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!






10 responses to “Things I know or think I know about running”

  1. Heather Avatar

    I’m going to bookmark this to read later. Right now, I’m still grappling with “one foot in front of the other!”

    Last blog post from Heather – Who Needs Munny?

  2. Justin Avatar

    I think it’s great you’re getting into it. All this information can only help you become a better runner and more fit.

    Speaking only for myself, I find the rule of diminishing returns on this stuff starts right where “resting heart rate” begins. I have no doubt for many all this data is invaluable, and I’m sure every professional athlete on Earth either records it all or has someone doing it for them. But for my own training, I honestly found the most success with the simplest formula — try out a few training skeds, find your sweet spot, and then round every run off to nice easy-to-remember numbers. By the time I did my marathon last week, my average week looked like this: Monday 30 min run or off, Tuesday 45 min run, Wed off, Thurs 80 min run, Fri off, Sat 2 hour run, Sun off (or Saturday’s long run if it rained). To hell with mileage – I’d figure that out when I returned.

    I’m going to up my mileage (I mean time running!) a bit if I do another marathon, but unless I make little improvement, I don’t plan on following numbers too closely. Then again I send 1040-EZ forms to an accountant, so clearly the right side of my brain barely operates 🙂

  3. Melissa Avatar

    Says the guy who just ran a marathon in 3:16. Everyone, do what he says! Whatever he says!

  4. Heather Avatar

    Okay, Justin makes me feel a little better. I’m doing Couch to 5k & time everything with songs on a playlist.
    Also, since part of the whole reason for taking up running as a workout is that it’s cheap, I’m ignoring all your talk of fancy clothes and gadgets for the time being!
    I do have some high-fallutin’ good shoes and an iPod, but I wear either yoga pants or my Thai boxing shorts (depending on how hot it is outside). Maybe by the time I’m not ready to keel over after 2 miles, I’ll gear up properly so I won’t disgrace you 😀
    Wait, what am I talking about? You run in a blue wig!

    Last blog post from Heather – Who Needs Munny?

  5. Melissa Avatar

    Oh yes, the only reason to really invest in good clothes IMHO is because it’s fun, not because it’s necessary. In fact, some people run naked as we’ve all found out! Naked 5K in a blue wig is another story entirely …

  6. Heather Avatar

    I forgot to say, I *would* like you to weigh in on the water issue. That’s been my biggest obstacle. At first, I just made sure I was good & hydrated before I went out, but then (shockingly), I wanted a drink and was kicking myself for not bringing some water. So next time, I carried a bottle with me, which (shockingly) was a pain in the ass. I never realized how much I took for granted how nice it was working out in the gym, where I can just stroll over to the corner where I dumped my stuff and grab a drink when I need one.

    Last blog post from Heather – Who Needs Munny?

  7. Justin Avatar

    This may sound funny since my above post makes me sound like such a purist, but good running clothes are always worth it in my book. I haven’t run in cotton since I started again last fall. The brand doesn’t matter much, but good wicking running shirts and shorts are essential for me. They don’t have to be “short shorts,” but anything that gets clingy or heavy or restricts movement gets moved to the lawnmowing attire drawer.

  8. Elwood Avatar

    I only run when I’m chased. Sometimes not even then. Depends on who’s chasing me, and why. 😉

    Last blog post from Elwood – Good News/Bad News

  9. Carmen Avatar

    This post reads as follows: blah blah blah blah blah blah!Just Kidding!!! Besides you warned us non-runners and I read it anyway! The ONLY running I do is to chase after my toddler! I do however enjoy a nice peaceful walk. But you go girl enjoy the running!

  10. […] had to take a breather from yesterday’s post. I mean, you want to spend your day reading about running or actually have time to go out and do […]