Change: Taking Training to a New Level

My results should follow that top line. I'm on the bottom line. Ouch.

Last year, I wrote about the first of my two-part visit to the Human Performance Center at UCSF and drooling on their treadmill. Combined with the new Garmin Forerunner 405 with heart rate monitor that I scored on deep discount at Amazon, it’s given me an entirely new perspective on my training.

It turns out that for all of my running, I’ve been working below my potential. Way, way below my potential.

Well now, this explains a lot.

For the first two weeks that I used my new Garmin, I deliberately didn’t watch my heart rate. I wanted to run like I usually do and give myself a baseline to compare to the suggested training zones provided by UCSF. I downloaded the information to my computer and compared the data.

Not. Even. Close.

See that graph over there? The colors — green, yellow, orange and red — are the four training zones. Green would be a recovery run, a nice easygoing distance. Yellow would be the zone for most of my longer runs. Orange would be the zone for a hard workout. Red is the leave-nothing-behind pace that builds strength, speed and endurance.

On my test runs, the lower line was my average heart rate. The top line was the highest my heart rate ever went in that workout, a brief blip when running up a hill, for example. With the exception of my 5k race (the final dot in the graph), my average heart rate never went above leisurely jog. I should be doing my entire run — 30 minutes, an hour, whatever — at the intensity of the top line.

So now I know that I need to overhaul my running, even my easy runs. But I also know that to prevent injury, I need to do more strength and core training to complement my cardio. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been with my Pilates trainer, Mercy Bobias of Apex Pilates, for nearly a decade. We have a fabulous relationship, but her studio is a 30-minute drive from my home, a distance that isn’t practical more than once a week. I knew that I needed to find a local trainer, someone I could meet with regularly to keep my training on track.

I’ve spent months scouting the trainers at my local 24 Hour Fitness location, and while there are seemingly dozens to choose from, I didn’t feel a click with any of them. Some were clearly underestimating the abilities of their clients while others were pushing so hard that I half expected the client to die of heart failure right then and there. One had a somewhat frail-looking 60-something woman trying to stand on an inverted Bosu while trying to throw and catch a heavy medicine ball. The poor woman was in tears. This was definitely not the trainer for me. A trainer shouldn’t be a drill sergeant; there should be give and take in the relationship, and the trainer should know how to push for improvement without pushing the client off a cliff.

Frustrated, I asked the local moms’ club chat for guidance. Their suggestions sent me outside the gym to a private trainer. She seems like just what I need: a mom herself, she understands that I’m looking to maximize my workouts in the time that I have available through a combination of private training and circuit classes.

This should be a good thing, but I’m strangely nervous about it. A relationship with a trainer is such a deeply personal thing. The relationship, the give-and-take between trainer and trainee is almost as important as the workout itself. Let’s face it, I know enough to make my own list of exercises. What I really need is the right person to motivate and inspire, and correct me when I drift off course. Only time will tell if she’s the right one for me, but I think that the process of finding her and getting started is definitely a step in the right direction for my training.

Do you have a trainer? Do you think that the relationship with that person is as important as I do, or will any old motivator do?

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2 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    I am very picky when it comes to trainers. I practically auditioned for a PT when I had knee surgery. Now I’m working with a trainer/mechanics specialist on running specific moves to strengthen just the weak parts. I didn’t need to learn how to do bicep curls, so I found someone really specialized.

    I can also feel your pain about the running overhaul. I just started working with a coach who’s a friend. He informed me that I’m running every run at the same heart rate, just varying distance. Oops. I’m not pushing myself hard enough or recovering enough. time to a change.

  2. Alisa says:

    The heart rate came as a bit of a shock. Sure, I knew I could push a bit harder, but I didn’t realize just how much harder. No wonder people say that running is tough!

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