Not every run is stimulating

Four miles in da hood

Today’s run (street): 4.2 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 2 miles

Friday morning was cold and blustery and I needed to get out early for an errand. Due to major time constraints, I opted for a quick treadmill run that I figured would be better than postponing my workout until later. I wasn’t sure how long my work day would go and it was also my anniversary. I didn’t think it would be polite to delay our dinner by doing an early evening run.

I ended up running a couple of treadmill miles and loved that the Garmin FR 35 captured all my metrics without a foot pod or chest strap. I should have gone all out during that short workout, but I chose to start off at my current pace. I bumped up the speed once I reached the second mile and I finished in the mid nine minute range. It was a good use of the small window of time that I had.

This morning’s schedule was a little more flexible and the weather was decent. It was 39° when I went out and I wore track pants and two light layers on top. That would have kept me comfortable throughout the run, but the temperature rose four degrees in the 40 or so minutes I was out there.

I’m still not used to starting strong since most of this year I’ve lacked energy during the first minutes of my runs. I expected to go easy today and was prepared to run a little slow. Somehow I ended up doing better than normal. I’m improving but still running half a minute off my targeted pace.

Today’s run was pleasant but my neighborhood roads were not very stimulating. The only interesting thing on my route was the work being done using heavy equipment at the middle school. Steamrollers are cool. I hope to go somewhere more interesting tomorrow and cover about five miles. I may do even more if conditions are good.

Denial of both service and stimulation

Treadmill data more stimulating than treadmill

Today’s run (treadmill): 4 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.1 miles

This weekend’s weather isn’t great for running, but I managed to get in a couple of workouts today and Friday. Yesterday my friend and portfolio advisor (Steve) came by for one of our periodic financial reviews. Before we got down to business, we hit my neighborhood roads for a tidy 5K run.

Steve is a Crossfit guy whose workouts focus primarily on strength training and high intensity activities. Cross-fitters incorporate running into their training, but it’s typically 400 meter intervals between squats, push ups and other dynamic stationary exercises. I imagine it would be hard to adapt from intensely anaerobic workouts to an aerobic training event like running. Steve said the first mile is always his slowest. I’m guessing that’s due to the heavy cardio aspect of running.

Steve and I ran my typical Friday route and the pace we set seemed challenging to us both. We were surprised to discover that our speed did not reflect our perceived efforts. After Gmapping the route, I calculated that we’d averaged about 10:30 a mile. We did talk the entire time and that’s an indicator that we weren’t pushing all that hard. According to Garmin Connect, I averaged 76% max HR which is about nine percentage points lower than what I’ve recorded on recent high 9:00 runs.

After Steve and I finished up, I settled into my work, only to discover that my company’s email system was down due to the massive DDoS attack on Dyn. That was fine as I had plenty of non-email work to do and, fortunately, our other systems were accessible through the VPN. By 5:00 PM, our mail server started pushing through messages. I caught up with the most important stuff and left the rest for Monday morning.

This morning the weather had taken a turn for the worse. I’m willing to run in sub-optimal conditions but the howling winds, steady rain and chilly temperatures forced me to accept the treadmill as my only real option. My enthusiasm for today’s run dropped a few levels, but I dutifully got on board.  I set the speed to 5.6 MPH and edged it up to 6.1 throughout the run. Unlike running outdoors where you can see your progress, the treadmill provides very little sensory stimulation. I spent the entire time thinking about the wonderful moment when I would hit the stop button.

With humidity close to 100%, I felt all used up at the end. I’ve been hoping for more dramatic improvement in my performance but I’m leveling right now. Still, at this level, I’m running almost a minute per mile faster than I did in September. Yesterday’s humidity was 94% and today’s was worse, so I’ll blame that for not pushing any harder.

I’m excited that I’m going to see the Runsketeers tomorrow. Per my opening reference to the weather, the winds on Sunday are supposed to be fierce, with gusts up to 40 MPH and a real feel in the high 30’s. Should be fun.

Missing my houses and cars

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

The biggest difference between today’s and yesterday’s workouts was the timing. I got to it early and my energy level and mental engagement were much improved. Even though I set my speed faster than on Tuesday, I felt far more comfortable. There’s always an element of tedium on the treadmill, but today it was bearable.

A good run that follows a bad one helps us keep our perspective. The sameness of the treadmill experience, with the unchanging view out the window, can easily sap motivation. But physically, your body doesn’t know the difference. I’m ready to return to my neighborhood roads where the scenery is constantly changing. As far as that scenery goes, it’s just houses and cars. But those houses and cars are all different in their own way.

The will is there, but the spirit needs some help

Getting out of the ordinary

Today’s run (street): 3.3 miles

I have definitely reached a point where my running routine has become just that — routine. I was hoping that last Sunday’s race would reset my focus, but I seem to be caught up in a cycle of three to four mile neighborhood runs done with mediocre pacing. I could blame the hot, sticky weather and my seemingly endless bout of coughing and chest congestion to explain my current state of stagnation. I think I need some sort of change to reignite my running excitement.

This morning’s effort was done more of habit than to help reach a specific training goal. While running for the sake of running doesn’t generate a lot of progress, it does have its benefits. Having the will to run, even in the absence of adventure, novelty, stimulation or objective, reinforces overall commitment.   Like so many other runners, I’ve reached the point where lacing up my shoes and going outside is no longer a choice, but a necessity.

So what’s the thing that projects my running beyond the routine? Is it a return to Central Park, a destination race or a new trail location? I don’t know if any one thing will get me there. It could come down to something as simple as a new pair of running shoes. Yesterday I noticed that the combined mileage of my Kinvara 3’s and Pure Drifts (my two main trainers) now totals over a thousand. I’ll admit that my level of excitement was raised when I looked into pricing deals on a new pair of Virratas.

I’ve already forgotten this morning’s treadmill experience

I had a decent run on the treadmill this morning, 2.6 miles at a moderate pace. After the hard trail run on Sunday I planned to take it easy today. I did the first half of my run at around 9:50 and the second half at 9:10. There was nothing particularly interesting about this workout and I realized when I finished that, besides checking my Garmin a couple of times for pace info, I had almost zero recollection of the experience. I came off the machine hot, sweaty and energized but I couldn’t think of anything notable about the run.

Although it’s an important aspect of my workout routine, the treadmill only provides me with a one dimensional experience. Compared to road running or trail running (that are multidimensional in terms of visual and sensory experience) the treadmill provides little in the way of intellectual stimulation. True, you can make up for that gap by putting a television in front of the machine or by listening to music, podcasts or audio books, but those things aren’t really about the running experience. I’m not against treadmills by any means. I just got the good news that our new unit is in transit to the delivery company and I’m eagerly anticipating its arrival. Our new treadmill has built in programs and lots of metrics to help distract from the tedium of running in place.

While looking at speed, incline, time, distance traveled, calories, pulse and pace falls way short of looking at trees, birds and other interesting things along the trail, at least these displayed metrics have something to do with running. No matter what (like anything new and technical) the new treadmill will provide me a new dimension, at least for a while.