Today is birthday number 44. Trip #45 around the sun begins today.
Let’s do this a little differently this year. Usually on my birthday I write about what I’d done and where I think I’m going.
This time around, I incidentally just went through a month or so where in training I learned and changed a LOT. Basically, I’m doing things a lot differently right now than I was a month ago, decidedly for the better I think. The light bulb went on for a lot of things all at once.
I started doing keto… though to say ‘started’ is a bit of a misnomer, as my diet generally has been somewhat high fat, high protein, low-moderate carb. I’ve had days in the past where I went real low carb, and it wasn’t a big deal.
But after reading Sky Waterpeace’s Lazy Man’s Guide to Marathoning, where he detailed that keto was a key factor in his being able to run well for distance, I decided in late September to go all in for a bit, see how well it worked, and if working well stick with it for as long as it worked well.
Each day on pure keto I rapidly lost weight without feeling worse for wear, outside of being a bit generally sluggish (which happens time to time anyway), and my running slowing down a lot, though I now could comfortably maintain much lower heart rates than ever before and felt like I could go on forever.
The weight loss did stall out over a week ago, and as I began adding more training (offseason’s over, folks! In fact, I have a 10K next weekend!)… I started feeling more peckish, more often.
So without fanfare I just re-added carbs again. I had a big bad starch-rich meal here or there. But mostly I just added peas/carrots/etc back into a couple meals, and stayed keto otherwise.
What was 10-20g net carbs per day is now more like 30-60g, and a day or two back at the old 125-150g. I had been eating eggs or a steak for breakfast a lot of mornings since I’m going to the gym most mornings now, but now some mornings I’m just fasting like before. A couple of pounds came back on since getting away from pure keto, but weight’s mostly steady.
So now, I’m mostly keto or slow carb. I don’t really worry going back or forth between either. If my weight starts creeping up again, I can just go pure keto for a bit and there’s a good chance the weight comes back down.
I joined the gym near my work on a good one-year-paid deal, which makes working out before work a lot easier and more practical (I’m still keeping my Planet Fitness membership, but going on days off from work). I wanted to cut down on my coffee intake anyway (I was going to coffee every morning before work, and while work has coffee it’s in decidedly smaller quantities).
And it still allows me to avoid the rush hour commute by working out before and after work (I cross train easy after work most days).
So now most mornings I commute to the gym, work out, change clothes and go to work afterward. It’s worked out great, it’s felt great, I get to work feeling really good (if not a bit physically worn from the training). It clearly fits me a lot better. And it’s considerably cheaper than going for coffee every morning.
The book’s been around forever but after multiple recommendations I finally caved in and read John Douillard’s Body Mind and Sport.
Douillard’s a bit out there, classifying people into three season-based body types (Winter, Summer, Spring) based on their lifestyle, body type and tendencies (you take a lengthy quiz, and it indicates I’m a Winter-Summer type).
Based on this seasonal mindset and typing, Douillard believes you should pick certain modes of training, eat certain foods, even train and eat at certain times of the day over others. I’m understandably skeptical, especially because I’ve had positive results and experience doing quite a few of his no-no’s out of season. It seems akin to basing your training on numerology or astrology, or condemning yourself to one of the somaotypes (e.g. mesomorph, endopmorph).
Douillard appears to be an avid vegetarian, and like many doesn’t believe anyone should eat much meat or protein, or eat big dinners, or egg yolks. So, grain of salt with that.
But Douillard’s recommendations on nose breathing, dialing back your training to a much lower intensity than most recommend (50-60% max heart rate), and warming up or cooling down with a balancing practice like yoga, do seem sound none the less.
So on his recommendation I test-drove doing some brief runs with my mouth closed, breathing only through my nose. It worked very well! It even worked beyond the effects of keto on my heart rate and ease of running. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to maintain anything like a 60-65% max heart rate on a training run. Even in my best Chicago days I couldn’t get it lower than 70% on an easy run.
And unlike prior runs, where my heart rate would climb and just keep gradually increasing, my heart rate would rise a bit but then come back down several beats per minute and stay. I was able to recover from spikes, instead of the increases just staying.
I used to finish my brief work break runs hot, breathing a bit hard, struggling. Even though these new work break runs had to go a lot slower because of the limited nose breathing, I came back feeling calmer, refreshed, and none of the run was a huge struggle. In fact, the biggest concern I had on these runs was my heart rate actually creeping towards the 70% range in the warmer conditions towards the end of the runs.
So I’ve once again made peace with running really slow for now, as I train myself to get comfortable with the nose breathing for steadily longer runs. I think this plus my lower/slow-carb diet approach will do wonders for building my aerobic capacity. And as he mentions, eventually I should naturally speed up as I get used to training like this.
