How Technical Should We Make Running?

Hi all, I’ve had some discussions with some friends online this past week about some technical aspects of running — mainly dealing with heart rate, and I’m wondering how technical should we make running?

Huh?  Technical Running?

Yes, it sounds far-fetched to the lay person about technical running (or I’ll define “technical running” as running for specific rate, heart rate, time, etc., etc. instead of just going out and enjoying your run depending on how you feel during a certain day), but many people go out for a specific purpose or measured attribute on each run.

Basing your runs on an attribute, such as your heart rate, allows you to train with certain goals in mind for each run.  Many runners have a specific purpose for each run — some will run at different tempos for specific durations during runs, some runs will be at different “zones”, and some runs will be very, very long but also at a slower speed.

Running for specific purposes helps achieve mid and long term running goals.  For people want to train to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which may require years of concerted effort toward running and overall lifestyle.  Technical running may seem waaay too regimented for the very beginning runner, but it’s a means to an end for many a runner.

Advantages of Technical Running

The main advantages of technical running are to “do the little things” that help you achieve your goals and to not wear out too soon.

For instance, I know people who very specifically fuel during long so their bodies can adjust to that (for marathoners, having tried-and-true practices help them on race day, as a marathon is a very, very big deal and you want to be well practiced when the gun starts).  It may seem trivial, but long distance running is about endurance and you have to fuel your body for the long races so you can run your race properly.

To monitor heart rate or not usually comes up when people discuss technical running (how fast people run derives off what their heart rate is for certain paces; and then there are several ways to test one’s maximum heart rate, which is another story for another day).  By knowing your heart rate is to know how hard to push yourself for any specific run.  Because most veteran runners run 5 or more days per week, they need to make sure they properly pace themselves for continuity and so they don’t burn themselves out.  Your long run should not be anywhere near race effort or you will have a longer recovery period until your next run, thus potentially negating your training plan.

Disadvantages of Technical Running

My personal annoyance with technical running is that it doesn’t account for “feel”  Some days are better than others. If I’m feeling really good, I will probably run faster, which means on paper that I ran too fast.  Conversely, if I’m having a bad running day it may look like I’m running average for my fitness level, but I feel like I ran a race.

To the pure hobbyist runner, that is one who just runs a few miles to stay fit without any goals of grandeur, it seems silly or even dumbfounding to do anything other than to enjoy the sun on your shoulders and the breeze in your face.  Some days you’ll feel really really good, and others you won’t.  A bright, sunny day may facilitate you to spontaneously join the horde of runners hitting the local trail.

My Take on Technical Running

I’ll firmly sit on the fence: you need a little bit of both.

While writing this, I took a look at my last month’s runs in regard to pace, average heart rate, Training Effect, and distance.  By actually slowing down I have sped up (this may be the most counter intuitive thing to the newbie runner: you literally have to occasionally slow down to gain speed).  Of course, I still run by effort, but I take greater notice of my cadence – steps per minute- and heart rate.

Garmin 620 Running Stats -- Achieving Millennial

My Garmin 620 watch’s running stats — and that’s only the first screen.

I don’t want to be a slave to my Garmin 620 watch (hmm, maybe I’ll blog about this “running coach” one day), but at the same time focusing on a few key matrices has tremendously helped my running.

Why cadence?  If you have a cadence around 180 in theory you’ve reached the “sweet spot”.  My running economy has gargantuanly improved since I’m increased my cadence from around 160 to 180 (I’ll even hit 195-200 when feeling rambunctious).  Because my running economy has improved my heart rate has equally decreased, whilst maintaining the same pace for less effort — basically I’ve hit running heaven.  I could not have reached that without utilizing technical running.

This year my focus is to run more, and better. I haven’t reached the upper-level speed routine that really do emphasize micromanaging how to you specifically run (maybe I won’t ever do those — I dunno), but I’ve tried to use the best of both world to my advantage — using specific technical running attributes with running as fast as I feel for the day.

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