Why Base Training Sucks (But Still Works)

Back in January, I began my “quest” to slow down in order to speed up. In a nutshell, for two months I've kept my heart rate at or below 140 for all training.

To say it’s been a challenge is an understatement. The incessant beeping of my heart rate monitor watch as it climbs to 141 and above has been my constant companion. As has my liberal use of the F-bomb. (Note to self: Base training and vowing to curse less are incompatible goals.)

I’ve got a week or two of training left. Here are the highs and lows.

The Downside

  • Mentally, it’s been tough. There were some days I really needed a good, hard, cleansing workout to free my mind and body. Having that option taken from me proved a challenge.
  • I may have tweaked my left knee, using a slower gait.
  • My ego took a beating. Big time.
  • I couldn’t run much over a 9:30 mile w/out my heart rate going over 140. (My “go to” pace is usually just-under an 8-minute mile.)
  • I’m worried that even if I’ve gained endurance, I’ve lost speed.
  • I don’t know yet that it worked.

The Upside

  • My appetite lessened and while I didn’t lose weight, neither did I gain.
  • ]My body needed the break. I’ve gone 5-6 years with no extended break, ever. Maybe three to five days off or light days after an ultra. That’s it. This was needed. I can almost feel my body exhaling a “Thank you.”
  • I never dreaded a workout, wondering if I had the mental/emotional/physical strength to face it.
  • My ego took a beating. Big time.
  • Just this past week, I’ve seen results. I did almost an entire spin class close to normal speed with a 145 heart rate. I’ve been able to run a couple of just over 8-minute miles with my heart rate staying at 138.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this experiment is realizing I don’t have to go out and kill every workout to stay in shape. Logically, I grasped that before but wasn’t able to put it into play. I’m hoping that when I do get back in a couple of weeks to my regular workouts, I’ll do a better job of adding in some easy days, or be okay with skipping a day here and there without freaking out that I’ve lost a competitive advantage. (Probably not, but it makes me feel good to write it.)

As for whether the training "worked," I'm withholding judgement. Yes, my heart rate is staying lower at faster paces so it did work, but I don't care about having a low heart rate at a 9-minute mile. I want to be better at running 7-minute miles. I'll have to wait a couple more weeks to see if that happened. 

Up next: Get my speed back, conquer swimming and find some races.