Monthly Archives: July 2013

Intervals … nemesis number two

Heiligenstein in Austria - originally named because the sun "burns like hell" on it.  Makes some exquisite wines now.

Heiligenstein in Austria – originally (1280) named because the sun “burns like hell” on it. Makes some exquisite wines now.

Here we go – interval training. Nemesis number two. Or so I thought. (See here for nemesis number one).

Interval training is supposed to be ‘hard’ where tempo training is supposed to be ‘comfortably hard’. I still don’t understand that. Running’s all hard to me.

Firstly, what is that I kept avoiding? Interval training appears to be repetitions of longer and/or shorter runs over a set distance (or time) with short recovery times between distances. For example two sets of this set: 1,000m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, with 75 second recovery between each distance. Then a five minute rest before you do the set again. The idea is you run faster for each shorter distance.

Why do it? I gather the aim is to build fitness. There’s a word I’m going to have to address in a future post. Fitter than what? Fit for what purpose?

I’ve read that interval training builds speed and endurance. In which case I should be loving it. I think it’s supposed to improve speed and endurance by getting the heart to work harder. I’ve also read more words about building lactate tolerance with interval training. Still don’t understand this lactate stuff. Oh flip, I see research coming … which I’m likely to avoid as I’m doing lots of research for the day job. This involves sitting on my backside in front of the screen, which I don’t really want to do more of at the end of the working day. Oh dear, where’s my running motivation gone?

Anyway, it turns out I’ve been doing interval training at run club, for the last couple of months, since I started up again after a lengthy London marathon reprieve period, during which I chugged along and jogged a bit. Now I’m training for the Bournemouth marathon, intervals it is (along with my long, slow run and a few hills).  Intervals are absolutely fine. Tough – I have to try to run faster which is quite tricky for a one-modest-pace sort of runner. But actually, I think I may be beginning to recognise that maybe I have more than one pace, after all. Another later post, perhaps.

So many learnings. So much to learn. Whoever said running was simply putting one foot in front of the other? Mad fool. It’s much more complex.

It turns out interval training is not a nemesis at all. I turn up to the track. Get told what to do. Do it. Go home. I’ve realised what I don’t like is the idea of creating and managing it all myself. It’s fine (organisationally) down at track because, well, because it’s a measured distance already, we’re given a schedule, we do it and that’s it. Last time the schedule for marathon training (as opposed to endurance training or middle distance training) was 8 x 1km with 75 second recovery between each 1km. I guess I’m supposed to be pushing myself to go faster than how fast (slow) I think I’d run a marathon. But that’s another story. Each of my 8 x 1km was not far off the same speed (8 seconds the difference between slowest and fastest, and the second four were quicker than the first four. Aah, the lure of completion!).

The nemesis bit, though now that sounds just a wee bit too dramatic a word for it, is that I simply don’t want to organise it myself, and measure distances out, and create a structured programme etc. etc. My inherent laziness is raising its lassitudinous head. Oh dear, where’s my running motivation gone?

Nodding to nemesis number one, in the pool I regularly get an ‘ooh, blimey, I’m swimming, I’m not supposed to be able to do this’ thought fly through my head. And to be fair, it’s typically a more robust expletive. But I am swimming, and it’s a fleeting thought.

There’s still too much to be thinking about with swimming, but I’m not solely thinking about breathing. But I do wonder why it’s so difficult to count laps. It’s a simple sequential numbering that doesn’t get unmanageably high and yet I invariably fail to remember whether I’ve done 4 or 5 laps, or 8 or 9 laps. What IS going on there?

Having mentioned the pool … interval training works in the pool, and on the bike, as well as on the track. Blimey – slowly, slowly I reckon. Let’s get used to the track first.

Do you know, even a few months ago, if someone had suggested I would overcome my two sporty nemeses by halfway through the summer I’d have wryly smiled and sadly but gently sighed at their naive and optimistic encouragement. Bugger me sideways though, I appear to have done it.

Tempo runs. Threshold runs. What is this lingo?

Clearly different! (you're SO going to have to be a certain age to get this)

Clearly different! (you’re SO going to have to be a certain age to get this … or use the tiniest bit of deduction)

The thing about wanting, or rather thinking I need, to do a bit more ‘proper’ training, rather than just ‘spending time on my feet’ which is kind of what I think I did for London, is that you need to get to grips with the lingo. And I’m really struggling.

What is a tempo run?

What is a threshold run?

The various magazines I’ve been reading aren’t really that helpful. They tend to assume you know. Here’s a summary of what I’ve gleaned from them over the last six months:

Tempo run: Talking is difficult. Tempo effort is ‘comfortably hard’. It’s controlled, sustained and efficient running.  70-75% of maximum effort. If you’re running too hard in tempo, your heart will be beating through chest, you’ll be puffing vigorously, muscles will start to ache and you’ll really want to slow down. Running at ‘lactate threshold’. Running at this level trains the body to handle lactic acid more efficiently.