That said, I’ll probably open my mouth and run somewhat harder in my upcoming races. I have some ideas to how to incorporate the nose breathing and harder efforts. We’ll see how they go. Worst case scenario, I’m just slow in these races, and I learn a few things, albeit with less strain than before.
WARM MORNING TREADMILL RUNNING
Thanks to this, I was able to get on the treadmill at the gym (which thanks to my new portable thermometers I now know is typically 73-75°F with 37-40% humidity), and comfortably run slow at 60-70% of max heart rate for over 20-30 minutes, without too much of a heart rate climb. My spin bike workouts are also more comfortable, though those weren’t super harsh to begin with.
Runalyze tells me the TRIMP (stress) on these workouts is now about 20% lower. What this means is I can probably handle a large volume of these workouts without wearing myself out as much. I certainly don’t feel sore or worse than generally tired the day after these workout days.
This week I’m still taking days easy and off from training, especially ahead of upcoming races. But now I feel very confident that I can handle high volumes of easy running that previously would tire and burn me out.
I have three race weekends in a row. Once the last of this series of race weeks ends I’ll train mornings and sample a full marathon training week ahead of Thanksgiving (nothing crazy, more like the lighter first week of a training plan) and see how that feels, how much more volume I can capably take on, how many easy days I need, how many double days during the week I can do, etc.
I also notice that my sleep is better if I don’t run in the evening. Apparently the stress of running is now inhibiting my body’s ability to fully relax overnight. It’s a bummer to not be able to run outdoors during winter after work, and because parks I run at open at 7am, it’s not practical to run there in the mornings. It makes the most sense to train in the mornings on the treadmill.
Before, there was almost no way I could mange training mornings on a gym treadmill. Now? It should be a lot more manageable because my nose breathing should improve my oxygen intake and heart rate management.
Plus, as much of a bummer as morning treadmill runs might be, it’s not only better for pace/effort management, but it’s way better for heat/humidity acclimation for Vancouver 2023. One factor that might have added to my Vancouver difficulty over the years is training all winter in ideal cold conditions, then running a marathon in 60°F+ and 80% humidity. My body’s not heat acclimated.
But if I’m training indoors in 72-75°F with 35-40% humidity, that closes the gap a great deal. In fact, the Perceived Heat Index for 60° and 80% is lower than 73° and 40%! I’d be acclimated for the conditions!
NOT WORRYING ABOUT TRAINING MONOTONY ANYMORE
I’ve been mostly strict about game-planning around avoiding high training monotony. But if I follow all of the above, it’s going to push my monotony over the 1.50 threshold.
That said, much of the research around Monotony is predicated around conventional training methodology, and a lot of what I’m doing is based on work from John Hadd Walsh, Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns, Phil Maffetone, and the aforementioned John Doulliard, which violates a lot of that conventional wisdom and has you training day over day at a far easier intensity than most.
So along with working with the nose breathing to maintain lower intensity, I’m going to ignore training monotony stats going forward. I’ll listen to my body, and intuitively cut workouts as needed if I’m feeling run down.
As for Workload Ratio, however, I’m still going to avoid exceeding that 1.50 threshold. But the plan I have as written does a great job building gradually and won’t come close to exceeding that threshold.
Amidst all of this, I am sleeping substantially better, more consistently. I don’t get more than 6-7 hours but they’re better hours now.
Even if I wake up during the night, I’m way more effective at getting back to sleep most nights. I’m not waking up with short sleep too often anymore.
The diet’s a factor. The training changes are a factor. Better focus on my micro-nutrient intake (making sure I hit requirements with everything) is a factor. Improving my overall health profile and losing a bit of weight is probably a factor. Keto’s effect on brain activity and recovery is a factor. It was all working before I cut down on my coffee intake but I’m sure that’s a factor too.
In fact, I undertook a lot of this recent stuff with the primary intent of improving my sleep. Improving my fitness and losing some weight were other intents, but none above getting better sleep. Sleep in fact is a key factor in improving all of the above, and I’m glad it’s starting to work better.
SO THINGS HAVE IMPROVED A GREAT DEAL
I’m going to roll with all this going forward, and see how the races go. These are basically glorified workouts at this point. The big focus will be expanding my training base and building on the improvements from the nose breathing, the keto/slow carb diet, and the better gym setup.
I made a point this past year to just work on myself, training, diet, finding consistent and repeatable habits. I like to think I’ve gotten better and smarter with running, even after having lost so much of the fitness I had in Chicago. Sure, a bunch of that was Covid in 2020, but that period was a break I probably needed across the board.
I’ve spent the last year or so beating my head against the wall to figure out how to train sustainably, and all of a sudden I figured a lot of things out, for the better.