Category Archives: heart rate training

Still (Mostly) Alive

It’s hard to believe that only 11 weeks have passed since starting Intern Year and in the same breath, 11 weeks has flown by. I am almost done with my first rotation of this year (Acute Care Surgery) and with it, done with the bulk of my training for RDC! As expected, my running has had to take a bit of a back seat to everything else but I’ve done a reasonable job of continuing to train and build and finally have some long term goals in mind!

July: My only real goal for July was to survive and figure out what my running schedule might look like when the reality of 80+ hours of work hit. We had a relatively mild summer here and since I ran in the early morning for most of it, I really didn’t struggle too much with heat and humidity. I ran a very reasonable 181 miles and my long runs progressed to 16 miles. Workouts were non-specific (long trail runs, fartleks and easy tempos) and focused on general fitness acquisition.

August: I started to figure out what work was all about and finally managed to get through my days more efficiently. I hit the wall a bit energy wise in the middle of the month and finished up with only 165 miles. I did, however, get my first 20 miler in for the cycle and my workouts started to get more specific. I also started going to Orange Theory, which has been very interesting in terms of my perception of effort versus my heart rate.

September: After a relatively disappointing August, I have been trying to refocus more on my running in September. I am about as fatigued as I’ve ever been right now and my body is showing it with lots of general aches and leg heaviness. I did get another 20 miler in and my workouts have become even more focused (more on this later). I restarted my iron to make sure I’m tuned up from that perspective and have been focusing on sleep and stretching as much as I can to combat 80+ hours of standing/interrupted sleep/weird positions in the OR. I’m doing a check in half marathon in Johnson City this weekend and interested to see where I’m at as compared to both Unplugged and the Asheville Half. I don’t know what the topography of the course will be and the weather looks hot but it will be nice to have a supported “up-effort.”

I realized in August is that I have to become more flexible with training and with that, workouts have to become more intentional. I don’t have the recovery ability to do multiple workouts a week and instead, have to make do with a couple of quality efforts each week. Because of this and because I have been so frustrated with my stagnation, I finally decided to hire/bring on a coach. I say ‘bring on’ because I am working with Dave Ames, who is a friend beyond being a coach, and the decision was about as collaborative as it gets. As many people know, Will has been my coach forever but with intern year for him and an intentional shift in our marriage to be as focused on just being married and not being co-workers, co-coaches, athlete-coaches, it was time to make a different plan.

One of the amazing things about having a coach is that all I have to do is workout. One of the terrifying things about having a coach ARE those workouts. For example, I had a medium long run on Sunday with a workout built in that didn’t seem that difficult on paper but was EXTREMELY difficult. Similarly, I have a mile repeat workout today that I am convinced is all but impossible so I have the difficult task of convincing myself first that I can do it and second, getting through it. Dave gets incredible results from his athletes and furthermore, has a lot of experience with the sports psychology aspect of racing which I need almost as much as the physiologic piece.

My race schedule has evolved as well, with a new focus on the US 50K Road Championships (hoping to podium) in March and CIM 2018 for my (hopeful) OTQ attempt. This takes a little pressure off RDC where my main goal is to just get back into marathon running and hopefully undo some of the emotional baggage I am (still) carrying from Philly.

But first, the Bluegrass Half in Johnson City on Sunday!

Product Review: Soleus Pulse HRM

It’s always awkward to find a product that you are totally disappointed in, especially when it’s a relatively new company. That said, one of the beautiful things about the blog community and the endurance blog community in particular are the availability of candid product reviews. In the time of a bazillion sponsored posts, as uncomfortable as it is to give a product zero starts, it’s also important to keep it (really) real. I (obviously) wasn’t sponsored for this review; I saw an internet special on this watch and sprung for it because I wanted a wrist based HRM.

I had EXTREMELY high hopes for the Soleus Pulse HRM. It has a built in heart rate monitor which meant no futzing around with a heart rate strap; I could just put the watch on and go. I really like training by heartrate for outdoor tempo runs and for recovery runs but the strap is uncomfortable and almost untenable in the winter under a bunch of layers. It also featured a GPS, activity tracker and chrono function, so my hope was this watch could become my all the time watch. Not so much. If I can’t figure out how to return it, I’ll probably throw it out.

Right off the bat, the watch disappointed. First, the face is HUGE. I can’t take too many points off for this because I have tiny wrists but the watch face was much broader than my bones and to tighten the watch such that it could even work as a heart rate monitor, I was at the very last hole on the strap before the face. I’m not overly vain but it wasn’t a watch I wanted to wear around work because it was just so bulky.

