123

Where does the fitness go? (Read 2290 times)

    I've been running for almost 9 years, and have run one marathon per year for the last five years.  Total running mileage is 2000 to 2100 miles per year.  I run all year, with slightly lower mileage in winter and higher in summer.  I take about a month off from running after an October marathon.  I have seen a significant loss of fitness when I start back running.  My running speed is not noticeably affected by temperatures between -20 deg F and about 90 deg F.  It takes until summer to get back to where I was.

     

    Some typical runs:

    9-5-11: 4.6 miles at 9.7 MPM at 121 average heart rate.

    9-7-11: 4.7 miles at 9.8 MPM at 123 BPM.

    9-11-11: 8.0 miles with the last 3 miles at 7:35 MPM at 158 BPM, maximum 168 BPM.  This is a typical tempo run, not the best one.

     

    10-15-11: Whistlestop Marathon 3:49:46 and a 2 minute PR.  No heart rate information.  2:37 positive split, mostly due to quads giving out during the last three miles. 

     

    Walk 20 to 30 miles per week at about 14 minute pace.

    Started running 11-14-11.

    11-22-11: 4.2 miles at 11.4 MPM at 125 BPM.

    11-28-11: 4.5 miles at 11.1 MPM at 125 BPM.  Good weather, no snow. 

    12-1-11: 7.0 miles with the last 3 miles at 8:10 MPM at 163 BPM, maximum 174 BPM.  Good weather with a trace of new snow.  The snow was not slowing me down.

     

    This fitness loss is typical for the last 5 years.  It's frustrating to go so slow after several months of enjoying faster speeds. 

     

    Does anybody know why so much fitness loss, and why it takes so long to get it back?


    A Saucy Wench

      OK, Not ignoring you!   I actually spent a bit of time thinking about this before replying.  Weird huh. So not like me.

       

      I am guessing you have a fair bit of rational planning behind doing things the way you do them but I am going to challenge some of it anyway because it isnt working for you.  I have had similar slowdowns after layoffs, but taking so long to get it back is the part that is unusual.  Usually 4-6 weeks should do it.

       

      The first - and it is too late for this year, is reconsider the total month off.   A month easy, sure.  Even if you desire a month off running, do SOMETHING besides walking to regularly get your heartrate up to your easy working zone.  Swimming, biking, elliptical, power hill walking.  But I would encourage too keep at least SOME running in there because I think so much time off is part of the issue.

       

      The second is the HRM.  I understand all the rational behind HR training but in my limited HRM experience is when I first come back from a layoff my HR is erratic beyond the changes in fitness. At the same level of perceived exertion HR will be higher...and more spiky.  My personal totally unsupported by any research theory is that the whole body has just forgotten how to do this thing and is freaking out.   It isn't lost fitness, it is lost body memory for lack of a better term.  

       

      Consider ditching your HRM for a month or two.  Hell, since you do your marathon in October, ditch the HRM at least through the new year, maybe until february.  Since it is already the new year this year, ditch it for 4-6 more weeks.   Run easy what feels easy.  Run intervals/tempos at what feels right.  That still gives you plenty of time to control your running by HR training theories before your next marathon.   My guess is you will spend most of this time at slightly higher HR's than you desire but that you will recover back to your normal HR/pace curve quickly.   

       

      If you can not bring yourself to get rid of the HRM completely, try ditching  or ignoring the hrm for the first few miles of the run and THEN adjust pace.  This is part of the spiky reaction I see.  If I adjust too soon I get stuck at the low pace and the HR reacts.  If I just let the first few miles shake out then i settle in at the HR/pace/effort .

       

      Net takeaway is I think you are over babying your recovery and it is delaying things more than need be.

       

      MTA: for the record I believe this is the first time ever I have said go faster instead of go slower.  Whoa.

      I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

       

      "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

        Ennay,

        Thanks for the thoughtful response.  My main reason for taking time off from running is for psychological recovery - I want to make positively sure that I don't burn out by pushing myself too hard for too long without a break. 

         

        I looked up my running records for this time period a year ago.  At that time, I took two weeks off.  When I restarted running, I did my easy runs at similar heart rates while doing the medium runs at significantly higher heart rates.  I still slowed down, but much less than this year. 

         

        If I do not use an HRM, I tend to do my easy runs too fast and my harder runs too slow.  I treat it as a running gadget - I am NOT a slave to it.  Also, I'm a data junkie. 

         

        It would take a while to explain how and why I know this, but I do know that I'm a low responder to physical training.  Make that very low responder. 

         

        I like your recommendation of ignoring the HRM while running for a while.  I'll give that a try. 

