Week 03: Tuesday Summary

Well, I should know this by now, but the best way to beat the workout-health-emo-doldrums is to work out.

Today’s run was great. It felt great – which is something I can’t often say for running; I’m a chronically injured asthmatic, so most of my runs feel like something passed through a meat grinder – and I’m happy with my performance.

The goal was 4-5 mi of speedwork. I decided to do what I like to call a Mile Dial Down (sounds cool when you say it!): run a mile at a medium tempo pace, and then step down – 1, 0.75, 0.5, 0.25, and 0.1 – getting faster for every interval. They’re separated by a recovery jog (which for me today was a recovery walk) just to recover breath and heart rate; I did 0.2 mi jogging or walking in between.

Here’s my run.

The overall average speed is slow, sure, but each leg gets significantly faster (it’s easier to see the progression looking at the splits; the overall averages are a little wonked because of the treadmill’s slow response to speed changes), and the average is weighted down by warmup and cool down respectively.

AND – important – my heart rate actually came down during my rest/off intervals. I’ve had problems not taking my rest intervals seriously enough in the past, and it’s ruined runs before, whether from asthma or exhaustion. Surprise – taking your running a little easier makes it more enjoyable. WHO KNEW

I’m pleased with this run. 4.8 miles, with some speedwork, and it felt good. Maybe I’m ready to put more speedwork back into this plan; maybe the last two weeks have been good for me and I’m ready to step it up.


The Line of Hypocrisy

Sometimes this whole health thing feels like I’m walking a thin line through a grey area.

I have these great goals – calories, macronutrient ratios, protein target, daily workouts – but they’re just goals, just words, just arbitrary numbers in a black hole, unless I make them actions and choices and targets. It takes motivation and commitment.

But then again, I don’t want to be that person who can’t go out for drinks after work. I like drinks.

The whole reason I started this blog here was to track a month or two of actual serious, dedicated effort, to see how much of a difference it actually makes. But because of that, every day I don’t do something feels like a wasted chance.

Do I want a month of seeing what it feels like to go 150%? Or do I want a month of a system I can actually maintain as a lifestyle?

And on the third (? Fourth?) hand… How can I go on and on about being healthy and “listen to your body” and then get mad at my body when it wants a rest day?

Health isn’t just physical. There’s mental pressure and stress that comes with this kind of thing – because health isn’t easy – and there has to be a balance, between the health gains you get by doing certain things and the energy you spend to get there.


What keeps you motivated? Are you a strict life-plan type or a more general lifestyle person?

Let’s Talk About Running: How To Make A Training Plan

In this LTA post, I talked about the different parts of a training plan: long slow runs (LSRs), speedwork (tempo runs and intervals), and easy recovery runs. Today, I want to cover how to use these pieces to build a training plan that will help you improve. There are lots of places out there that will give you a training plan – I linked some in the previous post and a google search will bring you tons more – but for people who want to build their own plan, or to better understand how to construct something on their own, I want to share what I’ve learned to try and help.

There are almost too many resources out there, and when you start a training plan there’s a lot of fear in it: will this work? am I wasting my time? Since Healthefficiency is all about the value of your time and how best and most efficiently to use it, I think understanding how to build a plan is valuable — because if/when you realize how all the pieces come together and understand how they’re working for you, you gain trust in your plan. Worry less; run more; train happier.

Before I start in on the plan stuff, though, there are a couple things I want to state upfront.

The first is a basic rule: You aren’t going to get any better/faster unless you run more.

This might sound obvious, but really, you need to understand this before you launch off into any sort of training plan: you aren’t going to get better or faster unless you run, you run more, you run harder, you run more. You have to do the workouts and push yourself and keep changing up that speed and increasing that mileage. You have to stick to it. With running, you get out what you put in. And the result is, if you keep putting in the same thing, you’re going to get out the same thing.

Let’s imagine you have a friend who is a runner; I have a good handful. But let’s think about this: let’s say I’ve got a friend, ‘the’ friend who struggles with her running. She constantly bemoans the fact that she’s slow: she’ll never get faster, she’ll never improve, no matter what she does she doesn’t get faster, she’ll never be as fast as other people. Now, on one hand: there are always going to be people faster than you; being slow sucks, I get it. I’m an asthmatic runner: I’ll never be as fast as many other people, either. And seeing no improvement is really disheartening.

