So, you’ve decided to take up running? Congratulations, you are now a member of an awesome community who all have that one thing in common; to improve yourself physically, mentally and to become a better version of yourself; to achieve things that many, including yourself, didn’t think were possible.
Welcome to the journey…….and it is a journey, nothing happens overnight. Unfortunately, a common perception exists, a myth. ‘If I stop to walk during a run then I have failed! I’m meant to be a runner and yet here I am, walking!’. This sense of failure is made even worse if, heaven forbid, somebody you know sees you walking.
However, what if I were to tell you that walking was an inevitable part of your training, in fact I would go further and say it was an essential part of your training? In actual fact, it is this walking that will help make you a better, stronger runner. How is this even possible?
Let’s understand why you’re forced to drop into a walk in the first place and then how you can turn this to your advantage and become a better runner than you thought possible.
Now imagine yourself having a brisk walk. You’re still in the aerobic zone but your body is now needing a quicker supply of energy from your fuel. One of the fuels required is oxygen, hence you’re now breathing a little harder. The production of lactic acid has now also increased but you should still be able to sustain this for a long period because your body is still able to clear it away quicker than it’s being produced.
Now imagine breaking into a run. Things now are going to change, and that change is dictated by your level of aerobic fitness. The demand for energy has just increased considerably when compared to walking. Your breathing rate will go up further to take care of the increased demand for oxygen and your heart-rate will go up to transport that oxygen around the body to where it’s needed. The lactic acid by-product will now be produced dramatically quicker also. Everything will be sustainable however, until that lactic acid reaches a point where it’s production is quicker than the body is able to clear it. This point, or threshold, is referred to as your ‘lactic threshold’. Upon reaching this threshold, your current fitness will dictate how long you can maintain this intensity but if you go above this threshold then you tip into the ‘anaerobic zone’ and things will completely change.
So you’re walking……..until such a point that the lactic acid build up has been taken care of, your muscles have recovered, your breathing has calmed and you can break into a run again. But then the cycle repeats….
Doesn’t this feel unfair, robbing you of control and ripping up the training plan.
What if we could recognise what is going on and not just regain control but be Master of It?
Recognising when you are approaching the Lactic Threshold point is key here. It occurs at approximately 65% of your maximum heart rate, this is also the point when talking becomes very difficult. So, a simple test is the ‘Talk Test’. If you can still have a conversation with your running partner then you are below threshold and everything is fine, if you’re struggling to talk however, it’s time to ease off the intensity/pace or you will soon be forced to walk.
The best approach for your training plan is to work out what pace you can run comfortably for a set time and plan in a walk break accordingly, whether you feel you need to or not. This will allow your increasing lactic acid levels a chance to ease off before they become a problem. After a set time, resume running at that easy pace and repeat. Using this method means you will remain in control of the training run and not be forced into walk breaks. So, if for example you would normally be forced into a walk break after 1.5 miles, why not plan a walk break at the 1-mile point and then 2 miles and then 2.5 miles. You would then complete your 3-mile run according to a plan.
The real bonus here is that by managing your blood lactic levels smarter, the body will more readily adapt to it and improve how it clears it out, meaning the walk breaks will become shorter and eventually taken out altogether.
Remember, walk breaks are not a sign of failure. They are a necessary tool in allowing your body to adapt to the changes in intensity levels that you are asking it to do. Success isn’t in the miles you run but rather what you do in the miles.
Training smarter rather than training harder.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.