Thursday, January 24, 2013

With running, there is no free will

Repeat forever
Today's run (treadmill): 26 minutes

Despite the concept of free will, most people find themselves following a daily routine. You might think it's just you, but it's not. Back in the days when I lived in the city, I was always amused to see the same people, on the same streets, around the same time, every day. Whether or not you take comfort in maintaining habitual routines, or bristle at the thought that you are a pre-programmed genetic robot, there can be an upside to all these patterns.

A good example is a daily workout. I am constantly amazed to find myself dressed and running before 4:00 AM most weekdays. The routine takes precedence over most other forces. If I wake up feeling ill or fatigued, I'll switch to rest mode. But that doesn't happen very often.

I've been running on the treadmill most weekday mornings. Every time I do, I find it hard to believe that I can make it through my allotted run time. Time seems to go by very slowly and, when I'm only five minutes in, my targeted finish seems awfully far away. The thing that saves me is the routine of these workouts and knowing that eventually I'll come to the end. That was the case this morning. Just like yesterday, the day before, and hundreds of time before that, I completed my time. Hitting the stop button is a habit I'll never want to quit.

8 comments:

  1. I don't mean to pry, but is a 26 minute workout worth such a hassle? It seems that the more I read, the less I know, but my understanding has been that you should exercise for at least 30 minutes to achieve any cardiovascular benefit.

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    1. I would disagree with anyone who diminished the value of a workout based solely on duration. There is growing interest in the Tabata method that only requires 4 minutes per session of high intensity exercise. There is also research that compared the long term benefit of 30 and 60 minute moderate-intensity workouts, with the shorter sessions providing better results in terms of health indicators and BMI.

      I don't think it's the duration as much as the effort that determines the benefit. My 25 minute workouts typically get my heart rate into zone 4. As I increase my speed, I increase anaerobic capacity. I run 5K's in the 25 minute range and I would put those races near the top in terms of cardio impact.

      Another way to look at it is in terms of being active versus sedentary. If you knew an overweight couch potato who never exercised, wouldn't you encourage them to take 25 minute walks? That's what my wife did to me in 2008 and I lost a lot of weight, even before I transitioned to running.

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    2. I was just wondering if it would be better to lengthen the workout, even it means exercising one fewer day per week. I really don't know, and did not mean to question your program. I just recalled reading some general rule a while back regarding elevating your heart rate for at least 30 minutes, and I have keeping all of my runs in excess of 30 minutes for that reason.

      I've been reading about heart rates on the internet this past week because I was a little alarmed when I saw mine at 161 (I'm 45 btw) on the treadmill last week while running an interval at 7.4 mph. But the more I read, the more confused I am about it all. I'm new to this and probably trying to process too much information too soon.

      I'll have to read about the Tabata method over lunch or on the train. Thanks for the tip. I'm very intrigued by the Maffatone method, but I doubt that I'm patient enough to follow through with it.

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    3. I wouldn't let the often contradictory information influence you too much. I've found that listening to your body is the best way to establish an optimal routine. A HR of 161 for a 45 year old person is perfectly fine for a fit person. Based on common methods, your Max HR is 175 (220-age = Max HR).

      I can't lengthen my workouts because my morning schedule is very tight. Personally, I don't believe that four or five minutes would make that much difference anyway.

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    4. I too suspect that listening to your body is the best method, but I'm the kind of person who gets a little obsessive and seeks knowledge whenever I become interested in something new. The 161 alarmed me because of the information I have read about working at a certain percentage of your Max HR. I was not out of breath and felt fine. But since I had promised my wife when I started running that I wouldn't give myself a heart attack trying to do something intended to avoid having one in the future, I immediately dropped down to 5.8 mph and got my HR down to 140.

      Thanks again for the advice and the blog.

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    5. It's hard to tone down the effort when you are excited about running, but I'd suggest moderation for the most part with some harder effort near the end of your runs. That's good preparation for racing. Progressive increases to heart rate are much better (and safer) than starting fast and spiking HR too soon.

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  2. A 5-minute jump rope workout is better than nothing at all. Benefit, Shmenefit...it's about getting up off your butt.

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