October 04, 2019

Week One Recap of 3-3-3 Running

I was hoping to get a post up every day in October, but I spent ALL DAY working on a post yesterday and just didn't get it finished before cross country practice. I'm hoping to finish it up this weekend and get it posted. It's probably the longest post I've ever written!

In case you missed it, I'll explain what the 3-3-3 running is (it's kind of a dumb name for the simplest training plan ever, basically). My friend Thomas, the runner who paced me to my 10K PR, was having problems with his legs shortly after that race. The pain was so bad that he wasn't able to run. After lots of doctor's appointments, testing, and physical therapy, he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.

The whole process took about a year, so after getting on meds for the arthritis, he wasn't exactly in the same running shape that he was when we ran the 10K. He wanted to get back to running, so he started running for 3 miles, 3 days a week--and after 3 months, he was pretty much back to his old running schedule. (He's actually running a marathon on Sunday!)

Since I've taken so much time off of running (other than the occasional 3-miler), I'm extremely out of shape. I ran faster and farther than this in 2010, when I was still a beginner! I'm basically starting from scratch. After talking whining to Thomas about it, he told me to get off my ass and start running--3 miles, 3 days a week, for 3 months. Thus, the 3-3-3 training plan.

I was going to start it last Monday (September 23rd) but my knee started hurting on the treadmill. Out of nowhere! When I mentioned it to Thomas, he asked when was the last time I changed out my running shoes. Um, I'd say probably since before I quit running in 2017, hahaha. It didn't occur to me, but that was definitely the reason! I had a pair of Ghost 8's that I'd hoarded when they were on sale, and they were still brand new, so I started the 3-3-3 again this past Monday.

I don't know why it's so hard to make myself get started for a run. I always want to procrastinate. But since I started counting calories on Monday (which I'm still doing), I really wanted to get started with the 3-3-3 training. So, I put on some (now too tight) workout clothes and began running on the treadmill.

As you know, I am a huge believer in a combination of two running methods: the MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate training developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone AND the 80/20 Method by Matt Fitzgerald. Here is quick summary of my combination (I will write a more detailed post on this soon):

The 80/20 Method is simply a percentage. You spend 80% of your TIME spent running (not distance) at an easy pace; and 20% is speed work (each week). I combine this with the MAF method by using my MAF heart rate (180 minus my age (37) so mine is 143 bpm) to keep my easy runs easy enough.

I used this method to train for my 10K, and it worked SO WELL that I became a big believer of the combination of the two.

Anyway, that's what my plan is for getting back into running: 3-3-3 with MAF heart rate for now, and after some time (maybe 6 weeks or so) I'll add in 20% of my time doing speed work.

Running on the treadmill makes running at your MAF heart rate super simple. You start at what you think is an easy pace, and then when your heart rate hits your MAF rate, you slow the speed a notch. For example, I might start mine at 4.8 mph; once my heart rate reaches 144 (the number above my MAF rate) then I'll bump the speed down to 4.7 mph. I might have to lower it again to lower my heart rate. The goal is to keep your heart rate under your MAF rate the entire time.

I wrote about my first run (Monday's) on this post. It went how I expected! Slower than the last time I worked on MAF training, but I was able to run the whole time (at a turtle's pace).

Treadmill run, Week 1 Day 1

On Wednesday, I did my second run, and it didn't go so well. I couldn't believe the difference in my heart rate at the same speeds! I had to lower the speed to 4.1 mph for most of it (I can walk faster than that). Even that raised my heart rate too much sometimes, so rather than go even slower, I lowered the incline to -1 (walking "downhill" basically).

On Day 2, you can see the trend of my pace getting slower and slower until the end (more-so than the previous run).

Treadmill run, Week 1 Day 2

If I thought Wednesday was a mess, today was the slowest run I've EVER done--even when I was a beginner! Today, I went outside to run, because the temp was great: 56℉. I was very curious to see how my outdoor running would compare to indoor running at the same heart rate. I know I've done these comparisons before, but I love this kind of stuff.

I set my watch to beep an alarm each time my heart rate got over 143.

And beep it did.

I wanted to keep running without slowing to a walk, but I was right on the edge of that difference. (Technically speaking, running is when both feet are off the ground for a fraction of a second with each stride; with walking, one foot always has contact with the ground).

