Tag Archives: training adjustments

Checking In 9/7/2021

I’m back in the Vegas oven after a lengthy but mostly uneventful day of plane travel. I slept okay and decided to beat traffic this morning with early morning coffee before work.

In general my plan going forward is to beat traffic each workday morning with an early visit to the gym or early coffee across town. My typical commute routes got kind of clogged in recent weeks. I decided it made little sense for me to wait until it’s time to go to work to leave if I can make better use of the time while skipping the traffic. This multi-leg morning commute actually would feel a lot less stressful than battling traffic at 8am.

Today is a scheduled full rest day. I felt fairly tired after the plane trip, and scuttled any notions of an evening workout last night. I had a meal and just went to bed. I feel okay this morning, though I’m starting to notice the ham pain has become more like a hip joint pain. I want to see what a day of light activity does for it, after a long weekend of long walks.

I decided during the long week to make some training changes going ahead.

Air quality permitting, I want to start working on easy intervals in the early morning. I wouldn’t have a ton of time so I’d probably stick to 3-4 1K-intervals in the morning. These are light effort M-pace-effort type intervals, so it wouldn’t torch me much at all to knock these out.

I also decided to stop running on work breaks. Along with these runs being on paved sidewalks, the weight of items in my pockets combined with being 10-15 lbs heavier than when I ran regularly in Chicago leads me to think my ham pain is in part a product of the extra load and stress of running heavy and on sidewalk pavement. Doing all my running in the morning in running gear, on nearby asphalt trails, might lessen the impact and contribute to healing.

All my strength training will be on weekdays in the morning before work. It was more challenging and took up valuable aerobic training time to do this in the evening, so I’ll save the evening gym sessions for elliptical work. This will allow most if not all of these elliptical workouts to go an hour or longer, instead of being henned into 45-60 minutes.

I’ll also skip workouts on Friday nights, to better load up for any long workouts I want to do Saturday morning.

Saturday long workouts will be easy/steady longer runs, with tempo surges here and there. This will be the only workout I do Saturday. I’ll rest the rest of the day.

Unless I’m out of town and this is infeasible, Sundays are double days. I do a regular easy-interval workout in the morning. Later in the afternoon, I do a longer elliptical session, probably 75-90 minutes. If I’m nowhere near a gym, I won’t worry about doing this.

Diet wise, I’m going to focus on low oxalate foods, which reportedly will help reduce overall inflammation. I want to also see if cleaning up my diet not only helps with recovery from workouts but also with recovery from the ham issue. My diet could have been better the last few months, and perhaps this is a factor in why the ham issue isn’t healing more effectively.

I still have scheduled rest days (1-2 a week) interspersed throughout the schedule and those will be strictly enforced. On weekdays I’m allowed to walk on work breaks and that’s it. On weekends I do no exercise.

Meanwhile, today, I have a rest day, and will be taking it easy. Until tomorrow….

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Adding mileage with bookended run/walk intervals

I recently made another accidental discovery while training.

After cutting back on running for a while, leaning instead on strength and cross training, I started training seriously again after getting roped into joining a couple of spring 10K’s in the Vegas Valley. With COVID restrictions fading back, races (at least on a smaller scale) are coming back to the area.

To see where I’m at and give me an easy, productive training schedule, I had Garmin set me up on a McMillan algorithmic plan. McMillan’s easy workouts are often flexible, e.g. you can run 20 minutes at an assigned pace, or have the option to extend that paced run up to 35 minutes before the cooldown. I wanted to have that option rather than have to run 3-5 miles at pace or bust.

Previously I had been doing runs Galloway-style, with a run-walk approach. I figured out how to program my Garmin Forerunner to give me run-walk alerts on basic runs, and set it to have me run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat.

This had actually worked quite well in that my cross training helped me maintain more than enough aerobic endurance, but neuromuscularly I was still struggling to run more than 15-20 minutes without sending my heart rate towards the lactate threshold. I was able to easily extend runs beyond 15-20 minutes with the walk breaks.

Still, I figured forcing myself in the short term to combine some 20+ minute runs with some speedwork and ample nutrition/recovery in a training plan would compel my body to catch up.

