Slow runs are making me sluggish

  • Creator
  • #52972

    Hello Uphill Athlete Team,

    I bought both the Kindle and audio books of Training for the Uphill Athlete. I listened to the book 5 or 6 times and I’m currently going over the Kindle version and taking notes. The book is great and seems to be based on solid exercise science. I also purchased Mike Foote’s Big Vert training plan.
    Before moving onto my question, let me provide some background information about myself. I started trail running in 2017. I am now focusing on long distances from 80km and above. In 2019 and 2020 I averaged 3000km and 350 hours per year. While 2019 was a good year in terms of my performances (I took top 5 spots in two races in my country – 140 and 160km with more than 6000m D+), I felt I could do better in terms of average speed throughout. I am now preparing for the same races and a couple more. I have about 1100km and 107 hours of training in my legs for 2021. I started the Big Vert training plan 1 month ago. I’ve been doing roughly the same distance and time per week since December 2020 so you could say that I’ve been doing base training for 4 months now, albeit without much progression to be honest. My AeT (144bpm) and LT (169bpm) treadmill results indicated that I have ADS as there’s a ~15% gap.
    What bothers me is that I have become sluggish and slow. I keep doing all my daily runs at about 5:30min/km and don’t seem to be making any progress. My breathing becomes more labored even on slight climbs so I decrease my pace in order to stay within zone 2. I did 5 x 3 minutes of VO2Max (Z4) intervals the other day and although it was hard, I did feel my breathing more composed on the next day although my back thighs felt a bit tired. I can say from previous experience that such bouts of Z3/Z4 intervals have improved my leg turnover and made my breathing. I am starting to think that I don’t respond well to too much base training and I need to apply a very different approach like training the least specific systems furthest from the race first , i.e. VO2Max > tempo runs > long slow distance. My reasoning is that I may not be responding so well to slow runs and I need the leg turnover and cardiovascular load in order to improve. Let’s say I put in 3-4 weeks of Z4 training once a week, then some Z3 once or twice a week. This would make me faster on my slow runs and allow me to sustainably push a faster pace and stay in Z1/Z2.
    Does this make sense and am I missing something about the base phase? I’m willing to book an hour over the phone with a coach if needed so we can adjust the plan if needed.

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Dada on #53000

    I experienced the exact same thing and I’m doing the exact same approach you are describing. It works amazingly. Although maybe one difference: I got rid of ADS before.

    I still do the Vo2max training blocks highly polarized with 3 sessions of Vo2max in two weeks plus the rest in Z1. Then I need a recovery week.

    The Z3 block also highly polarized. I start to add ME here as well.

    Then the Z1/2 block where I use Z1 and Z2. And I keep ME till 1 and half weeks before my goal event.

    Try it, it works!


    George on #53024

    Good to know. Did you actually get rid of ADS by running primarily in zone 2? If so, what was your initial gap between the aerobic and lactate thresholds? Also, how much time did it take you to close the gap to within 10%?
    I need to re-test my AeT but purely on subjective feel my breathing becomes noticeably more labored around the same mark (144bpm) as one month ago when I tested for the first time. I thought it takes 3-4 weeks to see an improvement on that?

    Dada on #53032

    Yes I got rid of ADS by Z1/2. I’m still improving here although I include intensity. It took me 1.5 years.

    At first, I had AeT 153 and AnT 179. Now, I’m at 167 and 185. Nose breathing is no indicator for me. AeT confirmed by drift test and DF-Alpha-Regression. My fatmax is around 155 I guess since I can go forever here w/o adding carbs.

    Normally, you see improvements pretty fast. I would not rely on the nose breathing. Perform drift test and if your watch supports HRV you can perform a steep test on a treadmill and Runalyze to use the DF-Alpha regression to confirm.


    Rachel on #53057

    Have you added pickups/strides to any of your runs? It’s a nice way to improve running economy but mostly stay aerobic.

    George on #53076

    Hi Dada,

    I tested my AeT with the treadmill drift test so it should be pretty accurate. As I said, I haven’t retested myself but I don’t feel like 144bpm is any easier on my breathing than it used to be when I started running mostly in Z2. I hope it doesn’t take me 1.5 years as this would mean I have to abandon hope of improving my performance within the current season.

    Hi Rachel,

    I don’t do strides often to be honest. When I used to have a professional coach, he included 8 x 30-second strides once a week in my training plan. I’ll include them in one of the easy runs during the week from now on.

    AshRick on #53095

    My experience…we can get really “dialed in” to our Z1 paces doing base work. It starts making anything faster feel like a lot of work. It’s pretty common advice to throw in strides on a regular basis, and some high-Zn2 segments into runs. Just run faster now and then. Enough to feel it in your legs, but not take on a big metabolic stress.

    It’s remarkable what it can do for Zn1 pace. Which is race-pace, after all.

    I’m in that cycle now. Did a solid six months of endurance-pace work. Brought Zn1 pace down a bit, and then it stuck there. So…I’m doing strides mid-run a few days a week. Moving the middle third of some base runs up into higher Zn2. In a week or so I’ll do some Zn4 work.

    Then back to endurance miles and see what’s changed. I’ll always do 70-80% of my miles at endurance pace. But even that is a range. My Zn1 HR range, up to bottom of Zn2, is almost a minute a mile wide. At the bottom of Zn1 (“barely running”) I’m at 10 min/mile. At bottom of Zn2 (“starting to work a little”) I’m at 9 min/mile. Those are both “endurance pace.” Or, in Daniel’s Running Formula terms, E pace.

    George on #53316

    *** UPDATE ***

    After rethinking my situation and listening to one Uphill Athlete podcast, I took a look at my training. It did seem like I was spending too much time above my aerobic threshold (AeT) during what should supposedly be easy runs. Thus, I adjusted my pace and stayed as much as possible below my AeT while also trying to stay in zone 2. Also, on weekend long runs (30km with 1200-1300m D+), I kept my hiking speed low enough so I could stay within zones 1 and 2 and skipped on running small hills as even they raised my heart rate after 2-3 hours.
    I can now say that I feel less fatigue from one run to the next and I had a very strong long run this past Sunday where I covered 30km with 1300m D+ for little less than 4 hours while maintaining aerobic heart rate throughout. Also, I finally noticed a drop in my resting heart rate which I will take as a good sign.
    I will definitely stick to zones 1 & 2 for a few weeks throwing in some strides once or twice a week. I hope to see the AeT needle move a little to the right. Subjectively, it’s still where it was the last time I did an AeT test some 6-7 weeks ago as I notice my breath become more labored right around the same mark (144bpm).
    Needless to say, my Garmin Fenix watch has started decreasing my fitness score due to lack of high aerobic training but I try not to be phased by that.

    Anonymous on #55136

    Excellent. Good choice to dial it back.

    And as Lindsay said, strides are a good way to add some speed while staying mostly aerobic.

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