This run felt like it was all over the place--I was trying to go as slowly as I possibly could without walking, and I was concentrating on my breathing to slow my heart rate. All the normal tricks I can do to lower my heart rate! But I had a very hard time with it.

I did stop twice during the run, which actually probably helped my heart rate (it got very low each time I stopped). First, I didn't realize my parents were having a garage sale and when I ran by their house, I stopped by to say hi and see what they were selling. Then, I ran into that elderly man who I've seen for YEARS out walking.

When I was running almost every morning, he was always out walking, and we'd say a polite hello. He used to say encouraging words to me when I was marathon training. Then one day, I asked to walk with him for a bit to learn more about him. He's a very nice man (I'm guessing in his late 70's?) and he literally walks 6 days a week for 3-5 miles at a time. Doesn't even matter what the weather is!

So, when I saw him, he mentioned it was good to see me out there again, and I told him I'm trying to get back into it. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I got going again. It didn't even take two minutes or so for my heart rate to be back up to my MAF rate again.

I wasn't planning to look at my mile splits during the run, but I couldn't help it--and I was shocked to see that they were in the mid-14:00's! I don't know if this was just a bad day or if I truly am THAT out of shape. That's nearly twice as slow as my pace 10K pace (in 2016).

And this is the mess that was my outdoor run today. The drops in heart rate are the points where I stopped running for a few minutes.

Outdoor run, Week 1 Day 3

I'm beyond the point of being "too proud" to write about my running pace. I don't care about being in the back of the pack (it's funner back there!); but I do want to get in shape at least enough to where I don't have to constantly slow down my speed.

Also, I'd like to run where it doesn't take me over 43 minutes to finish a 3 mile run! I love doing 10-minute miles, because it's easy to figure out exactly how long it will take. I would be very happy to get to that point. Or even 11:00/mi.

Anyway, that was the first week of 3-3-3 training. Ideally, I'd like to run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If I can make those my regular days, then there will be no procrastination. And I'll have the weekends off!

By the way, the calorie counting is going well. I am choosing not to weigh myself until the end of October, though. I just don't want to see a small number after the work I've been putting into it, so if I continue like I am, I'll post my results at the end of the month and then hopefully I'll do weekly weigh-ins again (and running recaps!).

I kind of miss writing about this stuff :)


  1. I'm so excited to see these types of posts again, Katie! I'm cheering for you!

  2. Don't give up. Even if you miss a few runs, keep going. You will improve and then at the end of the month we can all see how much you have improved! Be determined (yes I read that post!) I find regular days for this kind of stuff makes it easier to get into a routine too. Best wishes and good luck, you can do this, no matter how slow or hard it is some days.

  3. I know you'll get it back 'cause you're determined. I haven't run in a month. I feel guilty. I always notice my calf muscles shrink down to nothing, then when I start back running it's a lot harder. It's not just our heart and lungs, but all those muscles have to little by little get stronger. This cool fall air helps a lot. We went from our home town of Marquette Iowa to Michigan a few years ago in the fall in our motor home. We loved it. So did our dog. Wish we could do it this fall but we can't. Maybe next year. Thanks for your encouraging posts Katie.

  4. I love reading your posts! I've been getting back into things the past two months and it's great to read someone else doing the same thing:). I think it's a good idea to get off the scale for a while. I'm doing that too only weighing in at a doctors office scale (I have access whenever) once a month and it breaks up where my weight is coming from. Keep it going you got this! We can do this together!

  5. I was going through your blog posts and just saw this 3-3-3 plan you’re doing. I love this idea! I’ve been struggling to get back to running bc of Singapore and such and always find an excuse that in the past would’ve never stopped me. I miss running like crazy, but can’t get myself to enjoy it like before. I’m way back to starting from scratch. I’m going to try to implement this 3-3-3 plan and see what happens. Thanks for sharing this and Thomas rocks for suggesting this! Y’all truly inspire me!


I used to publish ALL comments (even the mean ones) but I recently chose not to publish those. I always welcome constructive comments/criticism, but there is no need for unnecessary rudeness/hate. But please--I love reading what you have to say! (This comment form is super finicky, so I apologize if you're unable to comment)

Featured Posts

Blog Archive