This is interesting: A 1999 study followed eight competitive middle-distance runners who ran six times per week. For the first few weeks of the study, the runners did all of their runs at low intensity. For the next few weeks they did 83% low-intensity running and 17% high-intensity. For the last few weeks, they did 50% low intensity and 50% high intensity. At the end of each phase, the runners did a V02 max test to measure changes in their aerobic capacity. The average V02 max at the end of the first phase of all low-intensity running was high at 71.2. The average V02 max at the end of the second 83/17 phase was 72.7, an increase of 1.5%. The average V02 max at the end of the third 50/50 phase was 70.9, a decrease of 2.5%. This study was cited in 80/20 Running, and Fitzgerald goes on to say this:
Doing three high-intensity workouts per week was not only less beneficial than doing just one–it was worse than doing none at all. Additional data [collected by the study] explained why. During the 50/50 phase of the study, the runners exhibited very high levels of norepinephrine, a stress hormone, immediately after hard running. This finding, combined with a second observation of lower heart rates during intense running, indicated that the parasympathetic nervous system of these runners was suppressed. They were overtrained.
A couple takeaways here. First: “Doing three high-intensity workouts per week was not only less beneficial than doing just one–it was worse than doing none at all.” Wow. So not only is a lot of high-intensity not as beneficial as a small amount mixed in with mostly low-intensity, but it’s worse than doing none at all. Damn. Second: The last phase of 50/50 running lasted four weeks. Interesting that in that short time, the runners became overtrained. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that I was overtrained in December when I started the advanced Hansons’ half marathon plan and jumped right into a lot of hard workouts.
This past week was my first week of following 80/20 training for a 5K. If you want to learn more about this training and didn’t catch my post on it last week, you can find it here. I didn’t follow the plan exactly because I still had to my “homework” to calculate my target heart rate zones and paces that I mentioned in that last post. I did that in place of speed workouts for the week and ended the week a little short of the 80/20 ratio and did 92/8, but erring on the low intensity side is better than the high intensity side.
My initial thoughts on this training are that it is, as I suspected it would be, a great fit for me. The runs are easy to fit in before work, and all the low-intensity runs are very pleasant and not at all draining. I have none of the crippling exhaustion I had earlier this year. In fact, five runs totaling 18 miles hardly felt like any effort, almost like I hadn’t run at all.
The one downside is, as others have mentioned, it’s very hard to stay in my easy heart rate zones. I’ll talk more about the specific challenges in the recap below. For reference, these are my zones:
- Max heart rate (doesn’t factor into any of the training, just for reference: 177
- Lactate threshold heart rate: 155
- Zone 1 (low aerobic): 116-124
- Zone 2 (moderate aerobic): 125-138
- Zone 3 (threshold): 149-155
- Zone 4 (V02 max): 158-163
- Zone 5 (speed): 164+
In terms of the rest of the week, it was great. I got in three full-body strength training sessions, four bike commutes to work, and one walk commute. My eating has been right on track, except for Saturday spent at my mom’s where they made me spaghetti with my favorite homemade marinara sauce, garlic bread (not vegan but I caved and ate it), and an old family recipe that’s essentially fried bread. Hello, bad carbs. I’ve been losing about one pound a week and hope that carb-fest didn’t set me back too far.
This upcoming weekend I’ll be headed to DC for the Cherry Blossom race! I’m so excited for the weekend overall, but I’m not sure what to do about the race itself. I have 7 easy miles on my schedule for my long run. It’s hard enough to keep to my easy pace on my own, and I really don’t know how I could do it in a race environment unless I regularly take walk breaks to lower my heart rate. Option one is try to keep my pace for the first 7 miles easy and then go a little faster in the last 3 miles and make that my speedwork for the week. But if things don’t go as planned, which they often don’t for me in races, it’s possible I’ll do the first miles harder than I want and then can’t speed up and am in danger of not meeting the time limit. My easy pace while monitoring my heart rate is between 1-2 minutes/mile slower than my previous easy pace without heart rate monitoring, so I could very well not meet the time limit. Option two is to run the 5K instead. I could do 3 miles before the race starts by myself at my very slow easy pace, then the 5K at a moderate-hard pace to be my speedwork for the week, and then do 1 mile cool-down. Even though I wouldn’t be able to run with my friends, I’m leaning toward this second option. Thoughts?
