On January 1st, I set out on a quest to lose at least 50 pounds during 2016. While I have been through many peaks and valleys in my 20 year running career, this year’s New Year’s Resolution to be healthy has felt different; somehow lower than the previous valley’s I’ve experienced. I suffered through my first couple of runs this year at a pace nearly 5 minutes slower than my average pace during my most recent peak running fitness in 2010. I was discouraged by just how much I had let myself go. Not only was I running significantly slower, but my heart rate was reaching levels that used to take something close to an all out effort to generate. As the graph below shows, my heart rate on my first week of runs would average around 160 beats a minute and top out around 180 beats a minute.
I pushed myself to run 30 miles between January 1st and January 9th. The rule I set for myself during this time period was to ignore my slow pace and to simply enjoy running again. The strategy worked. I enjoyed every run I embarked on. Amazingly, by the end of this time period, my muscle memory had begun to kick in and my average pace per mile dropped by over a minute and my average and max heart rate began dropping as well. In fact, my max heart rate today, for the identical run I did on January 1st, was below my average heart rate on that January 1st run.