I always want to slow down, however fast or slow I’m going. And talking is always difficult.

Threshold run:  8/10 effort where you can say a word or two but not hold a conversation. It pushes the boundaries further than tempo. Running on the edge of your comfort zone for longer. ‘Controlled discomfort’; 80-85% of maximum heart rate. At around 85% of max heart rate, or a perceived effort rating of 7-8 out of 10, most people reach their lactate threshold, where lactic acid begins to build up in the muscles, producing a burning feeling.

I’m already way outside my comfort zone even putting on a pair of running shoes.

It seems some people (and magazine articles) use the two terms interchangeably, which confuses me even more, because these two summaries from various mags are clearly different, apart from the lactate thing, which I really don’t get. As in understand. My legs feel like their wasted quite a lot of the time. Not sure I’d use the word burning, though I have seen it written quite often.

I’ve also come across rate of perceived exertion (RPE), which seems to link in with the above.
0 vegging out
1-3 gentle walking, moderate runs. Conversation ok
4-6 tougher. ~60% of max heart rate. Full sentences hard
7-9 very tough. Peak of 85% of max heart rate
10 very strenuous. Sweaty and inarticulate.

I’m sweaty at whatever speed I run, and I’m inarticulate almost all the time.

And if 85% heart rate is what you’re aiming for in a threshold run, what is 100% heart rate? Is it dead of a heart attack because it’s trying to beat too often?  Okay, slightly facetious.  I do know max heart rate is 220 – age.  When I’m concentrating on my running, how on earth am I supposed to gauge 85% of my max heart rate?  I probably could count how often in a minute my heart beats out of my chest cavity trying to escape the exertion. I don’t want lots of gizmos and gadgets. They’re all extra weight to carry, and I’d rather learn what it feels like to be running, develop some muscle memory, rather than have lots of gadgets I need to keep referring to. That’ll just irritate me and interrupt me switching off the mental processes during runs.

Added to which, I usually run alone. I’m going to look even more flipping stupid if I’m trying to have a 3-4 word conversation with myself that I can’t keep up because it’s too exhausting.

And surely all this changes depending on how far you’re running. My ‘full effort’ to run 100m will be faster than my ‘full effort’ to run 400m, which will be faster than my ‘full effort’ to run 800m etc.

More to the point, WHY are we supposed to run at these levels of exertion? And for how long? What is their purpose? Perhaps I’ve been struggling so long to define them, that I simply haven’t registered anything about what is their point in a training program. Do we get fitter? Faster? More Duracell bunny-like (go for longer)? Chattier?

What does fitter mean anyway? There’s a nebulous sort of word. And as I know so well, being a bit run-fit by no stretch of the imagination means I’m any swim-fit.

Drawing board?

Tumble turns

Enough to get your head spinning

Enough to get your head spinning

I must have been doing okay with the swimming, because S and M decided it was time to teach me the tumble turn. Cue dramatic music.

Do a handstand in the pool, then tip over, I was told. I’m very literal. I could do this.

Now tuck your chin down to your neck, breathe out and don’t actually do the handstand, and bend your legs. I could do this.

Basically we’re doing roly-polies in the water I was told. OK I remember roly-polies (forward rolls) from when I was six, and maybe even a bit older. We had gym classes in those days.

Anyway, it got tricky after this.

We moved to the edge of the pool. Put in a half turn I was told.  Oh, I said, how do I do that then?

I managed one, even found the wall.  No idea how I did that. Pure beginner’s luck.

It went downhill after that. I know, I know, there are no hills in water, that’s one of my mantras. It went somewhere funny, then. Weird, rather.

Was I supposed to be rolling then turning, or turning then rolling?
How come I ended up at 90° to where I was supposed to be (against the wrong wall in the corner of the pool?)
How come I ended up going too deep, on the bottom of the pool, albeit the shallow end?
When I come swimming in from three strokes away, breathe, turn, roll? No breathe, look down, roll, turn.
Aim for the T of the black line.
Make a rocket with my arms.

Wayyyy too much information, all at once. I could do the handstand, even the roly-poly without a wall nearby.

OK, possibly not too much information for an intelligent woman, but certainly too much to transform into action. And disconcertingly, I was very quickly, really quite dizzy and disorientated, after just a handful of attempts. Simply had to call time on the training.

Ooh, deary me. I felt quite seriously dizzy, disorientated, discombobulated and nauseous.  I just stood in the shower for a bit, hoping warm water would bring me back to stillness. Very weird sensations. I guess it was just my body doing something it hasn’t done before. Mind you I had to lie down for 45 minutes when I got home, which journey I made very slowly. The headache lasted quite a bit longer.

