Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ultra-Conservative or Right-On ??

I met with the personal trainer this morning and for the majority of our conversation, he explained 'Training Zones' and the importance of predominately running w/in Zone 2 (Aerobic Treshold), 70-82% of maximum heart rate (MHR). He briefly touched on the physiology behind this practice... and basically stated that running below 70% MHR is 'junk mileage'. Makes sense. You need to push yourself to get stronger/faster.

I don't have a heart rate monitor so we discussed relative levels of exertion and intensity... One can typically maintain 70-75% MHR for 10min - 2hrs. At 75-82% MHR, interval duration drops to 10min - 1 hr.

Additionally, he stated that he believes training for a marathon is a 2-3 year process. Runners should train to train to train... before they begin the intense 18+ week cycle. Otherwise, they risk hitting a plateau and not seeing continual improvement over time. Hmmmm???

I shared with him my time for the 3.2 miles and the training plan I'm currently using, FIRST. I explained how I had made modifications to the prescribed plan since I broke my wrist. He was skeptical of the program stating that I would certainly see results but that over time, I would begin to stop 'improving'. "One can not train hard all year. There needs to be some down time. Time to allow the body to recover." Hmmmm??? I hadn't intended on continuing 'full-force' year-round.

I also told him that I swim on Mon & Wed (as recommended by the FIRST program, I cross-train hard on my 'non running days'). "If you want to be a better runner, you must simply run. Cross-training is not necessary.... If swimming makes you feel better here (pointing to his head), then great, go for it. But it is basically recovery (Zone 1) and therefore not essential to training." [Joe, I know you'll have some thoughts on this!]

His thoughts on cross-training bug me. I tried running more than 3-4 days a week last year and I struggled with plantars faciitis. Swimming has alleviated that and I no longer have heel pain.

We ended the conversation with the expectation that I'd keep him informed of my progress and that I would continue as I've been doing until the end of April when I run the half marathon in Eugene. At that point, we'd get back together and start some long-range planning to get me to my goal (a Boston qualifying time). I asked when he thought that might be attainable. He said I could potentially do a marathon in the fall (Portland ?) to get a gauge for my progress and see how things look from there.

Following the meeting with the PT, I took the kiddos swimming and then proceeded to Masters as usual. I asked Coach Bob during swim practice what he thought about cross-training and I summarized the PTs thoughts on running... His reply was that he's living proof that cross-training works. He then said, "Let's get together sometime and talk. You see Andrea over there in lane 4? She ran Boston last year. I'm a former track coach... I can help you."



Swim Practice - Great!
500m mixed stroke warm-up
7x200m at 4:30 pace (On the 3rd & 5th round, I did just 150m as the others were 25+ meters ahead of me... They kept starting the next round as I touched the wall completing the previous one and as a result I wouldn't get any rest... yes, I'm slow... therefore, I tacked on an additional 100m at the end to make up the difference.)

2100m total (essentially 5.25 running miles according to Bob)


  1. Question. Is that trainer a competitive runner, and has he trained for races? A few of his points were understandable, but mostly I raised my eyebrows in question as I read what he told you. I am no expert on running, I just know my body. I seek and receive a lot of great information and training knowledge from the message boards (mostly the Masters Forum). I lurk on the "elite" forum and get a lot of ideas their too. But a great website with so much information on all that encompasses running is Jim2's website.

    Hey, great job swimming! Personally I'm a big fan of cross training and hope to incorporate swimming into the regimen this summer.

  2. P.S. The track coach combined with your own research sounds like the way to go! Trust your instincts!

  3. That's pretty cool that the master's coach is also a track coach. That would be the way to go. So many people have said cross-training aleviates injuries.

  4. I can tell you, Makita, that in the short time I have been swimming, I have seen a HUGE increase in my aerobic capacity. I'll never forget the swimmer in high school that could pop a balloon in one breath, while I could barely get it half full. This is just a fine example of why multiple opinions are almost always necessary.

  5. I firmly believe that cross training work...for ME anyway.

    I was in the book store the other day and I flipped through a Runner's World book on running (I can't remember which one...there are quite a few). In the section on crosstraining, they discussed various expert's conflicting opinions about cross training. To me, the gist of it was that unless you're an elite runner, cross training should indeed improve your running. Apparently, elite runners need sport specific training to improve.

    So I say, keep on substituting swims for runs. At the very least, it should reduce your incidence of running related injuries.

    Also, listen to YOUR body. If swimming seems to be helping your running, that's all that matters.

  6. "If you want to be a better runner, you must simply run." Hmmm... I suppose that's true if it's the only activity that gets your heart rate up.

  7. GB asked, "Is that trainer a competitive runner, and has he trained for races?"

    He is a competitive triathlete ... and I'd guess he's in his 50s or 60s. Old School.

    I have to agree with all of you... cross-training DOES work (especially when you cross-train hard and get your heartrate up just as you do running). Injury prevention is a huge benefit.

    I plan to meet with my swim coach and have him look over my training plan... his insight & suggestions, I'm certain, will be more my style.



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