Monday, 28 December 2015

How Training and Weight Loss improves Running Speeds

My running time improvements in 2015
In 2015, I returned to running after a break of some years.
After a slow start (on that first run my legs hurt after just 1.8 km!), I slowly built speed and distance, eventually topping out with a half-marathon in 2 hrs 27 minutes. Not exactly world class (I work with a guy a bit older than me that can run a full marathon in pretty much 3 hrs, give or take a minute or two either way). But for my first run of that distance in about 30 years, I was pretty pleased with myself.

I also find that having a bit more "breath" in me helps with my cycling, too
Technically, it is cardio-pulmonary improvement that I am noticing, but in practice it means I don't get so out of breath on hills!

How I did it: part A
1) build up distance and speed slowly over a long period. Don't just get up and try to run a record speed or distance, keeping going until you injure yourself
2) take rest weeks every now and then to give your body a chance to regrow all that lovely new muscle etc. etc.

How I did it: part B
1) I started off "free-style" running for about 6 weeks (weeks 3 to 8 on the chart above).

2) Then I started using a "perceived effort" pacing system (week 9), which shows up pretty clearly in the charts. Pacing to an approximate physical sensation (like degree of breathlessness) helps with pacing longer events. Just look at that 10k improvement!

3) Then I started using a BlueTooth heart rate belt and my wife's smartphone. But I found it rather cumbersome. But I was aiming to run in "zones" based on my Maximum Heart Rate.

4) So I splashed out on a "proper" sports watch - a Garmin 310xt, which is a (now) recently discontinued device, that was originally introduced as Garmin's top-of-the-range "tri-athlon" watch in 2009. The 310xt is still onsale from some outlets at a heavily discounted price, and I got mine, along with a "deluxe" heart rate belt for just 125 pounds ($188). You can read my review of the 310xt here.
the 310xt has "alerts", so it can be set up to beep and vibrate, and if you set up a heart-rate band for the alerts (say 155 to 165 bpm), then the watch cen help you stay in this band, while at the same time not requiring you to stare at it all the time. I have mine set up to beep once every kilometre, so I can keep a general eye on the numbers while still looking where I am going!
I got the watch at about week 22.

5) Then I started using lactate threshold heart rate for pacing from about week 26.
I knew that running 10k at that point in time would take me about an hour, so if I ran for about at hour at my "1 hour rate" (a.k.a. "lactate threshold"), then that would give my best 10k time.
So I did. Here's how I got on. as you can see, my heart rate is pretty constant, given that the course is undulating, except for a surge at the end, when I was really going for it!
The fact that I had enough energy to surge at the end suggests that I could have run the whole distance just a couple of heart beats a minute faster throughout.
But then it was onto cycling for the rest of the Summer.

How I did it: part C
1) I lost weight. You can see my weight loss during the year here. in fact, I,ve lost a bit more since then, and I am now about 82.5 kg (181 lbs), a weight I haven't been for about 17 years! I've recently set a few new personal records, despite not being in the best shape (quite a break from running over the Summer while I was concentrating on cycling!), and the big reason for that is that I am now a good 10kg (22 lbs) lighter than I was in the Spring/Summer

2) Light people run quicker. Owen Barder has an excellent tool to indicate just how much faster or slower you will go (with no other changes to yourself/training), if you lose or gain various amounts of weight.
Actually I suggest you explore Owen Barder's whole website, as I certainly found it helped me with information and encouragement. So I run a mile in about twice Roger Bannister's memorable 4 minute record. But he wasn't 51 at the time! How do I measure up against folks MY age?
There is a good online book of his on the site, too

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