Building my Running Base (for the first time)

A quick update on my own training

It’s been an eventful first half of 2020 to say the least. I’ve experienced a lot of transitions – leaving my job and working for myself full-time, isolation into full quarantine, then moving. I went from planning on doing another race (13.1) and a meet in the fall to realizing that a race is unlikely this year. So I’ve switched my training goals to something new to me: basebuilding.

I’ve always trained for running with a focus on intensity. I’d do three runs per week, each with a specific goal – an interval workout (for pure speed), a tempo workout (for holding tough paces over longer periods/improving my lactate threshold), and a long run (for aerobic endurance). This was a schedule that I could easily keep while also lifting ~4x per week. And I enjoy it! But I also always had a race in mind when training this way, so it was easy to push myself to do really tough workouts because I knew that hitting my target paces would lead me to running a faster 13.1 or 26.2.

Now, with no race in mind, I’ll be honest – it’s a lot harder to make myself run a bunch of 1/2 mile repeats. And I can’t come up with a great reason for why it’s necessary right now. If stress is stress is stress, maybe my body could use a tiny break from the extra-strenuous speedwork.

So what does that leave? Space for more slow miles. Or what I always thought of as “junk miles.”

That’s a controversial take in the running world as it is. Most experienced distance runners adhere to an 80/20 program, where 80% of their weekly mileage is run at easy paces, and only 20% is at a higher intensity. On its own, this has been shown over and over to be an effective way to run faster and longer. When combined with training for a powerlifting meet however, it’s a clear path to overtraining and susceptibility to injury. And since I look at everything about my training through that lens, I never even considered it.

But with no meet or race on the calendar, I’m thinking this is a good time to give the more “typical” running advice a shot. I now have 4 runs per week on my calendar, and only 1-2 of those per MONTH are with any kind of tempo in mind. The rest? Slow easy miles. My hope for this change is that I notice a major decrease in my heart rate while maintaining those easy paces, and maybe a slight increase in what pace is considered “easy.”

It means I’m covering more miles each week – building from 17 to 34 in the final hard week. For context, when marathon training, I only had TWO weeks over 34 miles (a 38 and 42 mile week in the last 6 weeks of training). So obviously this will feel foreign. It can always be very difficult to maintain slower paces! Even now with just two weeks of this under my belt, I think the most common frustration I’ve had is with forcing myself to back off and bring my heart rate down. Admittedly, it’s been tough in the heat and humidity (just want to get it done and go home to air conditioning and dogs). I hope to start noticing adapations over the course of the next few weeks.

On the lifting side, I’m actually doing the opposite – more purposeful high-intensity reps. I’d always avoided lifting actual heavy weights unless I had a meet on the agenda, and I think my technique and confidence suffered for it on the platform. I’ll be tracking how my joints feel and how fatigued I am as I go to be sure I’m not overreaching. ALSO attempting to cycle workouts around my hormone fluctuations and menstrual cycle! More on that in another post.

So here’s to something new! My favorite part about training myself is that I can experiment, see what does and doesn’t work for me, figure out why, and see where that can be applied to others.

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