Matt Fitzgerald and my running

The link below is to an article on by Matt Fitzgerald. If you read this blog or have listened to the podcast I used to produce, you will l know I’m a huge Fitzgerald fan. My first REAL book on running was Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners (a gift from a dear friend) and I learn something new every time I read it.

One of Fitzgerald’s tips in the article linked below is to decrease the amount of intensity in our running, which leaves us in the aerobic zone for more miles of the week, which leaves us with greater HR capacity on tougher more intense runs, and not as tired by the time race day gets here.  This is not unlike the Maffetone method I wrote about earlier.  Training in the aerobic zone, a slower-than-we-think aerobic zone, is actually better for our speed and overall race-day capacity than most would assume.  Beginning with the big running streak to close out 2011 and continuing with my 70.3 training, I have followed this advice (of course, it helps to follow a 70.3 plan that Fitzgerald wrote himself!). I do shorter, more intense intervals, surrounded by a lot of running in the aerobic zone.  This holds true for cycling and swimming as well.   But running, my central focus, is where I am seeing greater results. For example, these shorter, more intense intervals include a variety of things such as 800s at a low 6:20-ish pace, 400s at something under a 6:10-ish pace. And some mile repeats at 6:30-7:00-ish pace.

Throughout the training cycle I’ve maintained a 30-36 running mile per week average. So my runs, save for the weekend long run, do not exceed 60 minutes, except for the occasional 5-10 minutes above that if I have a little extra time in the morning before rushing in to prep kids for school.

During these runs, in this cycle, I’ve been diligent about not over-reaching in terms of intensity.  Small doses of speed and intensity surrounded by lots of zone 2.  Reading Maffetone, and heeding the advice of others regarding intensity in runs, convinced me of the value in and necessity of building a strong aerobic base that can lead to a lower HR while running faster paces.

I’m beginning to run a little faster in my HR training zone 2.  That is to say, it is taking less energy to run at this faster pace. Over time, I expect to see this expand to even faster paces at less effort.  It is already in a way, but it has only been a few weeks, and this process takes several months. So consider this an interim report.  It is said that elite marathoners run most of their races in the aerobic zone, and that’s where I want to run mine. So we shall see, I guess.

By way of an example, today was my tempo run day. Today’s run called for 2 easy miles, then 2 miles at 10K race pace, then 2 more easy miles.  Since I run 60 minutes, the remainder would be an easy run until I reached the end of the hour.

Mile 1 was nice and easy warm up. Mile 2 was a little faster to prepare the body for the 10K pace miles coming up next. I ran mile 2 in 8:19 at an Avg HR of 127.  Let’s compare this to a similar run from September 2011, at the early stages of my prep for CIM. On September 6, I ran an 8:49 mile in roughly the same place of a run as I did today, at a pace of 8:49 but with a higher Zone 2 HR of 131.  On September 23, I ran the following miles: an 8:31 with a 129 HR, and 8:38 with a 131, and a 8:32 with a 131.  (Similar runs, similar times of the day. Maybe a tad more humidity than I faced today, but comparable for my purposes).  I tried to run easy, with good form, smooth and deep breaths, and just relax. I felt like I was running easy and tried to not look at my watch, just run by feel in these warm up miles.  I was surprised to see a low 8 minute pace.  My zone 2 HR is 116-133, so I’m running a bit faster with a lower HR.

“5 Experiments to Improve Your Runs This Spring.” Matt Fitzgerald (on

1 Comment

  1. This method definitely works and is worth the discipline to keep the intensity reigned in–especially since you are doing longer distances in your race goals.

    I haven’t done any high intensity run training in over two years, mostly because of nagging ITBS (which thankfully has gone away). And I just ran a PR of 4.5 minutes in a 10 mile race. My original PR was set in 2009. Last year, I ran a PR at Boston–again, no high intensity training.

    You are already seeing the benefits of discipline in your training. Wait – it gets even better 🙂

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