Heart rate schmart rate

When I first started this running program earlier this year, I just ran. I wasn’t concerned with pace or things like that. I just ran, starting at about a mile, trying to get my time down.

During the run, and for a while after I’d finished, I’d be gasping for breath. I believe the term is sucking wind. Then afterwards, I’d be completely drained.

After a while, I learned pacing: that I shouldn’t be trying to run at fast as I can, but to run at a pace where I’m not struggling to breathe. One suggestion is to run at a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (Since I run solo, that isn’t possible, unless I talk to myself.)

So, over a few months, I worked on pace while gradually increasing distance and trying to decrease time.

Generally, my heart rate has been between 145 beats per minute up to 160 or more when I attempt to sprint.

I have never paid attention to target heart rate, max heart rate, or heart rate range. At least not recently. I think I calculated that when I was a much younger man, but taking heart rate measurements back in the Stone Age wasn’t as instantaneous as with today’s portable wrist monitors. It was difficult at best to take your heart rate on the run and stopping to do it seems inconvenient. So I never bothered.

So I just looked the heart rate formula up. [For those who aren’t familiar with the formula to find your max heart rate, you take the number 220 and subtract your age. Where they came up with 220, I don’t know. Is that the number at which your heart will burst from your chest like a baby alien? Then to find your target heart rate, you take the max heart rate and calculate what 55% and 85%. That’s it. That’s your range.]

Without revealing my age (if you do math, you should figure it out), my heart range while exercising should be between 88 beats per minute and 136!

Seriously? I’m at 78 just sitting here typing this. I reach 88 just walking down the hall! That’s my goal for exercising? Am I supposed to be a couch potato?
My mall walk pace puts my heart rate around 112 to 118 bpm. So 136, I blow right past that even when I’m doing a slow run. Who created this calculation? It doesn’t seem reasonable. Maybe when you’re younger, because your max heart rate is so much closer to the 220. But as you get older? It makes no sense.

As I said, my heart rate on my runs is generally in the 150s (although I do try to keep it in the 140s). That’s almost my max heart rate.

And when I first started running, I was exhausted afterwards. My legs would be so tired I could barely climb the stairs to bed.

Now, however, after a good six months of running (give or take the last month with the injury), when I finish my run, I notice that I’m not as tired. Certainly not drained of all life force. In fact, after my last few runs I’ve felt invigorated afterwards. Not tired. Refreshed. It’s an odd feeling. And the stairs are no trouble at all afterwards. My legs don’t feel like noodles.

So this whole max heart rate thing? I think it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. One size does not fit all.

Listen to your body, not some formula.

If you’re gasping for breathe as you run, slow down. If your heart is pounding in your chest, slow down. If you’re exhausted afterwards and don’t seem to recover right away, slow down.

If you’re running at a pace that seems comfortable yet is still beyond the target heart range of that formula, use your own judgement.

Me, I’d keep going.

Nevertheless, if you’re just starting out, and you’re completely out of shape, never having really been active before, the heart rate range might be a good starting point. As they say, before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor.

Run. Rest. Throw away the heart monitor.


Morning people suck

Sunday I ran in the morning.

I’m not a morning person.

I’ve never been a morning person.

The only time I ever voluntarily got up early in the morning was Christmas morning as a child, eager to see what Santa had left under the tree.

Otherwise, I sleep in on my days off.

I follow several running sites on Facebook and elsewhere, such as Runner’s World, Women’s Running Magazine, etc cetera.

One thing I’ve noticed, and find extremely annoying, is the number of articles they post concerning how wonderful and healthy and energizing running in the morning is.

Heck, they are so exalting in their praise of the morning run that I’m waiting for titles such as, “Morning runs cure cancer!” or “World Peace achieved through morning runs!”

In other words, I think these articles are a little over-the-top with their views, as if morning runners are the most advanced humans on the planet.

