December 27, 2015

Easy runs

Yesterday was my long run, and it was the longest run I've done in a very long time--nearly seven miles. I say "nearly" because it was actually 6.84 miles. Like I mentioned, I'm checking out a 10K-specific running plan that lists each run by time instead of miles. Yesterday's long run was a scheduled 75 minutes.

I've been reading a ton about 10K-specific training, and something that I really struggle with is running my easy runs at an easy pace. There are two very beneficial zones for improving as a runner--the "easy pace" zone, which does all sorts of great changes for your body (I'll have to write a whole post about it soon); and the "aerobic threshold" zone, which is pushing yourself pretty hard. If you tend to run in the middle of those two zones, you're not doing much for your body as far as improving speed.

I am one of those people that does nearly all of my running in between those two zones. Yes, I can improve a little just by running regularly, but I should be running different paces to hit my full potential as a runner. Running at an easy pace is actually far from easy! Most runners (including me) actually run their easy runs too fast, which causes them to hit that in-between zone. (Again, I'll write a whole post about this later.)

So, in this 10K training period, I really want to focus on doing it right. Easy runs should be run at about 60-70% of maximum heart rate. My maximum heart rate is 182, and my resting heart rate is 60, so I calculate the percentages using the Karvonen formula:

Maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate; multiply that number by the percentage; then add the resting heart rate back on.

182 - 60 = 122
122 x 70% = 85
85 + 60 = 145

So, I should be running my easy runs with a heart rate of 133-145 beats per minute. My aerobic threshold runs should be done at 85-90%, which is 164-170 bpm. Based on my run data from the past few months, my heart rate for easy runs is typically 155-160 bpm--right in that "dead zone" that really isn't doing much for my running potential.

Yesterday's long run was the first run where I decided to try and keep my heart rate in the 133-145 range. I set the alarm on my watch to beep if my heart rate went over 145. Then I headed outside for a 75-minute run, not knowing in the slightest what kind of pace I'd be running. It was interesting! I knew I'd be going much slower than I'm used to, and I was okay with that. In fact, I was actually looking forward to running at a slower pace, because it's so much more enjoyable than huffing and puffing!

I realized that my "happy pace" (easy pace) was right around 11:00/mile. There were a couple of sub-11:00 splits, but that was when I had a tailwind. I felt really great the whole time, though, and it felt like I could run forever.

My average heart rate was 141 bpm and my average pace was 10:58. Much different from my previous outdoor long run, which was a pace of 9:12 and a heart rate of 160!

Twice per week, I'll be running in the aerobic threshold zone, which is when I do intervals or tempo runs. The rest of my runs will be at an easy pace like this one was. I'm very curious to see how it pans out!

We got some very sad news yesterday. On Christmas day, Jerry's uncle apparently woke up with a severe headache. He went back to sleep, and later, his wife found him unresponsive and not breathing. It turns out that he had an aneurysm and a heart attack, and because of the lack of oxygen to his brain for so long, the brain damage was severe. He was on life support all day, and then at around 1:30 in the morning yesterday, he passed away. He was only 48 years old.

Aside from how sad it is for the family, Jerry and I were especially struck by how suddenly it happened. Jerry had the same complaint a couple of weeks ago--a severe headache--and because of what I'd read about aneurysms, I took him to the hospital. I'm so thankful that he turned out to be okay, but now I feel very reassured that we did the right thing. As we've started getting the medical bills in the mail, Jerry was thinking that it was stupid for us to have gone to the emergency room; but now we are sure we made the right call. I just wish that Jerry's uncle had been able to get to the hospital in time. He was a very fun, nice guy, and Jerry always enjoyed seeing him. The whole family was really shocked by it.

This afternoon, my mom and I took Noah and Eli to a Harlem Globetrotters game. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but it ended up being really fun and entertaining!

Don't all basketball players jump up on the rim and take pictures
with a selfie stick? ;)

The kids had a lot of fun--they are at the perfect age for a Globetrotters game. (My mom had gotten them the tickets for Christmas.)

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! I have plans with friends tomorrow evening, so I'll be putting the post together in the morning (here is how you can submit a photo). I know it's a busy time of year for everyone, so if I don't get many submissions, I will just hold off until next week.


  1. My condolences on the loss of Jerry's uncle. Thank you for spreading awareness of how serious something like a headache can really be.

    On a running related note, looking forward to your future post on the "zones"! Pretty sure I am a "dead zone" runner...!

  2. I'm very sorry to hear about Jerry's uncle - you are right, better safe than sorry if there's something you're worried about!

    I mostly wanted to comment on your discussion of the "easy pace". A year ago, I was really struggling with my running, because I wasn't improving, and instead of getting easier, it felt like it was getting harder. First, I found out I was iron-deficient anemic, which certainly didn't help. But also, like you, I found out more about running at an "easy pace".

    I guess the reason I was always confused about it was because initially I didn't have access to an instantaneous heart rate monitor (I really can't do it well by feeling my pulse), and the suggestion of making sure you're still able to talk while you were running (to ensure that it was easy) wasn't helpful because I never ran with anyone.

    But in my struggling period, I got a better activity monitor (a Basis Peak, which has wrist-mounted instantaneous heart rate - it's very good) and found some better guidance about what the easy pace should be like.

    It has helped me tremendously to run mostly at an easy pace! Since I do most of my running, especially in the winter, on a treadmill, I found some guidance about an actual pace to start with (a speed of 5.1 mph, which seemed SO SLOW) and went with that.

    I don't know if your research has indicated this about easy pace running, but supposedly if you run most days of the week (say 4 times per week), your aerobic capacity should adjust to your current easy pace within about 3 weeks, and you can go faster and still be "easy".

    With my other activities, I can't always run that often per week, so I've been increasing my "easy pace" on the treadmill every 5 - 6 weeks. I'm now up to 5.6 mph as "easy", and it really does feel easy. Occasionally when I do run outside and without a treadmill setting the pace, I do in fact run at the "easy pace" I've been doing on the treadmill, so I think it's legit.

    At any rate, I wanted to encourage you to be patient with the easy pace runs. They really do work! The downside is that it does mean you're not going to drastically improve your easy pace speed overnight - it takes awhile. But it's so nice to run and not feel like I'm trying to kill myself!

    Incidentally, my heart rate ranges are very similar to yours. On the treadmill when I'm running at an easy pace, my heart rate is usually in the 120s - 130s. When I'm outside, it's more like 140, which is pushing that zone, but it still feels easy.

    Good luck!

  3. I am so sorry about Jerrys uncle. I found out a few weeks ago that a childhood friend of mine died suddenly of an aneurism on my birthday. He was 42. That is also what my father died from in his early 40s. So scary!

    I found out today when putting my treadmill together it came with a heart rate monitor and the treadmill monitors it while I am running so I can try to do the easy pace/hard pace workouts too. I will be starting your speed workouts soon too! The belt is very crooked so I am going to try to get service on it first.

  4. So sorry for your loss. Best wishes for 2016.


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