For a month now, I have been running with a heart monitor and running in an aerobic zone also referred to as zone 2. If you are interested in learning more about my reasons, you can read this post. Although I knew it would require me to slow down, I have really been struggling with the snail’s pace. To be honest, it has been a blow to my ego and most days I have to remind myself that the benefits of building a solid foundation far outweigh the present emotional discomfort.
Here is a table to get an idea of my training zones:
Between the heat, humidity, and running aerobically, my pace has slowed by 2 to 3 minutes per mile. While this is normal in the beginning, as I shuffle down the trails I can’t help but feel silly about what I am doing. In time, I know I will be back to running faster miles while in zone 2 however the challenge is having the patience to endure and keep at it.
Running itself is without a doubt easier, but I am having to dig deep to find mental and emotional strength. I am worried that I will not be prepared for my 50K in September. I am feeling embarrassed by my running, worried I will be seen and laughed at. Usually I would keep this whole experiment to myself for fear of being judged. I wanted to share it however to both make it known that feeling this way is normal and that it shouldn’t stop a person from building the house strong.
Additionally, I am finding that when I stop listening to the negative chatter in my brain, I am learning quite a lot. Slowing down has a profound way of letting us see and hear things around us and inside us that we might otherwise miss. Here are some of the lessons I have learned so far:
- Foundation Building is Essential and BioFeedback is the Only Way to Know if We Got it Right– Biofeedback is a technique that uses a tool, like a heart rate monitor, to gather information about the the body and making adjustments in our movement, breathing, pace, etc. to help improve. To gain longevity and success in running we must build a solid foundation. I thought I had one and thought that I was doing well building up my training this past winter and spring. Once I strapped that heart rate monitor on however, it was like an inspector showing up and finding all the shortcuts I had taken. Without biofeedback, I would have continued on my merry way believing that my house would withstand the test of time. With true information about my biology, I can now adjust so my “house” will truly be built strong and sustainable.
- Weight-loss and Finding an Ideal Weight are Easier – Between 2013 and 2014, I had a series of life events that were incredibly stressful. Not surprisingly, I gained weight. Most people are aware that stress causes weight gain through increased cortisol levels that prevent fat loss and the associated over-eating that most of us do when under pressure. Unfortunately many believe the solution is exercising as hard as possible until the weight goes away. When done properly, exercise is a good stressor on the body and during recovery we grown stronger. But when running above an aerobic zone on a regular basis, our body is under added stress all the time. You may lose weight at first but eventually you will hit a plateau and never reach your ideal weight. The natural response when this happens is to work out harder but what the body really needs is more recovery. Even though I knew this to be true, I have continued to struggle to lose the all the weight I gained in 2013. No matter how clean I ate and how much I exercised, it didn’t want to budge. A pound here or there, but not much. Running within my zone 2 has shown me that exercising in a TRULY aerobic fashion is key to melting off weight. Over the last month, I have lost 6 pounds and the only thing I changed is running slower according to my heart rate. I am back to my pre-2013 weight, lighter than in high school. I even got to wear a skirt on Tuesday that I haven’t been able to wear in 4 years. What an incredible feeling!!!!
- Stopping and Smelling the Roses Comes Naturally – In the past, I was so concerned about the pace of each run and what those final numbers looked like and how each mile compared to the day before that I had a hard time even wanting to stop and take in the sunrise. I have gotten better as I have embraced the meditative quality of running, but when running in an aerobic zone, it comes naturally. Your mind is calmer, more carefree, and able to take in the beauty of the sites and sounds around. It is also easier to be forgiving of oneself and to keep focused on the why we are doing this thing called running. It isn’t only about getting where we are going as fast as we can, but, at its core, running is about living life to its fullest and unleashing the happiness that resides within us all. We just have to take the time to choose to acknowledge that it is there.
- Rising Early to Run isn’t as Hard – It is a fact of life that those who start the day with some form of exercise have smoother and happier days. We are better able to deal with conflict, remain calm under pressure, and keep a positive perspective when the going gets tough. This is valuable for everyone, and more so for someone who struggles with depression. Starting my day with a run is the best medicine for coping with my disease. But getting up early is tough when a cozy bed calls your name or snuggling with your partner just seems like so much more fun. When running aerobically, it becomes easier to get up because you know the run ahead is going to be easy and refreshing. Additionally, getting truly aerobic exercise leads to better sleep, more energy, and a brighter outlook on the day so getting up to run becomes rather addicting!
- Finishing Runs Wanting More and More is Normal – For many, the majority of a run is done wishing for it to end. I hear often from others “Are we there yet? Are we done? How much farther”? Running aerobically leaves you with a feeling of “When can I do more? Do I have time for 10 more minutes of running? Why does this have to end?” Enjoying the journey is essential to unleashing happiness. If we always are only thinking of the destination, then what is the point? Running within a zone 2 makes enjoying the journey automatic. I never want the run to end.
Ultimately of course I am eager to see results and look forward to the day that I can look back and see how much I have improved my pace within zone 2, but the journey to getting there is looking brighter when I see all the lessons I am learning along the way. If we never slow down, is it ever possible for us to truly grow?
The journey continues……