But when I look at her workouts, her “training schedule”, and I see her running the same 3 or 4 miles each time, at the same speed, on the same trail or over the same path. She doesn’t run with any consistency – some weeks she’ll run that 3 miles thrice; others she won’t run at all – and she doesn’t run with any goals: there’s no long slow run to build up a base, there aren’t any targeted speedworks, there’s nothing. She’ll complain to me, “I even did intervals and it didn’t work” — as if doing an interval workout once makes you immediately faster on your next run out. Her interval workouts aren’t a part of anything — she isn’t going anywhere with them, and she doesn’t know how to make them more useful. Overall, it’s still that same 3-4 miles on that same path with that same low frequency. To me, this is the definition of “health inefficiency” — I mean, yeah, she’s running, and that’s awesome in itself, and good for her, but: she isn’t going anywhere with it.

It’s really frustrating to me, as a friend and a runner, to watch that. And when I as a friend offer to help build a training plan or send resources, the answer I get back is always, “I don’t have the time for that.” Ignoring my arguments to the contrary, the point here is: you won’t get better unless you run more. If you don’t have the time to actually train, don’t expect significant improvements. If you want to get faster, make some time. It doesn’t actually take that much time to get better if your workouts are designed and targeted, and you’re dedicated to consistency.

The second thing I want to point out before we launch in here is who my target audience is. If you are just starting to run – if you’re on the beginner side – I welcome you to keep reading to educate yourself, but I would also suggest you start somewhere like Couch to 5K, because there are a lot of really awesome beginner training plans out there and I’m aiming for people with some running experience already. On the other side of things: if you already run like 50 miles a week and you do 6 marathons a year and you regularly do “quarters” and “doubles” and your long runs are like 30 miles — I’m not really aiming for you, either, because you probably know all this. That doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome here! Just, this is a blog about efficiency, and if you’re too new or too experienced, this stuff isn’t going to be the most efficient use of your time.

I’m talking to people who are running their first 5K and want to train for it. Or maybe they’ve done a 5K and want to train for a half marathon. Or maybe they’ve done a couple 5Ks casually and want to get faster. Or maybe they’ve been puttering around running for a few years and want to start training more concretely. That’s the genre of running I’m in, and that’s the level I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about here is “standard procedure”  type stuff. I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of opinions, so what’s here are general “rules” you can follow to put together a plan which will help you get faster but not push you so hard you injure yourself or just crap out. If you feel like something different will work better for you, feel free to work it in; I’m just trying to compile information to give you a general idea of how this goes.

I’ll be using myself as an example as I talk about putting together a training plan. I haven’t run consistently in a while, so it makes a good reference. When starting a training plan like this, I’m assuming you can run at least 3 miles / 5K without stopping, at a decent clip, and that you run a couple times a week and are hitting maybe 8-12 miles a week as a rough start. If you aren’t there yet, you can still use this info, but you should build from where you are to about there before you start pushing yourself in other directions too.

Continue reading

Week #02 Summary

There’s my week #02! I took off Wednesday because I ended up resting instead. I didn’t modify today — I did 3 miles of recovery run instead of 2. I was feeling a little bit extra.

Total Week #02 mileage: 12.5 mi

Days weightlifting: 1 day only

And in terms of eating, because health isn’t all about working out:

  • Weekly calorie balance: 1759 calories under maintenance for the week, ~250/day below maintenance target
  • Macronutrients: 42/27/31 carb/fat/protein (week 01: 45/27/28) (goal: 45/20/35)

So, week 2 in review.

This week was harder because of the trip in the middle — I ate more/worse and skipped a workout. I don’t have a lot of choices for food when I am on a plant trip – you eat what they bring in for lunch; you go where they take you for dinner – so all I could really do was try to stay reasonable overall. And I was exhausted, so the scheduled BR workout just didn’t happen.

However, health is about maintenance, and I still managed to net a deficit on the week in calories, plus I did all of my miles (running is the priority right now). So it’s not too bad. This can be a bad point for me: week 2, just getting into habits, and the first roadblock hits, and I decide this isn’t a reasonable feasible maintainable plan and I toss it all out. I’m staying away from that attitude.

Plus, please note that even though my calorie total is higher, I had more protein this week than last week. Yeah!

