Things I know or think I know about running

Wow, working out is hard work. And I’m not just talking about pushing yourself to improve endurance, speed, motivation. I’m talking about all the other stuff that goes along with it. We’ve all heard of  target heart rate. What the heck does it mean when I’m running down the street trying to set my race pace? What is race pace, even? Inside vs. outside running, hills vs. a flat course, sprinting vs. endurance training and what the heck is a tempo run? Then there’s form and how to hold your arms and don’t make fists but keep your hands loose … and water is a whole other thing. Drink 4 oz every 15 minutes but don’t run with a water belt unless you’re running more than an hour … And then there’s what to wear: Running skirts vs. shorts, bodyglide, SPF protection … It’s enough to make anyone want to sit on the couch and watch HBO instead.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn. Running is not as simple as one foot in front of the other. It is, but it isn’t.

*Disclaimer: If you are not a runner and want to be one, don’t read anything I am saying here. It really IS as simple as one foot in front of the other. All this other stuff comes later – when you’re trying to maximize your workout. It’s like getting your first Barbie: You can absolutely have the time of your life with her and her only. But once you play with her for a while, you then think about how fun it would be to have a Skipper and a Ken doll and a Dream House and a Corvette … you get the picture. And where are my Barbies?

Ok, I probably raised more questions than answers, but this is the stuff that’s been swirling around in my head lately. Let me share with you what I’ve learned and you can tell me what I’m missing or how I’ve opened up new doors or what you want to watch on HBO.

*Disclaimer 2: I have learned all of this by researching and asking people and looking at a bazillion web sites. I have no formal training so if what I say sounds wrong, look it up just to be sure.

Target Heart Rate.

This is something I’m just figuring out as of yesterday. Seriously. I asked a personal trainer about it once and he blew me off. I’ve researched it in short bursts at other times and have found dissenting views, one of them being “you don’t need to worry about target heart rate.” So I never worried about it – that’s the easy way out. But I just bought my fancy new Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS watch (a recommendation from Kevin, who also let me know REI has them on sale until May 10. At $150 off, I had to do it.) One of the questions it asked me was my resting heart rate. I have no idea. So I put on the heart rate monitor that came with the watch and found out. It’s 51 bpm. What does that mean? I did a search and saw that for a woman an average resting heart rate is 75 bpm. Crap, I thought. Then I researched a little more and saw that more athletic people have lower resting heart rates. In fact, Lance Armstrong’s is 32 bpm. Whew, I could relax. Lower is good.

I also found out that my maximum heart rate is 185. According to the watch. Of course, another web site put my maximum heart rate at 195.5. There are apparently several formulas you can use to figure it out, one of which is 226 minus age (which puts mine at 195.) So I guess as long as you know about what it is …

And here’s where it gets fuzzy. The machines at the gym mention 2 percentages: one for fat burning (I think it’s 55% of your maximum heart rate) and one for cardio (80% of your maximum.) So what happens when you’re above 80% but lower than 100%? I’ve heard the term anaerobic, which seems to freak out cycle instructors and other trainers, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. I think you just have to know what you’re doing. From what I understand, it works muscles more than it does your heart, which is ok but weight training is for muscles and cardio is for your heart and if you’re using cardio for your muscles you’re not helping your heart like you want. If you’re working that hard and not doing what you want to do then that’s kind of disappointing, right?

How I’ve applied it: In the one day I’ve been thinking about it, here’s what I did: Nothing different. I ran my run like I always do. Now that I have a heart rate monitor, I was able to look at it later. It showed that my average heart rate during the run was 152 bpm and my maximum heart rate during the run was 177. From what I can tell, that’s not bad – the average is close to 80 percent of my target, which is a good cardio range. So I plan to keep doing what I’ve always done unless something changes – and then I’ll research some more.

Race pace

Race pace is just what it sounds like.  There are even nifty pace calculators that help you figure it out if you are confused running a kilometer-tracked race and you want to know what that means for your miles per hour. And of course, humor. Always humor when running.

Inside vs. outside running, hills, form and sprints

Treadmill or trail? Getting off your butt and onto the treadmill is a huge feat. Getting off the treadmill and into the elements is another challenge: There are hills, sun, rain, dead possums on the street (and they smell much, much worse when you are running past them than driving past them).

Luckily, I’m not the only one that thinks this. Runner’s World has some good motivation for going from inside to out. They’ve also got multiple tips on things like hill training and tempo runs. And you might laugh at me, but before I did my first set of sprints I had to look that up too. Common sense told me it was “run as fast as you can” but I wanted to make sure. Google “How to sprint” and you will get help, like I did here. And of course there are directions on running form, something I need to work on more as a long run will leave my shoulders sore and I know I could stand to lengthen my stride.

Ok, I’ve droned on enough for one day. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I know about the other stuff, namely fashion, my favorite part!