Hitting the training – with a foam roller

A Foam Roller - As seen in the Tower of London

It’s been a business as usual approach to the training recently. But not without a few eye opening moments.

I’ve written in the past about the usefulness of the variety of ‘challenges’ which are set up on the various training websites I use. Strava – the place where running/cycling meets social media (but without the adverts for Stairlifts and funeral planning – I seem to be of that age now, or at least it’s the age I tell the various sites I am……..) and Smashrun (geek central) each give me the opportunity to push (punish?) myself each month. And over the last few months, my Smashrun challenge has been a gradual increase in total mileage on a monthly basis.

This challenge was originally quite an easy one, with me starting with a low initial mileage to give ample scope to extend the progress over the 6 month period. However, one injury later which broke the progression in March, and a breakdown in April which resulted in me adding 60 miles on my total rather than 10 has made things a little more of a test.

Effect of the mind on the body

It was actually whilst I was reviewing the statistics that I discovered something I didn’t reaslise. Whilst my recent illness has been purely mental, it appears my heart data showed a major physical hit as well.

Long distance running is an aerobic exercise, where normal breathing is possible to ensure the muscles receive the oxygen they need to operate. This is the opposite of anaerobic exercise which is something akin to a sudden burst of energy where the oxygen in doesn’t keep up with the working rate of the muscles. Obviously this is something that can only be sustained for short periods and is the method which more describes that in short sprints.

Heart rate data showing impact of illness

Heart rate data showing impact of illness

At the left side of the graph (April 2014) you’ll see a relatively even mixture of recovery (green) and aerobic (yellow) running with a smaller chunk of anaerobic running (orange), which is very much what I was doing whilst I was well. Indeed, at the very right in August 2015 you’ll see that equilibrium has returned. The darker colours that come in at the top are where my heart is above 175 bpm, essentially showing where the heart is having to work that much harder to get a relatively limited amount of oxygen to the muscles.

So looking at the period around April 2015 and the graph has changed significantly. Now to confirm, my running training approach is no different, I’m off out running (at that time) 5-8 miles at a time which isn’t unusual. However, my heart is working at a significantly higher rate. Indeed at around the date when I was taken ill, something like 70% of the running time has been at this much higher heart rate.

I’d not appreciated the physical impact of the illness. Thankfully during the two weeks after things began to return to ‘normal’.

Running 2000 miles

When I re-commenced training after a rather long lapse in August 2011 the world of GPS in phones, watches and tech in general had all moved along. As such, on setting up Smashrun at the beginning of 2014 I was able to pull in all of this data. Earlier this month, I ticked over the milestone of 2000 miles having been run and recorded on one electronic device or another. It seemed rude to miss this opportunity, so here it is!

2000 miles and counting!

2000 miles and counting!

Sadomasochism with a Foam Roller

Whilst up in Auchterarder, the physio advised me to invest in a foam roller. To the untrained eye, this is an innocuous 45 cm cylinder of blue foam. However, when rolling muscles out with it, it turns into a portable torture device. Rolling one’s ITB brings tears to the eyes although I’m assured that it’s good for me! I know for certain that an annoying knot of muscle in my right calf has been squished out of existence in the face of this blue monster, so who am I to argue…….

A Foam Roller  - As seen in the Tower of London

A Foam Roller – As seen in the Tower of London

August long run

It has almost become a tradition that I’ll do a long hilly run in the weeks leading up to a long race. Now as it stands, there is no race planned at this point. I’d originally hoped to take part in the Bullock Smithy Hike in September, but along with the illness and a general lack of any preparation (save for getting a map of the route) this simply isn’t going to happen in 2015.

However in my quest to run at least 128 miles in August and having done only short runs (10 miles each) in the last week I started mapping out a route last night with a view of making the most of the decent weather today. I mostly stuck with the route, although varied my route through Lyme Park as I wanted to maximise the ascent prior to dropping into the National Trust parkland.

The route tracked along the Middlewood Way from Higher Poynton through to Bollington before climbing Blaze Hill and returning along the top of the hills at the edge of the Cheshire Plain, past the Bowstones and through Lyme Park and back into Higher Poynton and back home.

The run itself was mostly not a problem with my legs becoming tired only at the very end. I took it steady and was happy with my pacing. And the weather was great – not too warm but very sunny and clear – giving me fantastic views across the Cheshire Plain whilst descending from Bowstones into Lyme Park. Here’s the route and profile, courtesy of Strava:

Run route from Poynton to Bollington. And back again!

Run route from Poynton to Bollington. And back again!

So after all of that exertion, I’ll return to playing with the computer, updating the blog and no doubt losing at Scrabble!

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