         

        MTA: I'm reading Brad Hudson's book.  He also recommends running faster for more experienced (more than 8 years running) runners. 

          Good advice from Ennay. I don't know much about heart rate training, but I guess I'll just echo her main point: heart rate isn't the same thing as fitness. Also, I think (again, without much knowledge of HR training) that running at HR of 120ish is pretty dang low on the effort front, so it might not be the best measure of fitness. I'd be more interested in what's happening at 140ish--maybe you can get all the way down to 9minute miles with those extra 10 beats per minute? If so, then you are not 2 minutes behind, but only 10beats per minute behind, if you know what I mean...

           

          A final thought along the same lines: running 10 minute miles is like the same effort for me as 8 minute miles. It might even be "harder" because I never do it... So, probably you are really inefficient at 11 minute mile pace because you never train at that pace when you are fit. This would result in a higher HR, but only because your body just isn't in a sweet spot in term of effort.

           

          Good luck figuring this out. I'd like to hear how experimenting with these ideas turns out for you.


          Feeling the growl again

             

             

            It would take a while to explain how and why I know this, but I do know that I'm a low responder to physical training.  Make that very low responder. 

             

             

            I'm actually interested in this.  It may help give a better answer.

             

            I will echo that a full month completely off is a LONG time.  Cross training, shorter easier runs fine....but completely off will cost you a LOT...probably 3, even 4 months for a "low responder" to recover the fitness they lost in that time.

             

            Also, always remember to compare apples to apples.  Don't compare to where you were at your peak.  Especially if done right, a peak is something that takes months to get there and only lasts a few weeks.  Most people have a "base fitness" level, a performance level they can more or less count on anytime they are consistently training that amount.  That's kind of where you get back to after a layoff time before you ramp into serious training for a target race.

            "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

             


            A Saucy Wench

              I'm going to agree with Spaniel in that if you are a low responder truly then you probably need to be more aggressive in maintaining and building and not letting what you get erode..   I will say I had to totally blast away traditional training rules for several months a few years ago to make a shift.  Because I had convinced my body that I couldnt work hard for very long.  So I ran too hard for a few months and THEN backed off.

               

                If you are really doing tempos at 7:35 you have a lot more in you than a 3:49 marathon but I think you are doing your easy too easy.  Are you sure you are a low responder or are you just training too easy?  120 bpm can be achieved on a brisk walk.

               

              Regardless, If you are looking for some numbers as much as I hate to propose numbers training I wouldnt really think that  slowing down more than about 20-30second/min on easy runs from your peak (say the average of the month before taper) is where you'd want to roughly target.  (average of course, there will be days that just suck). 

              I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

               

              "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

                So just some random ideas: some of them go against conventional wisdom here so I'm sure I'll get jumped on.

                 

                1) Number and distance of long runs is not at the high end. If it were me I'd get faster by adding something there.

                 

                2) Here is the real "heresy:" more miles at goal MP to try to build running economy. Running economy does NOT transfer 100% from one speed to another so you can make a small percent improvement which can pay big dividends over 26 miles.

                 

                (this is sort of an agreement with Ennay. The gospel around here is to run most of your miles slowly, but if most of the miles are really really different from MP you can pay for it in efficiency. For me, I need around 1000 miles at a certain pace to see the real economy gains there.)

                 

                3) At the risk of encouraging an eating disorder, when you know how to run a marathon if you've got a few pound you can safely lose that is often the simplest path to a faster time.


                Feeling the growl again

                   

                   

                  2) Here is the real "heresy:" more miles at goal MP to try to build running economy. Running economy does NOT transfer 100% from one speed to another so you can make a small percent improvement which can pay big dividends over 26 miles.

                   

                  (this is sort of an agreement with Ennay. The gospel around here is to run most of your miles slowly, but if most of the miles are really really different from MP you can pay for it in efficiency. For me, I need around 1000 miles at a certain pace to see the real economy gains there.)

                   

                   

                  Define "most".

                   

                  If it means "almost all", I'd completely disagree.  If it means 70-80%, I'd agree.  You need to hit 2-3 workouts a week (depending on you volume and fitness) well...and the rest will be easy miles. 

                  "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                   


                  A Saucy Wench

                    I dont think I was suggesting that.  I think what i was saying, is that perhaps OP isn't doing mostly easy runs, but mostly recovery runs spattered with a few what is probably a bit too fast to be tempo runs. His easy could be a bit less easy without putting him at risk for overdoing

                    I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

                     

                    "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7


                    Feeling the growl again

                       

                      It would take a while to explain how and why I know this, but I do know that I'm a low responder to physical training.  Make that very low responder. 

