My original marathon training plan wasn’t due to start until the middle of next week (and I’ve been gradually ramping up my mileage over the last few weeks so it wouldn’t come as a horrible shock), but having met up with Richard Coates (my personal coach for the duration of my #BigMarathonChallenge), there was no time like the present to start and the old plan was out of the window (not enough recovery time, intervals sessions too short just for starters).
So what was my very first session going to be? Well it was supposed to be some strength and conditioning, but I needed to tweak the schedule slightly to fit in with other commitments this week (already going ‘off-plan’). That made my first session some interval work.
Now Richard, as with a lot of coaches, uses heart rate training zones (as well as perceived effort) to set and track intensity. I have a heart rate monitor and a watch that connects to it (though really I’d like one that contains both in the one unit, oh and a step counter and sleep monitor too so I don’t end up wearing a device on each wrist. Really I want a Garmin forerunner 235, maybe if I’m really good I’ll get one for Chrimble or in the sales afterwards), so I figured I’d give that a go.
I know my resting heart rate, measured on waking, and that’s 52 BPM. My maximum heart rate is a little more iffy. I was supposedly recorded at 216 BPM a couple of weeks ago, but I normally top out around the high 180s, low 190s. I settled on 192 BPM for my max and the formulae worked out the various zones, which I duly plugged into my watch so it could tell me when I was in the correct zone or too high/low (this is great training feature and can be done with pace zones as well as heart rate zones).
My first session was a 10-15 minute warm-up in heart rate zone 2, followed by 5 sets of 5 minutes in heart rate zone 4 with 90s recovery in heart rate zone 2, then a 10-15 minute cool-down in heart rate zone 2.
The warm up went great. I dipped below the lower bounds of zone 2 a couple of times, mostly whilst waiting at traffic lights as I’d forgotten that I could pause the workout without messing up what I had programmed into the watch. It took me out to Royal Victoria Park in Bath (where I am staying looking after my nephew for a few days this week), and the views weren’t too shabby.
The next stage was the 5 minute effort. The first one started slightly downhill and it was hard to get my heart rate into the desired zone. Luckily this was Bath and, similar to Bristol, what goes down must come up, and I finally hit the right zone as I started working hard going back uphill. I tried jogging the 90s recovery, but my heart rate didn’t drop quickly enough. The next 4 efforts were reasonably consistent, with it being hard to get into/stay in the desired zone on the downhills, but normally hitting them at some point during the effort. I quickly adapted the recovery to an immediate walk to bring my heart rate down into the desired zone, then if any time was left adopted a very gentle jog to stay there.
I’m not going to lie, it was a tough session for me. Whether that was because I still had over 13 hilly miles in my legs from Sunday, or because I’d been dragging my nephew up and down the hills of Bath on his scooter to get him to and from school, I don’t know. I’m also not sure whether the initially calculated heart rate zones are the right ones (that Forerunner 235 would come in really handy right about now to capture heart rate data 24/7). It could also be that I had no idea of my pace, which is what I have previously been training to, as I had my watch screen set up to show heart rate and time left only, and that threw me off. I was also running on unfamiliar terrain. All excellent
But never fear, I get to try it all again on Thursday, but this time on my home turf. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference between the two sessions (in both stats and feel). The #bigmarathonchallenge has begun…