There are morning people and there are night owls and never the twain shall meet. Recently, they even had an article by someone claiming not to have been a morning person but after giving it a try, they became a morning person.

I call bull shit.

One does not transform into a morning person simply by getting up a few mornings and running. If that were the case, nearly everyone would have become a morning person simply because we all have to get up early for 12 years of schooling, then many more years of going to work.

But it doesn’t happen that way. It never has for me.

And that’s why Sunday was an anomaly.

Yes, I did get up to run in the morning. Granted, it was 10:00 am, but that’s still morning. I even had some coffee prior to running.

But the run itself? I tried. Really. But I only made it 1-1/4 miles. For me, the first mile is the hardest, after that my body clicks into autopilot and the remaining part of the run passes by relatively easily and quickly.

In other words, the first mile seems to take forevah, but the rest of the run passes by so quickly, I’m often surprised how far I’ve gone.

My attempt at a morning run was one big fail. I never became energized, it never started to feel wonderful, I never got in the zone, and I never experienced the runners high.

I continued to feel tired and worn out. It still felt like morning.

So I quit. Then in the evening I tried again. And after the first mile, I hit my rhythm and kept going for almost another mile. I only stopped because of my recent thigh injury and worries that an extended run would cause it to flare up again.

So you see, not all of us are morning people. Not all of us can get up the required motivation and energy to run in the morning.

Some of us prefer running in the evening, especially after work the run will burn off the stress and pressures of the day. Running in the evening relaxes us so we can get a good night’s sleep.

Running in the morning is good for morning people. Running in the evening is good for evening people. Trying to say one is better for everyone than another is just silly. It’s like asking which is prettier, a sunrise or sunset? Depends on your perspective at the time.


Sunrise or sunset?

Just once I’d like to see a positive post from one of the running sites extolling the virtues of evening running.

But I won’t hold my breath.

And morning people don’t suck. I just said that to get your attention. You’re all a little weird, but you don’t suck.

Unless you keep trying to get me to run in the morning with you.

(And just for the record, I had tried morning runs when I was much younger, but they were miserable as well. Sunday, was an experiment to see if anything had changed. Nothing had.)

Run. Relax. Get plenty of rest.


Wait don’t weight

One thing I’ve learned over the years is don’t sweat your weigh-in. I know some people who become obsessed with weighing themselves and not only do it daily, but several times a day.

This can be self-destructive because progress takes time. Taking hourly weight measurements is frustrating because our weight fluctuates throughout the day. Even day to day our weight changes depending on what we’ve eaten, the temperature, if we’re retaining water, and so on.

I generally weigh myself once a week. But even then I don’t really get hung up on the nimbers.

For instance, I’ve hit a plateau and my weight hasn’t changed since the beginning of August.

Have I stopped making progress? Not really. Several things have been going on.

Injury. Since the middle of August, I’ve had a nagging hip/glute/thigh injury that has made me reduce my running routine. Without the consistency of an aerobic workout three or four times a week, my body hasn’t been burning calories as efficiently as it should be.

Weight-training. To compensate for the injury and a possible muscle imbalance, I’ve been lifting weights: doing squats, quad extensions, calf raises, and hamstring curls. It’s possible that I’ve been building muscle. As I build muscle, it might cause my weight to fluctuate, even increase. Muscle and fat weigh the same but muscle is denser and takes up less space.

Take measurements. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking body measurements to see if I’m still progressing toward a fitter me. I did take measurements a year ago, but I haven’t since. Why? I can’t find the tape measure or that notebook. Yeah, I know. I’m a dweeb.

But my pants are looser at the waist, so that is an indication that I’m losing fat (not necessarily weight).

My advice is throw away your scale or at least cut back how often you step on it. Once a week at the most. Any more often and you will just get frustrated if you don’t see the weight you want to see.

Don’t sweat the small stuff and the small stuff are those numbers on your scale.

