I haven’t posted anything in some time about my running progress. This is mainly because things have been a little sporadic and mundane training isn’t that exciting to talk about. I have been trying to get at least one or two good runs in per week in addition to my normal workout routine. While progress has been slow things have been steadily getting better. Even if my mile times weren’t improving the feeling of running being a chore is dwindling and the enjoyment of running is starting to take its place.
I have been sticking to my plan of only running for 20 minutes per run. While my weight loss has been wonderful, I am still a good amount heavier than I feel I should be to be endlessly pounding the pavement. This gives my body the time to adapt to running without overloading it and breaking down. I decided that I would run for 20 minutes, it didn’t matter how far I went in that time, I just wanted to run for 20 minutes. I figure as I get more fit the distance that I can cover in that time will gradually increase. This strategy has been working out really well! My first attempt at this resulted in a 1.78 mile run at a 11:17 minute average mile time. Gradually I made it to the point where I could run two miles in those 20 minutes. Once I got to that point I kind of started just running two miles. I would usually come in just under 20 minutes, but I would stop there. That went on for a few weeks. The past two weeks I decided to change things up.
I am getting more comfortable running so I figured it is time to spend a little more focus on my form. I don’t want to increase the milage and set in stone a bunch of bad running habits. So going forward my runs will be focused on form and less on trying to race the clock. I have been trying to pay attention to my form in my past runs, and I think it’s helped, but these are the first runs where the sole purpose is to focus on a specific aspect of my form. The first area I am choosing to work on is cadence. I really want to get my cadence up to that 90/180 steps per minute, or at least as close as my body is comfortable. I know some people use a metronome but I think that would be terribly boring so I have a playlist I made with songs that have that approximate BPM.
It’s a little awkward running with such a high turnover rate (for now!) and I felt a bit goofy at first, but it’s getting a little more natural. I also committed to, instead of just running the two miles, running for the full 20 minutes. This way I am sure I get my full workout but I could focus less on distance and just focus on my form.
The first run was about normal. I didn’t run it any faster or slower than I had been running, which was nice. It’s good to know that even though I wasn’t pushing myself and I was trying something new that I was still able to keep up the same pace as my other recent runs. I also do think that the higher cadence helped a lot with my perceived exertion. Maybe it’s just me getting more fit, but it definitely didn’t feel quite as strenuous as some of my previous runs. They say that running at a higher cadence helps with your energy efficiency and reduces some of the strain and impact of running. You aren’t fighting your own body mechanics as much, and running becomes a little more effortless at that rate. From my first attempt I definitely think I can agree with the science; it felt pretty good! That is until the next morning… Running at the higher cadence destroyed my calf muscles! They were amazingly sore for days following that run! They were so sore that it was the only run I was able to complete that week. I didn’t want to push the issue and get hurt.
This week my calf muscles were feeling 100% again and I decided to go out and give it another go! I felt like I was having a little more trouble keeping my cadence up on this run, but I know that I was still in the ballpark, so I just did my best to maintain that. I noticed that I had run between a quarter and half mile before I started to get the symptoms of running: the heavy breathing, higher heart rate, sweating. Which means the first part was pretty effortless!! So I kept it up and was amazed at my first mile when my app read out that I completed the first mile in 8 minutes and 48 seconds! I was super pumped! As you might recall my current best mile time is 8:44. So, running at a pretty comfortable pace I was only 4 seconds off my fastest mile time! Now, keep in mind this is my phone tracking distance so it might be a little off, but it is close enough that I’m still very happy with it.
After that I kept running until that 10 minute mark and then turned around and headed home. The goal of the 20 minutes is to make it back in the same time you ran the first half, so it requires a little more effort in the second half. There is a decently long incline on my way back and by the end of that I was pretty winded. I had to slow down a little and let my heart rate come back down. I didn’t stop though and kept on pushing through it. I was happy to finish my second mile in 8:57, still below 9 minutes.
The same run that I used to run in 11:17 I am now able to complete in under 9 minutes. Not only that, but I finish feeling less tired and out of breath than I did for the first runs. It’s so exciting and encouraging to look back and see that sort of progress. My calf muscles are still pretty sore after this run, but not as bad as last time. I have been pampering them to get them healed up so I can get back out there! I have finally got back to that point where I am really looking forward to my next run. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way.
I have plans to go back out to the track and see what my mile time is now, and I’m even more excited to do so after this most recent run. I think I am going to hold off until the end of the month to give myself a little more time and because I have determined a monthly mile time goal that I need to meet if I am going to get to my goal of breaking that 5 minute mile mark. That post is forth coming so stay tuned!