What happens to your conditioning when you’ve only run 45 miles since mid November: You get slow and out of shape

Since I’ve been on the sidelines injured, I have not done any other cardio or cross training. I’ve continued to eat (and drink) like a guy running 40 plus miles a week, instead of the guy who has only run 45 miles total since mid-November.

This is a formula for getting out of shape. And fast.

I can tell you that I’m slow and my endurance sucks. But seeing what a 30-minute run does to my heart rate really tells the tale.

Below are capsules from a run I did Sunday, April 28; and a run I did in April of 2012.

Key takeaways:

  1. Obviously, I’m much slower now – having run all of 45 miles since last November 15. My pace Sunday for a 3.13 mile run was 9:46 min/mile compared to my pace of 8:23 min/mile in April 2012. 
  2. Look at the heart rate for each run: On Sunday, my average heart rate was 87 percent of max, topping out at 97 percent. That’s race pace heart rate. My heart was beating fast but my legs were going nowhere.
  3. Look at the heart rate for my run in April 2012, which came in the middle of a 40 mile-week: Average heart rate was 77 percent of max, topping out at 86 percent max. That’s right – my max heart rate for this run was lower than my average heart rate for Sunday’s run.
  4. The difference is about 13 percent. That’s 20 beats per minute for me. Wanna know what that feels like? Strap a heart rate monitor on and go run 3 miles easy as you can. Then a day later, repeat that 3-mile run making sure you work hard enough that your heart-rate during the entire run averages about 20 beats more per minute. Not. Fun.
  5. What’s not on this chart is that I’m carrying around a little extra weight. Well, make that a lot. In April 2012, I was just over 155 pounds. Right now, I’m pushing 170. So, put a 15-pound pack of potatoes on your back, run, and you’ll figure out what I’m trying to do.

I have not been in this bad of shape since I first started running in 2004, when I couldn’t run a mile without stopping. At least now, I’ve got muscle memory: dozens of 15-plus mile runs where my heart rate didn’t even get close to 85 percent; 8 marathons; a dozen or so half marathons and a handful of sub 20:00 5ks. I know what my body is capable of doing, but I won’t get there overnight. Right now, I’m basically a 10-minute-miler and for the sake of my pooped out lungs, I wish I could run slower. But because of the nerve issue I’m having with my leg, if I ran any slower, I’d be limping. Or walking.

The key to get back in shape is 1) get healthy and 2) run slower speeds and longer distances. It’s time to rebuild the base.

4 thoughts on “What happens to your conditioning when you’ve only run 45 miles since mid November: You get slow and out of shape”

  1. Yes not running will do that to you, same boat here with not being able to run for nearly 2 years due to PF: weight up from 165 to 185 and counting… Mountain biking not nearly as effective for keeping the weight off.
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  2. I feel your pain! I was just realizing how little I have done so far this year, yet that my diet hasn’t changed.. (Although my weight sure has!) I’m just ramping back up and feeling the new-runner limitations all over again.. If it wasn’t for that muscle memory… Well, you will have your speed back soon enough!

  3. Solving your injury is more important than speed right now. I hope you’re able to do that, and get back to the gazelle inside.

  4. i can relate as i’ve dealt with injuries on and off for the past three years. any thoughts to cross training while building up your base? may help you get back into prime running shape faster.

    good luck with the recovery!

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