Second, you need a PhD to make this thing work. I’m a relatively smart person and actually tech savvy but the startup guide that comes with the watch is all but useless. You have to go on to Soleus’ website to figure out how to configure it. Again, not a deal breaker, but it certainly wasn’t plug and play and the buttons still didn’t make sense after reading the manual. I would have been willing to spend more time getting to know the watch, however, had it actually worked once I figured out how to start it.

On my first run, it took me all of half a mile to realize that the heart rate monitor just didn’t really work. When I was doing hip swings, it was close to what I assume is accurate in the 90s, but when I started to run, it went to 99. And stayed there. The entire run. Occasionally it would flash in the 120s, but it was never over 99 for more than a second. When I would stop running (say, at a red light), it would occasionally pick up a more believable heart rate but as soon as I started running again, it went back to 99. This happened on the second and third (coincidentally the last time I used it…) runs as well. Meh.

Not only does the lauded heart rate monitor flop, the GPS doesn’t even work well. I’ve been running in Burlington for enough years and with enough watches and GMaps Pedometer checks to know the length of my routes. On my second run with the Pulse HRM, I headed out for a known 10.25 mile loop. When I got home, it measured just over 8 miles. That’s more than just a little error and it was a bright, sunny day.

All in all, there is just nothing redeeming I can say about this watch except that thankfully, the web special that I bought it under seems to have wiped out the stock so you can’t make the same mistake as me. Back to my good old fashioned chrono Timex!


Week in Review 5.30.16 to 6.5.16

Monday: 11.5 miles on the bike path with Will.

Tuesday: Easy run plus 4 laps of striders on the track.

Wednesday: 7 mile interval workout. Warmup, drills, 4 laps of ins and outs plus 6 by .25 miles on the bike path. Effort was definitely there, pace was a little off because of the terrain.

Thursday: 4 miles in the early morning. Exhausted!

Friday: 10 mile long run on the Causeway. Nice to get my run done before the weekend.

Saturday: 6.8 mile tempo workout with 3 miles continuous tempo via heartrate. (6:31, 6:39, 6:36). Legs after. Felt good.

Sunday: 5.5 mile recovery run with 4 laps of striders on the track. Arms afterward.

Total Miles: 50.3

Total May Miles: 220

The Good: I got up and got my runs in early this week which made it a much less stressful week from a running perspective. I continue to do a good job getting striders in and feel like my efficiency is really improving. Although my mileage is the same as it has been, it was really an adaptation week because my day to day volume was lower besides the Monday long run.

The Ugly: Still struggling to get my strength work in. Got two workouts in this week plus bedtime abs, so hoping to add another leg workout to next week.

In case you missed it, I have a giveaway going on right now. Three lucky people will win a MedZone gift pack that includes all sorts of products to help you run through the summer without misery. There are three ways to enter* between now and next Sunday at 5 pm:

  1. Leave a comment about your worst chafing experience and picture of the carnage if you’re really brave.
  2. Post a picture of a chafing nightmare on Instagram and tag me (@runswatrun) and @goMedZone
  3. Share this post on your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (maximum of 1 entry for this option) and tag me and @goMedZone or send me a screenshot of your Facebook post.

*Maximum of three entries per person.

Improvement Season: Recovery

In looking back at Philly, this is perhaps the most confusing part of my performance. Unlike my normal training cycles where I balance school, coaching and training, I was essentially off to train. Yes, I was still coaching and taking classes, but I was able to get 9 hours of sleep every night and had ample opportunity to nap during the day if I needed to. Furthermore, I had a totally flexible schedule which meant that if I needed another day before a workout, I could take it. Despite this, I felt like my taper was the least effective of any taper I’ve done. In some ways, I’m curious about how running goes now that I’m back on my regular crazy schedule.

Sleep: I start Surgery on Monday and furthermore, start on the night shift. I actually prefer running while on Nights because I can run at 3 in the afternoon on rested legs. When I flip back to days, my plan is to run at 4 am and then do strength after my shift. I know some people can run after a day in the OR, but I can’t stand the ache of “OR legs.” In general, if I can get 6 to 7 hours of sleep, I’m a functional human so this is my goal going forward.

Compression: As warm as it can be in compression socks while scrubbed in, I just need to get over the fact that I’m always the sweaty kid and do it.

A rare dry moment. Must be pre-op.

A rare dry moment. Must be pre-op.