Maybe I just tried to do too many all at once.

After further sessions, I’m pleased to report this has been a once-only experience. Maybe it was as simple as me not having informed my brain beforehand what it was about to attempt. Anyway, I’ve done several more tumble turn training stints without incident. And without being able to do them, but I’m getting better. I can see progress.  Mind you all this is from a stationary start. Not sure what will happen when I come at the pool edge having swum a length…

My first race for run club!

Here’s another positive from having to rest from tennis and swimming … no tennis meant I wore my club colours for the first time the other day. In a race! Well, I borrowed a new mate’s vest for the occasion, anyway.

It was a bit daunting to be racing in a club vest. Lot’s of responsibility, somehow.

It was a bit daunting having done a really tough endurance training session the evening before (well I found it really tough, the last to finish by quite some way I seem to recall).

It was a bit daunting that club colours are yellow and black … nature’s sign for danger. Way too much expectation. I don’t feel at all dangerous or threatening when I’m running. More like gasping for air, struggling even to achieve my ‘must complete’ mantra.

It’s probably good for me to run a few races. Not necessarily to compete, but to get used to other people. I’m so used to running on my own with open views and just my own pace to think about. I reckon I did in this race what I did in the marathon – went out (too) fast because I was trying to get past people to give myself space in front of me. It just gets so tough part way through.

Learning how to run races – i.e strategy combined with capability – is evidently another huge hole in my knowledge.

It’s quite disparaging having folk overtake one. Undoubtedly something I need to get used to. Fortunately most of the folk who overtook me in this race were WADAC people, who said words of encouragement as they passed me, which was fortifying of the spirit, but sadly made no positive effect on leg speed. Kinda nice to be part of a team, though, rather than always running solo.

The league seems frightfully complicated. You don’t get timed, you get a place (I was the 13th woman to finish). So you get an individual position and then ranking, which seems to include how many of the 10 races in a season you’ve run (maybe not). And you don’t run for a particular club team, but the team claims their first three women (five for the men) past the post, then the next 3 (5) for the next team etc. So I was the sixth WADAC woman to finish on the night, which meant my finish position made our B team. There seem to be lots more calculations but the teams are all ranked. And there look to be about 70 teams in this league, from 10 clubs. Wow. I never knew.

There were more than 330 runners, more than 120 of whom were women. I beat 90% (just) of the other women so I’m kind of thinking coming in no. 13 wasn’t too shabby a job.

May have to invest in my own club vest…

Utterly Buggerly

Wonderful Wimbly

Wonderfully Wimbly

Well, I’ve had a very depressing visit to the hitherto magical Michaela, my physio. I guess she has only mere human powers after all. My shoulder’s not been improving. If anything it’s been getting worse.

I’m now on enforced rest for two weeks to see if that sorts it out. Well three weeks if you include an upcoming week’s hols. I can run but I can’t hide. No, I can’t swim or play tennis, i.e. got to rest my shoulder.  I’m allowed to do leg work in the pool, i.e. lots of kicking drills, as long I’m not rotating my shoulders. The marvellous M will undoubtedly think it appropriate. He still laughs, good-humouredly, obviously, at the uselessness of my legs.

No tennis either. Tedious. I like the cross-training aspects of this fitness and training thing. I don’t feel like I’m only using certain bits of me (wearing out certain bits of me). And I know, oh I so know, being relatively run fit doesn’t mean you’re swim fit or any other fit. So it’s good to do several things. Which reminds me, I need to get on the bike again at some point. Maybe not a good idea for the next few weeks though, bike certainly uses shoulders.

Maybe it’s a good thing to focus on the running. I’m already behind with marathon training. And it’s amazing how much fitness one loses – I’ve lost – since April’s London marathon. Wow, that all falls apart quickly.

I’d been consciously laying off the running a bit, just keeping it ticking over (a) because of focusing on swimming and (b)  in anticipation of starting proper marathon training in July. I guess I get to pick up the running a bit earlier than I thought. I’m slightly daunted by that prospect. There’s so much expectation now (from me). I just had to finish London and that was always going to be brilliant. Now I have to be better, i.e. faster. That’s tough. Michaela says I need to build up to 50-60 miles a week. Ouch. I’m not doing more than 10 miles at the moment. Long way to go then, on the legs. Only 13 weeks to go, on the clock. Twelve if you exclude hols. There’s a different utterly buggerly.

I guess I need to get to grips with the fact that if I’m going to do sporty stuff, injury is an occupational hazard. At least I can run. And I need to put in some miles, given my very poor beginning of training for Bournemouth. Always some positives. That’s a good thing.

And I get to watch some Wimbly tennis this week, so definitely not all bad.