Humble Pie

The past 2 weeks or so has all been about getting back to regular running and although there is not much to tell it's been interesting to see how much fitness I have lost, what impact the additional weight (8 pounds) will have and critically how quickly I can get back to some sort of fitness.

The first week back I had real problems getting back into a rhythm which was to be expected and to minimise any injury risk I decided that it was probably not a good idea to go out and run everyday although that was probably the best thing to do in hindsight.

The first couple of runs went ok, kept them to 35-40 mins in duration and pace wise just went with how I felt as I had little idea what shape I was in. After both runs of 4.5 and 3.5 miles I felt good enough to push the Saturday run out to 90 minutes...RED ALERT. What was I thinking..

I felt fine for the first 60 mins or so but the last 20 minutes were not nice I have to admit. I didn't hit any walls as such but I was not enjoying this whatsoever. I persevered and ended up with 87 mins of running with 9.3 miles on the Garmin. I cannot remember the last time I had a training run of that duration and distance in many a years. My half marathon PB is 1:32.

My pace was real easy in fact ridiculously slow and psychologically I felt heavy, tired and started thinking what the hell am I doing here. All negative stuff of course but I closed the run down, finished what I started and felt humbled that the journey back to fitness is going to be way tougher than I first thought it would be.

I ended up running 22.5 miles for the week and this week I again got out for 4 runs with a total of 24.4 miles. These stats are not important of course but with each run I am beginning to feel a little bit more like a runner again and obviously there is still a long way to go but for the first time on today's run I felt a surge of energy for the last 15 minutes of my run. Last mile and 0.7 miles was 8:15 pace and

Not sure where it came from but I believe the humble pie I ate earlier last week has just been absorbed by the runners body that is itching to come back.

16 Aug
               6.7 miles, 1:00:03, 8:59 pace,  avg HR 149
18 Aug
               4.7 miles, 40:18, 8:35 pace, avg HR 150

Back to the start again.

Huffing...Puffing..breathing and legs felt heavy..what the hell has happened to me.

These words only describe partly as to how I felt after going out on my first run in almost 6 long weeks of no running.

It all stems back to when I decided to spend more time in the gym and zero time running as I had pretty much lost all desire to run..I knew at the time out at the time it was the right decision to pull away from running but upon reflection I have been away to long from something that I had for the last 5 years to my daily living.

So..I decided last week that it was time to come back..the first question how much fitness had I lost and how long will it take to get it back. I had put on 8 pounds of weight (although much stronger as I have been doing 3-4 strength training sessions).

I chose a running loop around the country park that I generally run with a 141-151 avg Heart Rate with an average pace of 8:25 min/miles (based on previous runs). The same loop results were quite shocking..average HR was 148 and average pace of 9:26 min/miles!!! and boy did I feel it.

Having read several sources on the web regarding the effect several weeks has on aerobic capacity I found a great resource that laid bare some of the answers I wanted

The interesting points I pulled from this are:

  • The bad news is that declines in fitness appear fairly rapidly: In less than two weeks, there are measurable declines in fitness, and enzyme levels associated with performance have dropped by half.
  • While the study did not detect any statistically significant change in VO2 max, the subjects’ ability to cycle at 75% of VO2 max dropped from about 80min to just over 60min—a 20% decrease.
    This is more relevant to runners in training, as it’s a closer approximation to race fitness. It appeared that peripheral factors in the muscles, like calcium and magnesium concentrations and muscle glycogen storage, affected the body’s ability to exercise more than the core cardiovascular “engine.” Nevertheless, a 20% change in a ride to exhaustion is fairly significant, so the effects of a month off from training are substantial.
However it's not all doom and gloom:

  • The results from Ready and Quinnely also suggest that it won’t take nearly as long to get back to your initial fitness. Remember that over nine weeks of training, the subjects in that study increased their anaerobic threshold by 70%, but after nine weeks of inactivity, they had retained 40% of the initial increase. It’s reasonable to expect it wouldn’t take them another nine weeks to claw their way back to their peak fitness level.So if you are taking some time away from running, realize that you will lose a significant portion of your fitness, and you will lose it fairly quickly, but your losses will taper off after several weeks, and you retain a portion of your starting shape for a long, long time.
Of course we are all individuals so I cannot take everything here to my personal situation however I am not panicked nor worried about the time off as much I was midweek. The fun part will be the journey back to fitness and making sure I learn to recover properly after all that what building base is all about.

So the goals are:

  1. Rebuild up my running base over the next 10-12 weeks (Lydiard fashion). 
  2. Focus on consistency, frequency and running based on feel i.e. adding in some fartlek when feeling good. 
  3. Have fun along the way.

Couldn't be simpler could it?