On one easy training run I was laboring and decided to cut the workout short at 20 minutes, but that after the cooldown and nominal end of the training session I would “Resume” the rest of the run at an easy pace to cover the distance I wanted.

I got to end of the workout, hit “Resume”, and continued running. Within seconds I was surprised to hear my watch chime and tell me it was time to Walk 1:00, just like on my default runs.

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Heart Rate Training Zones: A New Approach

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

Heart Rate training zone systems take for granted that a fairly high level of sustained aerobic effort is comfortable or consistently sustainable for most people, which of course it’s not. Most runners just take for granted that it’s normal and never consider that what they consider “easy” or “recovery” is in fact still too hard.

One of the reasons a runner’s aerobic development improves more quickly than their neuromuscular development is because running itself is very demanding. On both fronts you’re being pushed very hard. However, your aerobic and hormonal capacities bounce back much more quickly than your muscles, bones and joints.

Still, it’s incredibly stressful on your body chemistry to go that hard that often, and the fatigue can snowball too quickly for you to be able to handle a high volume of that kind of aerobic training.

In my cross training, I find I need to go pretty hard to get to Zone 1 in most heart rate training zone systems… somewhat too hard for the purposes of whatever cross training I’m doing. The level of effort require would leave me rather tired and possibly sore. This supposed recovery exercise ends up not helping me recover much at all.

It’s not that most runners are just stronger. They just spend all their lives in this perpetual fatigue, physical and adrenal. The long term effects on their health are taken for granted as aging or wear and tear, when in actuality it’s probably preventable… without compromising your fitness or development.

My most recent heart rate zones of choice were a standard 50/60/70/80/90/100 split based on the Karvonen Formula, which uses heart rate reserve. This is a function of your resting and max heart rates, and the zones are proportioned against those rates. Zone 1 for example would be 50-60% of the gap between your resting and max heart rate (your “heart rate reserve (HRR)”), zone 2 60-70% of the HRR, etc.

With a max HR of around 184 beats per minute, this sets my minimum training heart rate around 120 (depending on what my resting heart rate is at that time), with zone 1 peaking at about 130-135. This is about where most heart rate zone systems would put zone 1, and is considered a “recovery” heart rate.

On the spin bike, even at a brisk but easy effort, my heart rate is around 105-110. On the ARC Trainer I can get to 125-130, but only with a more moderate effort. On the rowing machine, a concerted effort typically gets me to about 110-120.

However, when running, I rarely can cruise at a heart rate below 130, no matter how slow and easy I run. I basically have to stop and walk/run to average a zone 1 heart rate. This is not a product of lacking fitness: Even at my peak condition and training in Chicago, it took the right combination of circumstances for me to average 125-130 at an easy effort.


All of this is to say that maybe our view of heart rate zones and “recovery zones” is a bit warped and could use an adjustment.

This is especially true in our coronavirus circumstances, where if we go to the gym (and in many cases train outside) we need to wear a mask while while exercising. We can’t huff and puff at full volume and expect max results if a mask is filtering much of the air taken in or expelled. I’ve talked before about this being a long term training benefit, but in the present it makes the effort required for aerobic training a bit too much.

Bear in mind as well that, to maintain the typical intensity for a full volume of training, you have to consume a lot of carbohydrates, which can cause a variety of inflammatory health problems if consumed in the large amounts that most endurance athletes tend to require.

One of the reasons low-carb diets tend not to work well for endurance athletes is because they train at an intensity where they need a lot of glycogen, and that can only come from and be replenished from a carbohydrate rich diet.

Could it be possible to scale back carb consumption to a more (shall I say) human level, rely more on slower fat burning, and still be able to train, perform, and develop at a high level.

I say yes, and I say the key to doing so is combining (now-)traditional 80/20 training principles with a revised approach to heart rate zones.

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10+ Thoughts on Building Training Breaks Into Strength And Endurance Training

Runners typically train for a race through 8-24 weeks of focused, progressive training, then take a break of either reduced or no running for some time afterward.

