been in the upper part of the aerobic zone (30 – 35 sessions over the three months). I have done a total of 5 sessions in which I exceeded lactate threshold, and 4 sessions in the lower or mid aerobic zone. 


One good thing about elliptical training is that it does not produce any appreciable leg muscle soreness on subsequent days.  This is almost certainly because of minimal eccentric contraction.  The lack of eccentric contraction during the elliptical sessions will probably have resulted in some de-conditioning of my legs, and it is unlikely that I could run anywhere near my potential best over 10K or a half marathon at present.  The interesting question is how much running will be required to re-condition my leg muscles for running.  Whatever the answer to that question, it is pleasing to know that I have been able to improve aerobic fitness substantially without stressing my legs.  

3 Responses to “Snow drops and improved aerobic fitness”

  1. Snow drops and improved aerobic fitness « Canute’s Efficient … | Says:

    […] post:  Snow drops and improved aerobic fitness « Canute’s Efficient … Share and […]

  2. Ewen Says:

    That’s a good improvement. I guess that would mean around 5 beats lower when running at around your aerobic threshold?

    The elliptical trainer looks like a worthwhile method. Perhaps it could best be used on the day prior to a hard running session when you don’t leg soreness to affect the run?

    Autumn on the way down here. Leaves have started to turn – maybe tricked by the recent cool spell after the last few heat-wave weeks.

  3. Helen Says:

    That was interesting. Thankyou.

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