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.
I am very encouraged by my progress, however, I have to constantly remind myself not to push too hard too soon. I remind myself every day that there are only two things that I need to be doing right now. Be consistent with my workouts and diet, and run at a pace that is slow enough that I continue to enjoy what I am doing and avoid the risk of injury. It is hard, but I am trying as hard as I can to not increase my base mileage by more than 10% a week. Every day, as I remind myself to not push too hard, I say to myself a mantra that I adapted from the movie Creed. One step, one mile, one day at time.
Being a twenty year veteran of distance running and essentially starting from scratch comes with one big perk. The perk? The twenty years of experience I have accrued have allowed me to become my own mentor on this journey. I get to be Mickey to my own Rocky. 🙂 I know how my body responds to specific workouts, I know what injuries that I am prone to getting, and most importantly I know the time tested rules for building your distance running fitness. Listening to the Mickey in my head is the hard part. One step, one mile, one day at a time. LISTEN YOUR BODY! Oh, and one more thing NO PIZZA!
As I close out this week of running, I am happy to be able to report that I have officially reached my highest monthly mileage total since August 2014!
It feels good to be back out doing what I love. While I did suffer through my first set of shin splints in years this week, I am still wildly optimistic about continuing my journey back to below 200 pounds. I just need to keep reminding myself daily to take things one step, one mile, one day at a time.