For week #03:

There shouldn’t be any major upsets this week, except that I’m helping a friend repaint their basement on an admittedly tight schedule, so things may get shifted a night or two — but overall this is another week I should be able to execute.

  • Mon: BR or rest
  • Tues: 4-5 mi easy/tempo/easy run
  • Wed: weights (upper body), BR
  • Thurs: rest
  • Fri: 75 min long slow run
  • Sat: BR/yoga
  • Sun: 3 mi easy run + weights

Listing the LSR on Fridays as a time limit instead of a mile limit makes me feel better when I’m doing it — it doesn’t matter how slow I’m going, that way, I just have to go for a time. Here we go. 🙂

Week #02 Update

Well, as might be evidenced by the lack of posting, I wasn’t really able to work out while traveling.

I could beat myself up over it, or I could just acknowledge it and move on. I’ll count it as a rest period — in fact, I was asleep by 9:15 each night — and get back on track. Business trips are just a rough time, and I won’t always have the time or energy to stay on things.

But today – Friday – I did run for 65-70 minutes (some walking breaks for crossing streets and stuff, plus a Garmin/GPS bobble or two). About 5.5 miles – I’m not sure which tracker to trust, but it’s the time that matters on the long run. It was easier to do after two days of rest; maybe I need to be more careful planning rest days into this plan anyway. Maybe I did need it.

Week 02 Tuesday: 4 mi run

Today I had a 5 mile speedwork run on the books. Since I am still easing back into consistent running (after a very long period of no-more-than-10-mile weeks! whoooooooops), I decided to eliminate the speedwork portion of it and just go out for 5 miles. My goal was to do a very gradual pyramid-type run – slow, medium, hard, medium, slow – but scaling even that down a bit, so that it would be more like slow – medium easy – medium – medium easy – slow. My ankle is still bothering me and I am trying really hard to be really careful here.

However, I also ended up having a disagreement with my GPS on my phone, so the run was closer to 4 mi than 5 mi. I could have kept going, but the route I chose ended up having a major hill in it, so I decided that 4mi with a huge incline was a pretty suitable workout. Also it’s still hot here.

I want to do a post on running equipment in the future, but for right now: I run with two trackers. I have a Garmin FR-60 with a footpod and a heart rate monitor, and I have GPS on my phone which I track through runtastic. Usually they agree within 1-5%, which is good enough for me (clearly I am a professional). It’s a good combo pack for me – the Garmin is really accurate, records my HR, and can also track treadmill runs for me, and the GPS/runtastic will keep track of inclines and actual route, and does fun stuff like record the temperature and conditions (from local weather).

Usually when I run I use runtastic to keep track of miles/laps and any intervals/paces/tempos/distances I might be keeping track of. I have it set to a nice British lady who tells me, “One mile complete”, over whatever terrible Pandora channel I’m listening to at the time. The Garmin does a lot of that as well, but when I have music on it’s hard to hear the beep of the watch, is all.

This is kind of what happened last night; I had intended to use the GPS to control most of the pyramid run and just use the Garmin for backup and HR monitoring. So I was listening to the GPS/runtastic tell me how far I’d gone. It wasn’t until I heard it tell me I was running a 7-min mile that I started to go, really??  The GPS signal was just flickering on and off and eventually I turned it off completely and started paying attention to my Garmin watch for distance. I’d been confused by it and turned around at the 2-mi point (which I thought was 2.5-mi) and at that point, screw it, I’ll just be done at 4 mi. No big deal.

Running slow is depressingly hard for me right now. It’s difficult when I remember that over a year ago I ran a half marathon at a 10:00/mi pace, and under a year ago I ran my 8 mile leg at a 9:00/mi pace, and here I am shuffling through the local neighborhoods clocking 11:00, 11:30, 12:00/mile and having ankle pains. This is part of why I’m trying to write about training plans so much right now, because I know this is the way you get back in shape, and I know I’m doing this all smartly. But even if you know it there’s still that little part of you going, you are so slow. you are really slow. for real and being sad and angry about it.

Oh well. That’s what my LTA posts are about right now: not just sharing what I know, but reminding myself of what I know.

I leave this afternoon on my business trip. I’m hoping to get some kind of workout in tonight at the hotel; here’s hoping I manage.