Foam Rolling/Flexibility: This is a place where I really didn’t excel during the Philly cycle until the end. I have a simple routine that takes about 10 minutes. I do 8 rolls over my glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles, IT band and hip flexor on each leg, 30 seconds of hamstring stretch per side with a stretching rope and 30 seconds of calf drops off the basement stairs. My goal for going forward is to do this routine after my morning runs rather than waiting until I’m sore.

Run Paces: I suspect this last item plays the biggest part in my underperformance at Philly. In past cycles, I’ve done my recovery runs and many of my regular runs really.slowly. For this cycle, however, my recovery and easy runs just didn’t feel as easy. I think I was feeling pressure to “catch up” after the anemia fiasco and not necessarily listening to my body. Going forward, I am going to start wearing my heart rate monitor on my recovery runs again, with a goal of keeping my heartrate under 135. If I am still feeling under recovered, I may start wearing it full time. If that happens, I also need to find a way to protect the skin on my sternum, which is permanently scarred from my chest strap…

How do you assess your recovery? Any tricks for keeping chest straps from digging into your skin?

Week in Review 6.29.15 to 7.5.15

I really did run last week, I swear! Inundated with starting ObGyn and didn’t get this out on time at all!

Monday am: 9 mile recovery run.

Monday pm: 3 mile run with the girls. Arms afterward.

Tuesday: 10 mile hill workout in Red Rocks. 6 by 30 second hard.

Wednesday: 7 mile run with 3 by 200 to calibrate for Friday. Was aiming for 41 seconds and totally failed with a 36, 39 and 38. Happy to find that I felt smooth and quick!

Thursday: 9.3 mile run. Hip a little cranky but a beautiful day. Hip core in evening.

Friday am: 3.9 mile shakeout with 4 by 100 on the track.

Friday pm: 6 miles with 1 mile road race. 5:32. Recap here.

Saturday: 5.6 miles of OMG EVERYTHING HURTS and my HR monitor, keeping it below 130.

Sunday: 16 miles in the heat. With bike support and getting up to the rail trail, it was really quite enjoyable although legs still so tired.

Total Miles: 69.9 miles.

Despite being frustrated with my run on Friday, this was an awesome week of running with good miles and hard work. For the first time this cycle, I’ve been a bit sore almost every day but thankfully my hips are behaving well.

As evidenced by it taking me 2 days to get my Week in Review out, the name of the game this week is get 70 miles in whenever you can. Yesterday, I managed to get out in the afternoon and today should be the same. Tomorrow, all bets are off. I’ve learned throughout medical school that when my schedule gets nuts, plans for mileage get a little more flexible. Today, I’ll basically run until I run out of time up to about 12 miles. Similarly, as I have an hour here or there for the rest of this rotation, I’ll take whatever opportunity I have to get miles in.

20 weeks to go!!!!


Will HIIT Training Really Make Me a Faster Runner?

Post-Philly with LT. The LOVE statue was much smaller than we anticipated.

Post-Philly with LT. The LOVE statue was much smaller than we anticipated.

LT has been my running buddy since I moved back to Burlington. She drove with me to Philly, has logged countless miles with me around Vermont and I’m going to miss her terribly as she and Chris move to Oregon this summer. For the past two years, LT has been working on her Master’s in Exercise Physiology, the culmination of which was a thesis that aimed to quantify whether HIIT really makes you as fit as people claim. I was particularly interested in her findings because she used fit athletes and her control group did 30 minutes of vigorous running. Essentially, she emulated what summer training for XC looks like.

Halloween Fun with LT and I

Halloween Fun with LT and I

Study Design: LT took athletes from SUNY-Cortland’s Field Hockey team and divided them into two groups: endurance or HIIT. The Endurance group served as the control and did 30 minutes of runner at 75 to 85% of predicted HRmax, somewhere between easy and tempo. The HIIT group did a 3 minute warmup, 8 rounds of 20 second of burpees or squat-tuck jumps with 10 second recovery and a 3 minute cooldown for a total of 10 minutes. Training sessions were Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four weeks.

At baseline, athletes had an average VO2max of 44.96 and a Running Economy of 213.42.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the groups. However, both groups improved aerobic capacity as measured by VO2max by >6% over the four week intervention. Interestingly, the time invested to make these improvements was vastly different: the endurance group did 90 minutes per week while the HIIT group did 30 minutes per week.

At the end of the study, athletes had an average VO2max of 47.78, an increase of almost 2.8 points in 4 weeks.

