Experiment: Run How You Feel
If you’re obsessed with endurance sports (specifically running) like I am then you’ll be neck deep in the latest scientific data suggesting the most efficacious ways to increase performance. But I have this other side of me with a subtle, but firm pull. This side of me is the soul side. The side that all endurance athletes, novice to professional, innately possess. Mind over matter is huge in endurance sports and it’s a little ironic of us to throw out the mind part when it comes to our training approach; only focusing on neck down physiology. I wonder what would happen if I stopped worrying about heart rate, VO2 max, lactate threshold, shoes, pace, mileage, etc., and just started to “run how I feel”.
I recently did a VO2 max test at Composition ID, here in downtown D.C. The results were surprising, a Peak VO2 of 66.8, a max heart rate of 199 bpm, and a pretty quick recovery heart rate. What I found uninspiring was my lack of aerobic capacity: my anaerobic threshold started at 137 bpm. I can barely break into a run stride at that rate. And I want to run a 50 mile ultra in 3 months. This doesn’t bode well. But the next day I ran 12 miles at an 11:47 pace (slow, but steady), and felt awesome. My average heart rate during this run was 160 bpm, but I barely felt any blood lactate accumulation. It would seems that my range of 137-171 bpm for the anaerobic zone is a heavily mixed fuel zone if I can do my long runs at such apparently high intensity.
Still, I want to be able to run for 10 hours, or longer, days. The reason I love running is because it’s so simple, so human, and so free. I see myself bounding along the countryside like the Tarahumara or the Kenyans. Commuting with my own two feet for entirely practical, everyday purposes. And, in order to do this I believe I need a superior aerobic capacity. I thought getting a VO2 max text would provide some insight into this, but it’s only led my soul side to tug harder towards a non-technical approach. If I don’t get tired on long runs, but I’m in the anaerobic zone, then maybe it doesn’t really matter. Training at 137 bpm is sort of demoralizing, further adding to the stress I’m already putting on my body through exercise. And it makes for pretty inefficient form to go that slow, my muscles work harder, I can’t move my legs fast enough for the tendon-fascia spring energy. So, what do I do?
I’ve decided to try to go a month without worrying about technical data at all. I wear a Fitbit but I can just not look at the heart rate. I won’t worry about my threshold data. I will just do my runs based on how I feel, speed up when I feel like, slow down when I feel like, only look at mileage when I finish. And I will do all my runs based on time and not distance.