It just occurred to me that:

  1. People who primarily strength train as their exercise never train like this.
  2. Many who strength training typically see their development and progress hyperbolically slow after training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  3. Serious runners also see their progress hyperbolically slow after years of mostly continuous hard training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  4. Except for a weeks/months long “offseason” where they basically don’t train at all, most serious runners train continuously for their entire season with few, often brief planned breaks
  5. Runners could benefit from peak-and-valleying their training season in the style of a 12 month grade school. Basically, you ramp training around recurring goal races, with the plan to downscale training in the week(s) following those periodic goal races.
  6. Strength trainees may see more progress if they were to build regular periodic training breaks or “de-loads” into their training. Basically, progress training as usual for 8-24 weeks, then take a week or more where training stops and/or volume (whether reps, weight, frequency, or all of the above) are substantially, pointedly reduced. You rebuild, re-load energy and drive, then resume training a few days/weeks later really to attack the weights/road/water/bike/etc.

6a. Unplanned breaks like injuries and other life emergencies don’t count. Your body and mind are taxed and have to heal in other ways during breaks like these, and aren’t as fully available to rebuild and heal the way they do during a conscious, planned break in training. Sure, some recovery can happen, but imagine how you feel after a very stressful vacation. Are you “refreshed” and 100% when you go back to work or school?

  1. I imagine a lot of the stalled progress in muscle growth and other “GAINZ” most strength trainees experience would cease to stall if they consciously built to a scheduled peak over weeks/months, then made a point to take a 1-2 week break afterward before resuming.

7a. Fitness loss is minimal during a 1-2 week extended break. As distance running’s Hanson Brothers have attested, the body tends to reap direct benefits from a key workout (and conversely, experiences a loss of fitness from a lack thereof) after 8-12 days. You can probably take a week off before resuming training and experience little to no loss in strength/fitness from where you left off. Two weeks off, and the loss would be very slight, to the point where after a couple weeks of gradually resumed training you’d be back to where you had left off.

  1. So now, I’m looking at you, runners. Many of you have the right idea, where you start training mainly to run a goal race, train hard for that 8-24 weeks, then run your goal race and take it easy for a few days/weeks. There are certainly many things you could do better, but you have the right idea.

8a. And then there are some of you who continiously train, and train hard every week. You don’t take many planned breaks, maybe after a marathon or a longer race, but otherwise you’re doing high intensity workouts and/or high volume almost every week. And then you’re wondering why you get injured or you constantly have nagging injuries.

8b. Some of you call them “niggles”. I call them red alarm signals that you need to take a few days off.

  1. This doesn’t mean don’t run unless you’re training for a goal race. This means your training should more consciously ebb and flow, at the very least follow a 3-5 week continuous cycle of gradually increasing volume to a peak before a week of lighter training. But what could benefit you most is longer 8-16 week cycles of gradually progressing volume, then or preceding gradually increasing intensity, before tapering and/or a goal race, followed by a 1-2 week period of reduced or eliminated training at a substantially lower intensity.
  2. Plan breaks into your training before life makes you take unplanned breaks from training.
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Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

sunset men sunrise jogging

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

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It never has to be exactly 400 meters

photo of road near tall trees

This trail might not be exactly 800 meters, and that shouldn’t be a problem for your 800 meter repeats. Photo by Matthew T Rader on Pexels.com

Most writers refer to speedwork repetitions in meters because they’re often run on a competition track, and such tracks can measure out 100 meter increments. On a track, you can run exactly 200, 300, 400, 1200, 2800, etc, meters.

Of course, many don’t have access to a track, and many American runners don’t use the metric system given our nation refers to distance in imperial miles.

The easy answer for conversions is that 400 meters is about 1/4 mile, 1600 meters is about a full mile, and so on.

But another complication of not running on a track is that measuring out exactly a quarter mile for a rep, let alone 400 meters, on a public right of way is unclear and difficult. Our parks paths, landmarks, etc, aren’t ever spaced out exactly right. A space between two light posts, benches, ends of a stretch of path, city block, can be 530 meters, 0.3 mile, 677 meters, etc.

Plus, relying on your GPS watch for distance doesn’t solve the problem, because your GPS readings aren’t totally accurate. A mapped run often shows you running through landmarks as the GPS signal guesstimates your actual route. It certainly won’t measure out your exact distance or velocity. Map the actual route run on an Open Maps interface, and you’ll find a difference of several tenths of a mile.

So how do you run those 800 meter repeats, or quarter mile repeats?

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