                       

                      As I chew on this thread more I will quote this again...and add that (unless you share information otherwise!) I will point out that you only know you are a low responder to a certain type(s) of training stimulus/stimuli.  You do not know that your response to something else would not be dramatically different.

                       

                      My college program was moderate/low in volume and high in quality.  This worked very well for a certain group of my teammates; for a few of us, we didn't improve a whole lot and sat at the middle/back of the team year after year.  After graduating, I experimented and soon found that my response to high volume combined with tempo/tempo interval work, with A LOT less focus on high-speed intervals, led to a very dramatic and different response; I was soon beating the times my best former teammates had run.  A younger former teammate (one who had also not responded well to the coach's training plans) who was still in school trained with me over the summer and responded like me, almost breaking the school 10,000m record the next season. 

                       

                      Others who tried a similar shift from the coach's training upon graduation saw varying results.  One got better, but the effect was not as dramatic.  Another could not handle volume and got injured a lot, and even when he was able to train consistently it did not seem to be as effective for him.

                       

                      So don't judge yourself too soon...continue to experiment...and find what works for you.

                      "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                       

                        As I chew on this thread more I will quote this again...and add that (unless you share information otherwise!) I will point out that you only know you are a low responder to a certain type(s) of training stimulus/stimuli.  You do not know that your response to something else would not be dramatically different.

                         

                        My college program was moderate/low in volume and high in quality.  This worked very well for a certain group of my teammates; for a few of us, we didn't improve a whole lot and sat at the middle/back of the team year after year.  After graduating, I experimented and soon found that my response to high volume combined with tempo/tempo interval work, with A LOT less focus on high-speed intervals, led to a very dramatic and different response; I was soon beating the times my best former teammates had run.  A younger former teammate (one who had also not responded well to the coach's training plans) who was still in school trained with me over the summer and responded like me, almost breaking the school 10,000m record the next season. 

                         

                        Others who tried a similar shift from the coach's training upon graduation saw varying results.  One got better, but the effect was not as dramatic.  Another could not handle volume and got injured a lot, and even when he was able to train consistently it did not seem to be as effective for him.

                         

                        So don't judge yourself too soon...continue to experiment...and find what works for you.

                         

                        I agree with this, absolutely. Also--there is a point of diminishing returns for every training approach. It sounds like you (OP) have been at this for a long time (8 or 9 years), so your needs now as a runner are very different from what they were 8 or 9 years ago. If you continue running the same way, it is very unlikely that you will continue to see improvement. 

                         

                        It is very easy to fall into old habits and repeat. They feel safe, even if they do not produce results. This is the time of year to shake things up, try something new. Hudson's book is a good one. Why not throw out what you've done before and experiment with his schedules? What do you have to lose?

                          JR,

                          Back in April of last year (2011), I did my goal race for the year, and it took about 5 3/4 hours to complete.  For me, I focused primarily on HR management and tracked numbers similar to how you do.

                          After the race, it took me a long time to get my HR back to my peak performance (lower HR  for same effort and speed without increasing over time).  At the end of April / beginning of May, I was wondering the same thing that you're wondering.

                          Eventually, the numbers started aligning themselves properly and my "endurance" and HR locked in better during my longer runs and bike rides.

                           

                          Give it time....  You'll get your mojo back.

                           

                          Brian


                           

                          2014 Goals:

                          #1: Do what I can do. <DOING>

                          #2: 365 Hours training

                           

                            I've played with Low Heart Rate training from time to time.  Typically, I get bored going so slow and have found that it doesn't really provide much benefit unless I really get the miles up, which is a big time investment.  4 and 5 miles at 70% max HR (assuming 174 is your max and I suspect it's more like 185)  seems like too little mileage for that approach.  I also find that running very slow screws with my mechanics and either makes me a very good slow runner or an injured faster runner. 

                             

                            If you're really doing LHR right, then your fitness should carry over much more than it is.  That's the thing that I have found stays the longest.  Last year, I was injured from Jan-March and ran Boston almost entirely on my previous summer's base.  I was not fast, but I ran comfortably at about my prior long-run pace (about 45 sec/mile slower than race pace).  While I was injured, I did a little hill walking and spinning which at least got the heart rate up and kept some muscle tone. 

                             

                            Based on my experience only, here is what I have found works:

                             

                            First, I only use the HRM monitor occasionally.  I used it for years to help me develop a sense of pace, but now I could probably tell you within 5 bpm what my heart rate is at any given time while running.  (I have a naturally low max heart rate so i can't agree that 120 is a brisk walk, but the principal is the same.)  I still use it in races from time to time because it helps me catch myself from going over the edge too early.

