Long time base training with few if any changes

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  • #54105

    I’m sure I must be doing something wrong.
    Been doing low HR zone 2 endurance “base” running training for 16 months.
    I have a 62km mountain ultra coming up in mid July.

    Initial HR drift test was hard to get right because conflicting values over 3, 1 hr tests on the same flat ground looking at HR drift. One test at 135bpm showed about 4% drift. One test at 130bpm showed 6% drift. One test at 130bpm showed 2% drift.
    I’m 52, so assumed maybe my aerobic threshold was about 128-130bpm. I have not been injured in several years.
    I then ran for 15 months at below 130bpm.
    In the first 12 months, I averaged about 40-50km per week.
    In the last 3 months, I’ve increased my weekly total average to about 65-80km per week in volume.
    In in the first 15 months, trying to stay at <130bpm, I had very little if any difference in tests in average pace/time over the same 1 hour flat loop. The differences were so small (varying between about < 30s and 1 minute) I would say there was no improvement after 15 months.
    This past month I assumed maybe my aerobic threshold was possibly lower than 128-130bpm, so I’ve started to run at an average of 125bpm. But this is soooo slow I can run for less than 1.5 minutes at an almost walking speed before I have to stop and walk to get the HR down.
    I’ve tried all sorts of nose breathing, nose/mouth breathing, mouth only breathing, combinations but these tricks do not really seem to allow me to lower HR much to sustain a very very easy run (practically walking).
    The only difference I notice after 16 months is my recovery HR – if the HR spikes (say accidentally to 135bpm) during this easy run, and I slow to a walk, my HR drops in less than 10-15 seconds to the target 125bpm or less.
    I’m using an old garmin watch paired with a well reviewed Polar chest strap monitor.
    So, should I just give up?
    (I suspect I had a bad case of aerobic deficit syndrome before I started this 16 months ago. I had been running at extremely high HR and pace to keep up with younger friend runners.)
    Is 16 months too long to not see better results for a 52 year old?

  • Participant
    Dada on #54107


    one alternative to check if your runs are above/below your AeT is to use runalyze. They have a function called aerobic threshold estimation. When your df alphas are below 0.75 this is an indication for being above AeT. Your watch needs to support HRV recording though. So I don’t know if this the case with your watch.

    You can also perform a 5min step test to come up with a regression yielding your AeT. This works pretty good for me.

    Other thing could be that your intensity is too low and you are not responding well to too low intensities. I got well better the moment I added VO2max training in the early preparation phase. I do these in a highly polarized manner with Z1.

    frnkr on #54113

    Hi, this Runalyze looks nice! Which watch you’re using and did you have to do anything to get HRV readings to the app? I just uploaded my workouts there and I’m missing the AeT estimation function 🙁

    Dada on #54117


    I use a Garmin Fenix 5X with a chest strap. You might need to scroll down a little bit. I attached a screenshot (It’s German though but should be clear where to look).


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    jkbest on #54119

    Runalyze will only be able to estimate AeT if your watch records R-R intervals, rather than just heart rate. It needs the R-R intervals to calculate heart rate variability metrics.

    JD_getting_old on #54122

    Thanks Dada, I will try to add in some HIIT along with LIT zone 1/2 training. I was worried doing HIIT might adversely affect my LIT, but I guess after 16 months of no change I have nothing to lose at this point.

    russes011 on #54142


    You may be having trouble pinpointing your AeT, but otherwise I think you have been doing things mostly ‘right’–so don’t give up hope here. As you may know, as an ultra distance runner the most important type of training is relatively high volume, low intensity runs–consistently over months/years. This appears to be what you have been doing. Granted, adding a judicious amount of hills, ME, and 10K race pace (AnT) work is also important at some point, especially about 1-2 months out from a race, but since one’s body often adapts to this type of higher intensity work quite quickly, I think it has been ok for it to have waited. (Others recommend some earlier application of things like hill sprints and ME work, which I respect, but I won’t digress about this).

    I would suggest the following:

    1. perform a few AeT drift tests indoors on a treadmill keeping the pace constant after warming up and achieving a presumed AeT HR (try 140). In contrast, if you want to perform an AnT test, perform this outside on flat terrain, preferably even racing a flat, local 10K and use this as your AnT test. Maybe post with your results of the treadmill AeT test at 140?