Implication: The “so what” of LT’s research is incredible. Here’s what I’m most excited about:

  1. Time: We’re all busy and we generally acquiesce that when we’re busy, our training suffers. This research suggests that even though we may not improve running economy with just 10 minutes, we can maintain and even improve our VO2max.
  2. Injury Prevention: I am constantly trying to find ways to make my team fitter without more pounding on the roads and this study offers an idea about summer training approaches, when we only meet three days a week and when we delicately balance increasing fitness with increasing risk of injury. Same goes for the injury prone runner: if someone can maintain or improve VO2 max with just 6 minutes of running, I have a great option for my runners who just can’t tolerate a season of tempo runs.

I’m so excited about this study that I’ve already put it into action for our summer runs. On Wednesdays, we are no longer hitting the roads for a 30 to 45 minute jog. Instead, we’re doing a brief warmup followed by a circuit that includes HIIT. Last week, we used a short, steep hill and did hill sprints (real, all out sprints) between body weight exercises.

During the season, I’m not completely sure how I’ll fit this into our schedule. One thing I’m considering is using it in the awkward weeks where we have a Tuesday meet but still need to get a second workout in without totally ruining legs for a Saturday race.

If you’re interested in reading the whole paper, let me know.

Have you tried HIIT? Would you be willing to after reading this?

Lessons Learned: 2014 Cycle

Since I’m in my off season (to which my surgeon quipped so what, 60 miles a week?) and won’t gear up again until 2015, it’s time to look back on the cycle for 2014.

What I Learned

I can tolerate big mileage. I consistently ran 75 to 80 miles a week without injury and within 6 months of surgery without much more than occasional soreness. That being said, I was WIPED all the time and my workouts weren’t as solid throughout. Will and I assume that this is a direct result of never being fully recovered, courtesy of the mileage and of course, medical school.

Heartrate training works well for me, mentally and physically. I’ve had a heartrate monitor for a long time but hadn’t really used it much until this cycle when I started rocking it on every tempo run. It made an enormous difference for me mentally because “all” I had to do was get to 168 to 170 and stay there, whatever that pace was. I found it much easier to focus on the workout and not be stressing over pace and in turn, the paces were much closer to what tempo should be. It was the first time I really understood what tempo pace “felt” like.

I’m not done improving. In the back of my mind, I was worried that I had peaked with running and that working hard would bring no additional improvements. Although I wouldn’t call this a stellar racing year (I only ran 1 PR and had a collection of horrid races), I am thrilled with my marathon PR that came on mileage and just 10 months post-op. I’d love to see what happens when I have some speedwork on board and a totally solid ankle.

What I Need to Work On

Strength training. Right after surgery, I was in the gym almost every day and built a great base to come back to running on. As mileage got higher, however, and school got back into session, my gym time dwindled to almost zero. I’d do squats when I brushed my teeth and the occasional pushup, but I really wasn’t working on my strength and my quads paid for it during and after the marathon. I also need to improve my knee drive and I think strength is part of that.

Form. My form is okay and it’s holding up better in later miles but I still have a tendency to twist my upper body and shuffle my legs. If I’m going to click up another level, I need to get my arm swing working well and my knee drive far higher. Will recently built me a step up box for knee drive and I need to make a renewed commitment to practicing running arms daily.

Flexibility/Prehab. My back and hips hurt daily and if I want a successful open (and master’s) career, I have to get this in check before I’m crippled at 35. Some of this is that I currently sit a lot (which won’t improve over the next three months as I prep for Boards). Some of this is that I am not consistent about stretching and foam rolling. I’ve been working on making foam rolling my first activity of the day and am hopeful this will help.

I don’t have 2015 mapped out yet. I’m waiting on the final schedule from USATF NE to see what the Grand Prix schedule is and on a few other schedule related issues. I would prefer NOT to run a marathon in Spring 2015 (training in the winter sucks, I’m taking the boards in February and I am in Maine for my first rotation until May) but if VCM is the Grand Prix marathon, I am likely to join in. In my perfect world (ha!), I’d spend the first half of the year working on speed, getting a stint in at altitude and then target an early fall half for my OTQ. The marathon is more likely to get me in but almost everything has to go perfectly with a marathon that it can be hard to put all your eggs in one basket.

So my to-do list:

  • Build back up to 75 to 80 miles per week
  • Create and stick to a sustainable lifting regimen
  • Foam roll daily
  • Work on form, particularly arm swing and knee drive
  • Regain some speed and turnover
  • Use heart rate training for all workouts

What’s your 2014 analysis? To do list for 2015?