And I just finished a 2 mile treadmill run at a 5 mph pace. I don’t want to push things. The leg is getting better, but I’ll still take it slow and easy for at least the next 3 or 4 runs, just to play it safe.

I don’t like being injured and I’m impatient when it comes to rehab but pushing things isn’t the smart thing to do.

Do you have any tips when it comes to weight loss progress or even rehabbing an injury?


Ice is the new black

I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as young as I used to be.

I also think that icing and stretching my post-run muscles is the new norm.

Back when I was in my twenties, I rarely stretched and never iced. Heck, I didn’t even warm up.

I’d step outside and I’d immediately launch myself into full stride. When I finished my usual 12 mile run, I’d relax in a chair. No fuss, no muss. PBR me ASAP.

Then after several years flaunting my invincibility — shin splints.

Then and only then did I stretch and ice, but stubbornly only my calves. The damage however was already done. At that point only rest would help. Years of rest.

Fast forward to now. My last run was Saturday and the pain in my IT band area that started August 16th didn’t seem to be improving any. So every evening since Monday I’ve been icing my left gluteus, hip, and upper thigh.

And I’ve been doing standing squats quad extensions, calf curls, and other leg exercises. I ordered those stretchy bands so I can add those to my leg repertoire. They should arrive today.

None of those aggravate my hip/glute/thigh pain.

Last night, I tried a treadmill run. It seems the icing and stretching and weight training are helping. I was able to walk/run for about 28 minutes. 

Despite my impatience, I took the advice I’ve read in other blogs and took it slow. The first quarter mile at a brisk 4 mph walk. The next three-quarter miles at a 5 mph jog. Then a short run for a quarter mile at 6 mph, then back down to 4 mph, then 3.5 mph, finishing with a relaxing g 2 mph walk.

Then stretching with an ice pack on my ass.

And today, the leg feels better than it has in a long time. As I said, icing and stretching nightly are the new norms for me.

I just hope running with pain isn’t. 

This is what I feel like when I don’t run:

Run. Stretch. Ice. Repeat.

Catastrophe avoided

Sunday night about 7 or 7:30 pm, we heard the back door shut. I thought it was our son who is always on the move, but no, he didn’t come running through the kitchen.

So it was chalked up as one of those things. The wind. The door hadn’t been shut properly and the piston finally pulled it shut 

It wasn’t until bedtime that I realized I hadn’t seen our female cat all night. Usually she’s crawling into my lap or chasing or being chased by one of our two male cats.

In fact, the last time we saw her she was in a standoff with our youngest cat.

So I wandered around the house shaking a treat container, being followed by the other two cats and our two dogs, who thought it was treat time.

But no sign of Moana Lisa, our white cat. 

Our son came up with that name. When we first got her, she had been abused and for the first week she just hid under our bed moaning loudly. It took several weeks before she stopped moaning any time someone would come near her. It took another six months before she stopped clawing and biting anyone who tried to pet her. And it was almost a year before she’d crawl up into your lap, but you still weren’t allowed to touch her. If you did, she’d moan, bite, and leave. She’s never been the most loving cat.

So we went to bed thinking she was just in a hissy mood because of the previous confrontation with our younger cat and she’d come out when she was ready. (We never connected the door to the possibility she had gotten out.)

In the morning, still no sign of her, but we all had to leave for work and school so we couldn’t look for her.

That evening, still no sign of her. OK. Maybe she wasn’t pouting somewhere in the house after all. Did she get out? That’s when we recalled the door closing the previous night.

But of all the cars, she’s been the least interested in trying to go outside. (We don’t let our cats outside, they’re pets, and I don’t understand people who do.)

We have a fenced-in yard. She’s not a climber, rarely uses the cat tower in the house, so if she got out, we reasoned, she would be in our yard and the dogs would have keyed on her. “Here she is! Cat! Here she is!” But no, they acted like there was no new scent in their territory. So where could she be?

