The Aerobic ‘Engine’

Life in the Fast Lane

       I mentioned in my last blog about getting off that treadmill.  

       Run Tall,Run Easy blog readers there is another important physiological reason (benefit) for getting outside to run in less than comfortable conditions. I think we can all agree that when building a new home it would be dangerous and foolhardy to do so without providing for a strong,safe and effective foundation. So it is with endurance training. Too often as the athlete we are focused on pace. Do not misunderstand me, there are plenty of times where we should be and need to be focused on pace but there are times where running effort based has long term positive repercussions.  

     The aerobic engine is the essential energy system ** to engender early in our training season, the building block that all other building blocks are built upon. Lactate Threshold and Anaerobic Glycolyctic. The goal that we strive to achieve is a fitness level within us that affords us the opportunity to be ‘submaximal’ at any race distance that we designate as our key race goal of the season. The more submaximal we are relative to our goal the greater the % that we will achieve or surpass our goal. Case in point. If a runner wishes to break four hours for the marathon then if their current singular mile time is 9.00 minutes the % chance of them realizing that goal in the present moment is slim to none. If a runner has a 2.50 hour marathon goal and over the course of twelve to eighteen months improves their singular mile time from 5.45 -5.20 for example then the % chance of them taking a legitimate run at a sub 2.50 is significantly increased and so on and so on. 

       This process starts with an improvement in the aerobic engine. To this end, over the past ten days or so in the USA NE  the extremely cold conditions have made running challenging; at least seemingly so, if observing the weather through a window from inside your living room. In short, temperatures in the teens seem less than inviting.

   On the surface it is understandable why one might retreat to the nearest treadmill; it may also seem redundant and pointless to run outside in these conditions. ‘What is the point if I have to run significantly slower than I usually do’? is a recurring question from runners that I encounter. 

      But my friends, ‘there is gold in them there hills’. We just need to understand this and we need to search for it. 

       Case in point. Much of my running these days at the Jersey Shore is run over my eight mile regular route local to my home and taking in 6 of the miles of a hilly course that makes up a challenging 10k race each and every September. 

       Much of this running is completed without a watch and run strictly effort based and an effort that is conversational and low effort. Just focused on the process moment by moment, mile by mile and in that process I am working on my form,my rhythm, paying attention to every diagnostic signal that my body is sending me and keeping my mind calm,relaxed and settled. Effectively and functionally busy and occupied. 

         In the past week this style of running has become even more of a requirement with temperatures dropping to single digits with occasional sub zero windchills. 

          Yesterday (in arguably the coldest conditions I have ever run in) I chose to run with my watch. But it was not a decision based upon pace. In other words I didn’t suddenly do a ‘180 degree turn’ and decide to run pace as opposed to effort based. No I chose to run with a watch for this reason. As stated previously when I run ‘sans’ watch it is to run to a low relaxed effort working on events within the run, footstrike, breathing, posture, mind control etc. with no concern for the actual pace but understanding that eventually there will be workouts or races where pace will need to be related to effort and as such yesterday I needed some kind of barometer,some kind of reference or measurement. I ran the exact effort relative to the cold that afforded me the the right intensity to be completely comfortable throughout the run. At each mile marker I simply hit the split for a reading, a measurement of what pace in reality matched this low effort. I wanted to know the true reflective pace of my aerobic threshold I.e my aerobic engine. I waited until the two mile mark as I felt this would give a better representation and sample size and I hit the split at each mile marker from miles two to seven. I repeat not trying to run any specific pace within the miles but rather keeping a relaxed rhythmic effort. As I approached my first split,given my age of fifty four and the extreme cold and extreme amount of clothing I was wearing, I concluded that a sub 9.00 minute mile would be a very positive number. (Keep in mind people that just as in running at altitude versus sea level this pace would be a great deal slower than the corresponding pace yielded in temperate conditions).   

      To my very pleasant surprise I was fluctuating between 8.00 mins and 8.17 per mile depending upon which mile and the course undulation within each respective mile. 

       This feedback was critical to me as the competitive athlete and extremely valuable feedback for me as a professional coach (using my self as an experiment of one) to remind me and reinforce how fit,how strong and how deep the foundation  is when built from consistent low intensity effort based running. 

         Just as with my coach (Coach Brock) once saying to me ‘So you want to be a better marathoner, then I am going to make you a better miler’ I say to you ‘Sometimes you have to slow down to run faster’. Low intensity, effort based (focusing on the process, event based running*) is your greatest ally in developing your inner ‘Ferrari motor’

   ‘So you want to be a better runner? Then develop your Aerobic ‘Engine’ 

    An original piece for ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ by Coach GP.

* Event based Running means focusing on events within the run posture,breathing,foot strike,mind control for example. 


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