It’s been a few weeks since my last post announcing that I was offering myself as a human experiment for a strict low heart rate base. I got a lot of feedback afterward and they followed the same three main categories.
The first was from people who said that following the guidelines of low heart rate training is how they trained for their first event. Essentially, low heart rate training was their entry way into running. These people, without exception, loved it. It provided an easy, comfortable way to get their body used to the demands of running.
The second group that reached out to me were experienced athletes, people who’d been running for a while, who followed the requirements of a low heart rate training. They, resoundingly, reported that they never saw any improvement or that they enjoyed it, but that I needed to be prepared to lower my race performance goals. Neither of these sounds like success to me.
The largest group, though, are those athletes who said, “oh, yeah, I put in a few of those low heart rate workouts every week.” That’s great, but that is different from what I’m trying to do. This is 8-12 weeks of strict low heart rate work. Low heart rate, as a rule of thumb, being defined as 180-your age. So, in my case, 144bpm. All the time. No exceptions.
I will say, I am not encouraged by the anecdotal evidence I’ve collected on this method, but, I am committed. Part of even writing this blog is to reinforce my commitment.
So, January is done. I covered 119 miles and got beeped at by my watch for going over my heart rate threshold about 1 million times. If you are running next to me, you might think I am carrying a bomb ready to go off by all the beeping. It is *tough* to stay in that heart rate zone for me. My heart rate is extremely high. As an example, this is just a normal threshold pace track workout from August 2016.
Heart rate max nearing 190. The average, including warm up, cool down and rest intervals, nearing 160. So, to keep my heart rate at 144 is, well, frustrating. I end up doing, what I refer to, as expletive intervals. Basically slogging along at a ridiculously slow pace, still having my HR beep go off and then unleashing a few expletives and walking until it lowers.
My first run of the year, on January 1, I had to average 11:42 pace for an average heart rate of 141. That involved a lot of walking….and swearing.
The whole process has been pretty isolating, to be honest. I can’t run with anyone. It’s impossible to find people who want to run slow enough for me or, even if they are willing to, I let my heart rate drift higher than it should just because I feel bad.
It also sucks, and I do mean sucks, to get passed on the trail by people who appear to be just starting out in running. It sounds obnoxious, I’m aware, but as they pass me I want to give them my race resume. Then they can be, like, “cool story, bro!”
It’s not been all negative, though. It’s absolutely amazing that at this level of effort, I really feel like I can run forever. And when I get back from runs, I am still totally fresh and fine, like I haven’t workout out. Which, is really quite convenient when your family still needs you to be more productive than just collapsing on the couch. I’ve been able to ramp up my mileage significantly after over 2 months of zero running with no aches, pains or fatigue.
The greatest benefit, though, is that I’ve started to establish a love of running. This is going to sound so terrible, but I’m not sure I’ve liked running for a really long time. I’ve fallen in love with how running fast makes me feel. I like the competitive nature of running, but love the actual act of it? No. It’s been a long time, if ever, that I’ve felt that. I’ve never been one of those “runners high” people. But, I’ve had so many true moments of joy when out running this month. Being on the trails and going slowly enough to observe the rise of the sun or to listen to the calls of different birds, as one of my running buddies was pointing them out, has been truly beautiful. I love meeting my friends for 5:45 a.m. track and watching the moon set or how the morning shadows make things appear a little differently with every lap. I’ve been on that track a lot in the last several years. I can’t tell you I’ve ever noticed the moon set before.
I’ve been present for my runs, not focused on hitting a certain pace, but truly present. The walk breaks that caused me to curse earlier in the month have become moments of peace as my mindset has slowly changed over these 4.5 weeks. There was a moment two weeks ago when i was in the woods, running 13:xx pace and I just had this moment of deep, profound happiness. I was so thrilled for the opportunity to be where I was, doing what I was in that very moment. Right now, my running isn’t about the result. It’s about just enjoying the process. Which, is different from what I’ve felt in past training seasons.
I am unsure if the season’s race results will support the hope that time based results can still be achieved by slowing way down for this long. I am hopeful, but unsure. In the meantime, however, so far, I can tell you that mentally, it’s been such a nice departure from the norm.
Coming up later in the week, I’ll get into the data. We’ll start to take a look at week over week pace changes……………