We looked in the bushes and around the house just in case. No sign of her.

I decided to take the dog for a walk and maybe he’d catch her scent or something. Yeah, silly. Cobie isn’t a scent hound, he’s a dalmatian/lab mix. The only thing he can sniff out is food.

I went down the street and turned up our alley, hoping she’d have stayed nearby. I kept calling her name and thought I heard her answer, so I kept calling, but it turned out to be a stupid crow mocking me.

We passed a garage and saw something moving next to it. It was a white cat. How many of those are around? But this one was all dirty, with grease spots, and her hair was all disheveled. It didn’t look like her.

But I called her name anyway and she stopped, looked at me, and came running over, “You found me!”

But Cobie was all excited too, and Moana wouldn’t come near enoigh to let me grab her, so I had to take the dog home, then go back for her.

She was now under a car, but she came quickly when I called her. I picked her up and took her back home.

Once inside the house, she was so happy she rubbed herself against anyone who came near her, even the dogs.

But, as I said, she was covered in grease and dirt. I wasn’t sure how she’d take to a bath so I got a wet soapy washcloth and tried to rub her clean. That didn’t work very well.so I threw caution to the winds, and put a little water in the tub and put her in, fully expecting to be clawed to death. Instead she just sort of made “meh” sounds. She wasn’t happy, yet she wasn’t angry either. She tolerated it. 

So I shampoed her, then did my best to dry her.

And the rest of the night she kept snuggling with my wife or with me, purring loudly, as if to say, “There’s no place like home!”

Later that night she slept in her bed and never moved. She was still there in the morning. Her harrowing adventure in the noisy, scary outside must have wiped her out.

We still aren’t sure why she went outside. She’s never shown any interest. The only thing we can think of is she was sniffing by the back door and our youngest cat pushed her out.

You know how brothers are toward their sisters. Besides, he looked guilty. 

Then the door banged shut and must have scared her so she just ran until she realized she alone and lost.

I doubt she’ll do that again. For the moment, she seems like a changed cat. Before she tolerated us. Now, it seems, she really appreciates us.

Cobie thinks Moana smells much better after her bath. (He won’t admit he missed her.)


Body and inSole

This may sound like a familiar complaint (see Remember the Brannock Device?), but it’s a whole new one, I promise.

As you may recall, I injured my leg somehow last week. There was pain in the thigh and gluteus and when I attempted to run, the leg felt weak, like it was going to collapse under me.

So I took a week off running, then ran Thursday. Everything felt fine, the pain was reduced. Today, I attempted another run. The pain was there and so was the weakness, but it was only evident at a 5 mph pace or slower. At 6 mph it was fine and at what for me right now is a near sprint — 8 mph — it was also fine.

The problem is, I took a week off! Yes, exactly. My aerobic level isn’t there. I can’t sustain 6 mph. So instead I did 30 to 45 seconds at 8 mph and then did about 3 minutes at walking pace, 4 mph. I managed about two miles in about 25 minutes.

Before I ran, I did two minutes of warm-up on my Lifestyler Cardiofit (which is in the foreground of the picture. In the background is my Schwinn treadmill. In the center is my comfy chair for vegging out and listening to my collection of vinyl).

exercise room

Afterwards, I stretched.

But, as you may have noticed reading this, I’ve ADHDed around what my complaint was and what the subject of this whole blogpost was supposed to be about. (It’s been a bad day ADHD-wise, but I’ll not go off on that tangent and explain. I’ll try to keep on topic.)

Back in June, I bought a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 running shoes (see Saturday Shopping for Shoes). I tried on a few shoes and found them to be the most comfortable. The problem lately has been they just haven’t been as comfortable as they were just two months ago. That’s why I picked up the cushy pair of Saucony a couple weeks back, because the Brooks seems stiff and unpleasant, as if the cushioning had hardened up or something.

