Checking my running ego at the door – HR based training

I came across the concept of heart-rate based training last year when Sweaty Emily wrote a lot about the benefit of training this way. Specifically, she talked about two things – doing the majority if not all of your runs at an aerobic zone (based on a HR that is determined on an individual basis) and training with a high fat / low carb diet. A combination of these two approaches supposedly improves your body’s ability to use fat as your main fuel source, rather than carbs.

My new easy pace – for now

I wrote it off for a while, because I thought I was already taking on a conservative approach with my running. Last year, I adopted what I thought was an 80/20 approach with my training and I like to think that it helped me stay uninjured and get faster.

I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I lost sight of that recently. Maybe I got too fixated on training “harder” for my Fall marathon. I stopped listening to my body and “running easy”. I thought my body would eventually adapt and things would improve. Instead, every single run was starting to suck and I couldn’t hit my target paces on my interval days. I blamed marathon recovery, the oppressive heat, and the stress from the move to Vancouver.

This move to Vancouver has turned out to be more stressful than I ever imagined. But, it’s going to be worth it. We love it here so far.

Over the last few weeks, I have been actively trying to slow down my easy runs. I hoped it would help, but when my glute/hamstring started acting up and hurting on every run I went on – fast or slow – I just snapped and realized that I would likely be injured for the rest of the year if I didn’t make some bigger changes. So, I took the plunge and bought the a new fancy watch with a wrist heart rate monitor. I had been thinking about it for a while (my last watch purchase was from 6 years ago!) and used the Maffetone 180 formula to come up with my target “aerobic training zone” (145-150 bpm).

New watch! I still prefer using FitFriend for splits at the track, but I am loving the fact that I can monitor my heart rate without wearing a chest strap.

My plan so far is to keep one tempo session and one steady state long run each week. Both of these will be completed outside of my target MAF heart rate.  To be honest, I’m doing this to keep my sanity. I have a group of girls that I love doing my long runs with, but running with them, even at our slower long run pace will most certainly set me over my 150bpm target. I’m willing to sacrifice this for now. I also want to keep one speed session a week in case I still race the Victoria marathon on Oct 11 (but in all honestly, that is not likely at this point). I might do hills on Tuesdays, as long as I keep my warm up / cool downs easy and the hills session (e.g. the part where my HR will be outside my aerobic zone) will be short. This is mostly to keep my hill fitness since most races around here all seem to be pretty hilly. The rest of my runs will be completed within my MAF zone which, I’ll be honest, feels really slow relative to how I’m used to running. For the sake of comparison, that has meant slowing down my easy runs to 10:30/mi (6:30/km) from the 8:50-9:40/mi (5:30-6:00/km) that I was running them at before.

I also met this awesome girl last week, who has been training exclusively at her MAF pace for the last 8 weeks. Her pace has dropped from 11:00/mi to 8:35/mi. Everybody is different and there is no guarantee I will experience the same progress – but it’s still inspiring and gives me hope that I won’t be stuck at 10:30/mi pace for a 150bpm HR forever.

Patience has never been one of my strong suits, so it has been tough to “trust in the process”. But I’ve read quite a bit around this approach and I do believe it works. I don’t think I’ll see any real changes by the Victoria Marathon if I still run it. I don’t even know if I will see changes by next Spring… which will really suck because I’m so impatient! But, the idea is that eventually, I will naturally be running at my old easy run paces or faster at the same heart rate, which should translate into better endurance overall and faster race times in the future.

I’m pretty flexible, though, so if I feel like I need to tweak something, I will. So far, I’m determined to give this an honest go, even if that means sacrificing my races in the short term. Ask me if I still feel this way in a month, though. 😉


Easy and cheap meal ideas

Despite the fact that we’ve been living in Vancouver for over a month now, we’re still living out of our suitcases and staying in temporary accommodations.

Because we wanted to avoid accumulating too much “stuff”, this has meant that our meals have been as simple as possible. We’ve been living this way for 8 months now, and we are not into pre-packaged meals and take-out. Not on a daily basis, anyway. Those things are acceptable in extreme situations (like when we were staying in hotels that didn’t have kitchens), but we’ve managed to eat fairly well with a very limited supply of ingredients.

Here are some samples of meals we’ve been cooking and eating lately:

Steamed broccoli, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and fresh pea shoots with pan seared tofu and a miso tahini sauce served over brown rice.


Pan fried sweet peppers, mixed mushrooms, and edamame with steamed broccoli and pan fried tofu over soba noodles.IMG_5932

Pan fried sweet potato gnocchi with sauteed zucchini, broccoli, and eggplant with pan fried wild salmon. 

Pan fried sweet peppers and broccoli with BBQ chicken and brown rice. IMG_6292Notice a few patterns here? We tend to use a lot of the same vegetables but pair them with different types of grains/pasta and proteins.

Every meal comes together in under an hour and as long as we have 1-2 pans and 1 pot, we’re good to go. I will usually cook the starchy carb (rice, noodles, pasta) in the pot (we toast our gnocchi in a pan when we eat it) and I’ll prepare the vegetables in a pan at the same time. Sometimes, I’ll throw the broccoli in the same pot that I cook the rice/pasta/noodles in to save room. If we’re having tofu or eggs, I’ll cook that. If we’re having any type of animal protein, Mike usually takes charge.

There are so may delicious looking recipes floating around on the internet, but it’s not realistic for us to buy the specified spices / sauces when we’re essentially still living out of suitcases. So instead, we’ve relied heavily on two “spices” – soy sauce (THE BEST!) and the Club House greek seasoning. I use a combination of the two for scrambled eggs and for most of the veg I cook as well.

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A few other things I’ve picked up for our meals are tahini, miso paste, and Sriracha but that was only in the last month.

That’s not to say that we never want to cook more elaborate things when we have our own kitchen. For one thing, I miss baking TERRIBLY! I can’t wait to bake a batch of scones, muffins, and cookies. We also used to make pizza together at least once a night. That’s going to be one of our first meals. And don’t even get me started on all the waffle recipes that I’ve pinned recently!

Fingers crossed that we sort things out soon and find our own place. It has been more than 8 months since we’ve had a “home” to call our own.


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