A few weeks ago I decided to jump my distance up quicker than I should have, and went from doing 5 miles up to 10 miles. I had never run that far, and should have worked up to 10 miles over time. Normally I have a fairly low resting heart rate and a max heart rate in the upper 180’s, but I had overdone it leading up to that run. Here’s a graph of my heart rate that day.
My heart rate was pretty high all day because I hadn’t rested and recovered well that week. We took two short water breaks at miles 2 and 6, and I seemed to recover pretty quickly at both stops. When we got to mile 7, my heart rate started to peak and stayed maxed out pretty constant for the rest of the run. I’ve never ran this far and my body knew it. I kept a pretty close eye on it for the rest of the run trying to keep it down. I could feel myself starting to bottom out. Between miles 7 and 9 it stayed about 5-6 beats under max and I was feeling okay (we had to stop at a stop light at mile 7.5, and it dropped to the high 160’s). At mile 9 we started going up a slight incline and my heart rate maxed out. After about ½ mile at that heart rate, I needed to get it down; my body couldn’t keep going. I said I was going to walk for a bit to get it down, and then start running again. Instead of walking we slowed the pace a bit (by about 30 seconds/mile). My heart rate immediately dropped by 12-15 beats per minute and I felt good again. This is so interesting to me. First of all it proves the point of training: once I hit a level of running beyond what I’ve ever done, my heart was struggling to keep up. I should have built up to the level I wanted to be at and not spurted. Secondly, it is amazing to me how quickly my heart rate dropped once we slowed the pace by just a little bit: I learned that I shouldn’t run faster than I have strength. A very insignificant change in the pace brought me back to a level where I could function well without burning myself out. (By the way, my pride made me push it hard at the end to finish strong, that’s why my heart rate went up again).
I think there are some great lessons here for running, but I think the lessons carry over to other areas of life. If I want to increase my operating level in any aspect of my life, spiritual, physical, knowledge, etc., I should build up to the level I want to be. It’s the tortoise and the hare scenario, I can either be steady and consistent, or inconsistent and a “spurter”. The hare had a pattern of overdoing it, then stopping, while the tortoise stayed his course and didn’t exaggerate his efforts. Slowing down, even just a little bit, may put me back on track so I don’t burn out.
Here’s a link to a great talk on being steady and immovable: http://www.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2003_09_09_BednarD.htm