Here’s a breakdown of last week.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Training for a May 20 5K
- Days running: 5
- Miles this week: 18.1
- Ratio of low intensity to moderate/high intensity: 92/8
- Miles this month: 38.02
- Miles this year: 255.2
- Strength training: 93 minutes
Easy Run: 40 minutes
This was a “foundation” run from the 80/20 training plans. It’s 5 minutes in zone 1, 30 minutes in zone 2, and 5 minutes in zone 2. I did another lactate threshold heart rate test in the middle of this run to confirm the results from my first test. The challenge with this test is that there’s subjectivity to it because it relies on a talk test and perceived effort. Another rule of thumb is that lactate threshold should be the level that fit runners feel like they can maintain for 50-60 minutes and less fit runners can maintain for 20 to 30 minutes. So I tried to think of all those when deciding on my lactate threshold heart rate. It was 32–not bad, but still felt like winter on this first day of spring.
Tempo run: 40 minutes
Strength training: 34 minutes
During this run I calculated the paces for my heart rate zones. At first I was trying to do it manually by just trying to keep my heart pace steady while noting pace. It didn’t work out well because I had to set my Garmin to “pace” instead of lap pace, and it was fluctuating wildly. Then it occurred to me that there’s a much easier way to do it. I started a new lap when I was at the heart rate I wanted to be, then ran at that heart rate for 2-3 minutes so I could have an average pace for that lap. So I went up the ladder of my heart rate zones, spending a few minutes in each, and then back down to have two data points for pace.
In the evening I did full-body strength training.
Easy run: 40 minutes
There was a real-feel of 14 degrees in the morning, so this was a very cold run. It was a recovery run, which is supposed to be all in zone 1. It was very tough to keep to that slow pace the entire run because it took a lot of mental effort to focus on going slowly, and my pace kept drifting up. I had to walk a bit a few times to get my heart rate down. But, my average HR was exactly 124, the high end of my zone 1. My average pace was about 2 minutes slower than my average pace usually is for “easy” runs. This seems to confirm that I have really been doing my easy runs at a moderate intensity.
I’ve noticed that when I’m in my easy zones 1 and 2, I can breathe out of my nose comfortably and don’t have to breath out of my mouth. When I reach the upper end of zone 2, I start to have to breathe out of my mouth a little. So a good rule of thumb for me is that if I have to breathe out of my mouth, it’s likely moderate intensity.
This was also a really cold bike ride into work. When I got to my bike parking spot, the clip on my bike where I keep my bike lock must have frozen in the cold because my lock wouldn’t come out. This was obviously problematic because I couldn’t just leave my bike unlocked. So I pulled with all my strength…and finally the lock burst from the clip and rammed right into my knee. OW. I was nearly in tears. I had to stand there for about five minutes before I could walk. I thought I might have really damaged my knee, but after about a half hour, it was fine.
Strength training: 25 minutes
I did full-body strength in the morning. Because this was a non-running day, I walked the round-trip 3.2 miles to work and back instead of biking.
Easy run: 40 minutes
When I looked at the dark green and yellow radar map when I woke up, I knew there was no getting around the rain for my run. I at first considered pushing off my run, but I really wanted to have Sunday off. So I put on my rain gear and headed out. It was the kind of hard, steady rain that I knew would soak me as soon as I left my house. I got soaked, but it wasn’t that bad. It was 39, so at least it wasn’t really cold. There wasn’t another soul out, so the morning was even more peaceful and quiet. This was another foundation run with the first and last five minutes in zone 1 and the rest in zone 2. Again it was very hard to keep to my heart rate zones. On none of the runs this week have I ever made it back to zone 1 at the end. I think part of that is because I have an uphill grade on the last few minutes of my route.
Easy run: 6.5 miles
It was 63 and overcast when I started this run, and it got warmer and sunny as the morning wore on. I spent the first 1 mile and the last half-mile in zone 1 and the middle in zone 2. I think the heat made it even harder to keep my heart rate where it should be, and again I had to walk a few steps a few times to bring my heart rate down.
In the afternoon we took a 1.5-hour walk to the park and back. It was in the 70s and gorgeous.
Strength training: 34 minutes
After going grocery shopping in the morning, I did another full-body strength session. Ah, I love having Sundays off from running! Why did I never think of it before? I got a bunch of meal prepping for the week done before we took Django to Riverview Park. We did only a short, 45-minute hike because it was about to start raining, but still it was nice to be out in the woods on a nice spring day.
I’m linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap, Steff, for the Pittsburgh Run Bloggers Weekly Recap, and Courtney for her Training Recap. Have a great week!