It was strange because my most comfortable fitting shoes were my Brooks Beasts and they’ve lasted for years. It seemed odd that Brooks had forgotten how to make good fitting shoes in such a short time.

Well, guess what it was?

Aw. You peeked.

Yes, it was the replacement insole the salesman at the shoe store talked me into. It was deja vu all over again. The insoles the salesman at Sports Authority (now kharmicly out of business) for the Asics I bought last year also hurt my feet. Now I find that the problem with the Brooks wasn’t the shoes, it was the Superfeet Orange Insoles I had in them.


Now, Superfeet is probably a very good brand of aftermarket insole inserts, but the problem I just realized today is: this particular pair hurts!

I put one of the original Brooks inserts into one shoe and left the Superfeet insert in the other and bounced in them. The Brooks insert felt the way I remembered the Brooks feeling at the store: cushy, yet supportive. Very, very comfortable. The Superfeet insert? It was only when I compared them side by side that I realized the problem was the Superfeet were too narrow at the heel. Instead of my heel fitting comfortably inside the hard plastic cup, it rested up on the sides.

So it never was the Brooks, it was a poorly-sized Superfeet inserts. I guess that was my fault. At the time, they seemed to fit. I didn’t realize they were too narrow or that the plastic sides were digging painfully into my heel. I just assumed a proper insert was supposed to be stiff… and, um, painful.

Now I know better. Maybe I’ll try to take the Superfeet back to Fleet Feet and say they weren’t the right size. It’s only been two months.

In the meantime, I was unhappy with my running shoes, but now I’m not. I’m very happy with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16.

And I wonder if aftermarket inserts are really necessary or if they’re just something shoe salesmen try to talk you into for an additional sale?

Do you use special inserts or do you use the insole that comes with your running shoe?



Run like the wind

In my case, a slow, limping, overweight wind.

It’s been a week since I ran last. I was starting to feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The pain in my hip and thigh has been lessening, however, and I’ve been on a regimen of various stretches that I’ve found designed for your legs and hips and also for IT Band issues. They seem to have helped a little.

But just as importantly,  I rested for a week. No running since last Thursday, although I still did my daily walking at work which adds up to about four miles, albeit much more slowly and with a limp. And I still took the stairs at work.

I also did other leg exercises, as I mentioned in “Hostage Crisis Day 5.”

And yesterday, I rested. I mean, really rested. I didn’t do any exercises. Well, except for walking and stairs and stretching. But no weight training or other type exercises. That’s resting, right?

So today, I’d say the pain was somewhat reduced and I was walking without the limp. So at lunch, I walked much faster. Enough to raise my heart rate and break into a mild sweat. Without pain. So I took that as a good sign.

I was going to run.

Before the run, I warmed up doing some rows on my Weider Crossbow. I don’t usually warm up before a run. (On the other hand, I do do cool downs.) I would imagine not warming up is just asking for an injury, right?

Then I got on the treadmill and set it for 5k at a pace of about 5.2 mph. Slow, but not too slow.

And yes. There was pain. I think I was limping as I was running. Is that a bad thing? I’m sure it is. It probably throws everything out of balance.

But I made it. I ran the full 5k. And when I finished, the pain was diminished from what I had experienced when I had started the run. How much of that was endorphin-related, I don’t know.

So I immediately did a bunch of stretches, which is something I don’t usually do either. After a run, I just sort of plop into a chair all slouching and tired.

But this time, I did the stretches. Have I mentioned I hate stretching? I know I have. It hurts. Like Hell. It burns. It makes me grit my teeth and I breath in gasps of pain.

And that’s just getting down on the floor; the stretches themselves cause me to emit screams that make the neighbors think someone is being tortured.

I am.

It’s all over now though. My body, my legs, feel good. I needed that run. And I needed to stretch.

Tomorrow, I’ll see how everything feels, then decide on Saturday if I’ll rest or attempt another run.

I hope I can run.

I wonder if I should ice?