Thursday, May 17, 2012

Finding Balance

It's about time for a running update.  Back about 18 months ago when I learned my bone density was low, I decided to run rather than risk drugs that are proving to have nasty side effects. I had no intentions of running more than twice a week, and no more than three miles each time. That seemed like it would make a reasonable impact, as I was getting zero weight bearing impact activity in my routine. It was painful starting out, and running three miles was something I had to work up to.

Running has taken a much more prominent role in my exercise regimen recently. Five miles is now considered a short run, and typical runs are eight miles. Running twice a week wasn't working. I ran on my recovery days, the days my body most needed rest, and running deprived me of rest. Running was an afterthought, something I squeezed in around skiing or cycling. It wasn't working. I rarely had good training days, as I was tired most of the time.

I found that adaptation to an activity doesn't really happen unless you can commit at least three days a week to the activity. With hillclimb running events on the horizon, I began running three times a week several weeks ago, and I fully integrated these runs into my exercise regimen. I noticed several changes.

First, my easy runs started feeling much easier. An eight minute pace didn't tax my body much harder than a recovery ride. Frequent runs made each run a little less shocking to the body.

Second, by integrating running into my routine, I got my rest days back. It did mean I sacrificed at least one hard training day on the bike, but that day was replaced with a quality run.  Instead of running on Monday when I needed rest, diminishing the training value of work on Tuesday and Wednesday, I was much fresher on those days and got in quality workouts. I also reclaimed Fridays as recovery days for weekend training load.

The third thing I noticed was my performance on the bike hasn't seemed to slip. I've put in the least hours on the bike up to this point in the season than I have in 10 years. Yet I'm pushing power numbers near an all-time high. To be sure, my hours on the bike are quality hours. Only two workouts per week on the bike involve intensity work. Running fills the void of the third intensity workout I used to get in on the bike.

Finally, running seems to abhor fat and devours it. I'm finding it much easier to stay lean since running volume has gone up. Last weekend, my weight was lowest for a hillclimb event than it ever has, at 158 lbs. Even a moderate pace run can burn over 1000 calories in an hour. Running impact seems to tone up much of the body. Could this toning boost metabolism? Does running suppress appetite? Perhaps the cycling that running displaced is at a higher intensity level and burns more calories.  I'm not sure what the link is.

My recent weeks have gone like this. Recover from big volume weekend on Monday - a complete rest day or active recovery spin on the bike. Tuesday, run eight miles at lively 7-7.5min pace. Wednesday, 90 minute intensity ride, usually with VOmax work. Thursday, run five to eight miles at more relaxed 8min pace. Friday, active recovery. Race or do huge ride on Saturday followed by running hill repeats on Sunday.  What did not work for me was run on Monday, leaving me tired for intensity work on the bike Tuesday and Wednesday, then trying to run again really tired on Thursday. The workouts gravitated towards the junky middle.

My body seems to be soaking up the running quite well right now. Granted, my total volume at around three hours per week is puny on real runner's terms, but some of the intensity involved integrated with weekly cycling intensity is something I wouldn't have thought was sustainable last year. Hopefully I can keep it going at least through the three mountain climb events I have planned over the next couple months.

1 comment:

CB2 said...

Sounds like a great balance for real world fitness.