                             

                            Second, I also ditched the watch for most runs.  Psychologically, I have found this liberating.  I just run and enjoy.  I know the general distances of most runs.  I never really know how fast I'm going to go until about 10 minutes into the run.  If I feel good, the weather's right, the stars are aligned, or I'm near someone quick, I might pick it up.  If I'm worn out, I'll just have a trot.   

                             

                            Third, I'm big into episodic cross-training.  As I get older and creakier, the spin bike, the stair climber, and elliptical provide a way to get some good aerobic work in without pounding the ground and it's a change of pace.  Like the super-slow running, these all get fairly boring after a while, but they are great ways to stay fit and do something different during a layoff or injury. 

                             

                            good luck

                              Wow.  That's a great bunch of well thought out replies.  Some more data:

                               

                              I'm 5 foot 10, and 150 lbs.  I could probably benefit from losing 5 to 10 lbs, but I'm comfortable at my present weight and have no plans to try to lose weight.  If a few pounds come off, that's great, but I'm not making any effort in that direction.  59 years old. 

                               

                              I did a four mile walk a while back while wearing the HRM.  Average pace 17 minutes, average heart rate 80.  My typical resting heart rate is in the mid 50's, my maximum somewhere about 180. 

                               

                              After a tempo run, I feel more energized than tired.  Although I would not want to repeat it right away.  That energized feeling extends into the next day. 

                               

                              I ran 1842 miles in 2007, with 3 long runs of 20 to 21.5 miles.  Ran a 4:01 marathon with a 1 minute negative split.  This was my first marathon.  I was pleased with the time because my optimistic goal was 4:00. 

                               

                              I ran 2002 miles in 2008.  Most short runs at average heart rate 125 to 130, and medium / long runs at 135 to 140.  No speed work, but ran the last two miles of the last two 20 milers at 8:30 pace.  Ran October marathon in 3:51 with two minute positive split. Had to take walk breaks starting about mile 24.

                               

                              I ran 2029 miles in 2009.  Most runs at 125 to 130 average heart rate.  No speed work.  Ran a 70 mile week 3 weeks before the marathon.  That was a mistake, I was not fully recovered by the marathon.  Ran 3:51 with a 3 minute positive split.  Had to take walk breaks starting about mile 24. 

                               

                              Ran 2073 miles in 2010.  Short runs average heart rate about 130, medium / long runs at average heart rate 135 to 140.  Long run 16 miles most weeks plus 4 20 milers.  Last 20 miler 3 weeks before the race was at 9:20 pace and average heart rate 136, with last mile at 8:22 pace and 156 BPM.  The last mile was not difficult.  Ran a 4:18 marathon with a 27 minute positive split.  Had to start walking at mile 15. 

                               

                              I ran 2090 miles in 2011.  Short runs at average heart rate 125, medium / long runs at average heart rate 130 or so, plus about one tempo run per week.  The tempo run was usually 8 to 12 miles, with the last 3 miles at an effort level where I could speak 2 or 3 words.  This was usually an average heart rate between 155 and 163.  The tempo run pace was about 8:30 MPM in late spring, decreasing to about 7:35.  My best tempo run was at 7:32 MPM.  Ran a 3:49:31 PR marathon with 2:37 positive split.  Lost about 2.5 minutes in the last 3 miles when my quads gave out and I had to take some walk breaks.  Also a longer taper this year. 

                               

                              I've started doing one leg squats for my quads.  I'm thinking of a three mile tempo run at the end of my 11.5 mile Sunday run into town for the Sunday paper, plus a longer run every week of 14 miles building to 16 / 20 with the last few miles at about 8:30 pace.  My thoughts are the last 3 to 5 miles at first, building to the last half or slightly more at 8:30 or so.  Plus more hill work - Brad Hudson's approach looks interesting. 

                               

                              Any and all feedback is appreciated. 


                              Feeling the growl again

                                Wow, that's some good training you detailed.

                                 

                                Not sure what further to tell you regarding your original question based off that, except that you may gain some by running a higher HR for some runs.  You seem pretty light on workouts?

                                 

                                As for the quads, don't count on lifting weights helping with that.  Your problem is not strength but resilience to pounding.  Try fast downhill running, higher mileage weeks, or running 20-23 milers at a solid pace then doing the last several miles hard.  All of these will help with quad resilience.  You need to either a) pound them, or b) tire them then keep working them further.

                                "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                                 

                                123