    2. Since you are about 2 months out from a possibly hilly, trail ultra, and have only been performing slow, presumably mostly flat runs, I would regardless of your AeT/AnT percent spread, just start a cycle of hill, ME, and/or AnT work-outs–say about 10-20% of your training time. I wouldn’t let your trouble determining your AeT stop you from racing in a race you may become ready for, since you have been doing so much Z1/2 base miles.

    3. Don’t quote me on this, but I think your training over the past months may have been at too easy a pace. Most of your time should be at what should feel more moderate than easy, IMO. This is often, if not always, below your AeT. Keep in mind the feeling of moderate should be what your heart (ie HR) and lungs are doing and not your legs per se. Folks often go too easy because they feel like their legs can’t go all day at a certain speed, while it’s more the heart and lungs we are looking at in regards to AeT. (granted beginners, which you are not, are often more limited by their legs, even at short distances). I’m guessing here but I bet your AeT, which can vary a bit based on internal and external conditions, is about 10-15 points above your MAF at this point–perhaps in the 135-145 range.

    As you may know, in the end, your body adapts to what you do with it. If you have only been running super slow over long, flat distances this is what you are good at right now. Other speeds, terrain, and sports, you are probably de-conditioned. But as I mentioned above, building up an aerobic machine to move all day long at a slow pace takes much more time to build, as well as more time to de-condition, while other things like speed and hills can come and go relatively more quickly. My point here is you have already done the more time-consuming work and are likely in a good jumping forward spot to polish it off.

    Best of luck. Hope some of my recs are helpful.

    — Steve

    JD_getting_old on #54144

    Thank you Steve for that very in depth and helpful insight.
    Agree with your #1, but unfortunately I can’t afford a gym membership to use a treadmill but will try to get another AeT test in, and a AnT test as well.
    Agree, I’ll add in some AnT workouts to be 10-20% of my training time and hopefully that will see some changes.
    Luckily all of this slow running has kept me injury free, and I have to admit it’s been great to run 4+ hours and come home feeling only a little tired. So positive results mentally, and maybe with your suggestion of some more AnT work I might actually have a chance of staying ahead of the cut-off times during the (very hilly) ultra coming up.
    So thanks again for that advice !

    russes011 on #54145

    Glad to try and help.

    Another way to look at your AeT tests is to average them: HR 132 is a 4% drift telling you your AeT is somewhere greater than 132. I would keep doing them since they can fold them right into your work-outs anyway.

    Also a note on higher intensity training. Bear with me if you know this already. Perform 10-20% of your workouts at higher intensities, not total time–ie don’t perform 10-20% of you running actually in zone 3, for example. Train terrain specific with all your running if possible and focus on 10K race pace (AnT) for your higher intensity workouts–this would be one way to do it.

    Best of luck.

    — Steve

    timbenz on #54149

    You are more or less me, fwiw. Similar ages, similar prior experience. Similar AeTs, based on drift and DFA test, and also ADS victime. After months of no change doing low HR training, the only way I was able to make progress was materially upping the time. I was previously doing 7-8 hours a week, and took it up to 10-15 hours a week—over time. This caused me to finally break through and see material changes in pace at low HR, etc. I needed to really go at the volume, as my body simply didn’t want to adapt, beyond improved recovery times. This is not easy, given other time constraints, and it is easy to get into injury cycles here, if you’re not careful about how you add the volume, so that is the main caution here.

    Anonymous on #54197

    @jldindc: Good news – all of that slow running is worthwhile. As you said:

    Luckily all of this slow running has kept me injury-free, and I have to admit it’s been great to run 4+ hours and come home feeling only a little tired.

    Although pace and HR may not have changed, that’s a good sign that your base has improved. How much volume you can tolerate and how quickly you can recover are also signs of a good base.

    Have you done an AnT HR test? (anaerobic, not aerobic)

    JD_getting_old on #54252

    Scott, I have not done a AnT HR test, but will try. I’m fairly sure it is below 174, since I can’t even keep that HR for less than 40 seconds on a high intensity uphill interval.

    LindsayTroy on #54303

    @JD_getting_old- My pace didn’t hardly change at all until I did a muscular endurance block with some hill sprints and speed work. I too noticed considerable endurance gains during my 3 years of nearly exclusive long slow distance

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