Lung capacity can't be increased --

past a certain point.

I have been discussing the thing that is limiting me with my running ( lungs/oxygen) with a number of long experienced runners . The general concensus ( in a nutshell) is that , after the amount of running that I have been doing, I have probably reached the limit of my lung capacity - and no amount of running faster, harder or uphills is going to increase it. In other words, my lungs are taking in as much air as they ever will. BUT - what is happening is that because I have only been running for a VERY short time (to them) and the distances that I run ( 5-8K at a time and 18K per week ) are VERY short (to them), my cardiovascular system is not transferring enough oxygen to my muscles via the blood pathways - and the only answer to improve that is to RUN - RUN -RUN and RUN some more - very SLOWLY!!!!! In other words, although there has been obvious improvement in my cardiovascular system, it has been developed largely in the wrong way ( the C25K way) - a short term way rather than a long term solid base way. Hence , I need to run much longer and slowly if I want to run 5K any faster than what I do now. The distances quoted are -- up to 50klms per week before even thinking about doing fast intervals or 5K PB attempts. !!

20 Replies

  • Well that's a bit depressing! C25K is better than nothing though ...

  • We have seen improvements though already Baz from couch to 5k being not a minor one. I know what you mean though. We are babies in running terms and it will take our bodies a while to get there. I wondered about lung capacity, being an older runner, and thought maybe it couldn't get any better, but my husband (who used to run quite a bit) said that it could still improve despite my nudging 60.

    50 k a week! Crikey! So, you going for it then?

  • Nah!! - I'll never get to that!! - Although this past week I have run around 25Klm. But only 8K of that was SLOW!!!!

  • So the rest was fast?

  • Well- these words "fast " and "slow" are all relative -- what I consider to be "fast" would probably be somebody elses "slow". :)

    In terms of training though - I use the word "fast" to be the pace of a persons 5K race. This is the time that you put into the training pace calculators on the Internet which then tell you what your various types of training paces should be ( slow, tempo, threshold, intervals, etc)

  • That sounds interesting Bazza. In the spirit of genuine enquiry - what sort of training programs do these runners follow. I now run 10km once a week, plus 5 training runs of 30-45 minutes, which vary between stamina (hill/pace) and speed (interval) training. This averages out at about 20km in total every week, and it seems a huge jump to increase that to 50km a week. I would like to train for longer distances, but at the moment, can only realistically fit in one long run a week. I think my OH would notice something akimbo if I tried escaping for a 'quick 30 or 40 clicks around the block' :-)

    That said, I shouldn't complain - Ultrarunners can get through up to 500km a week, which even makes 50km a week sound easy!

  • During my marathon training, I routinely ran:

    *Tempo run - 60 mins (10min slow, 30 mins tempo pace and 20min slow) ~10K

    * Intervals run - about 30 mins/5K

    *Easy/recovery run - about 5 - 10 km, depending on the length of my long run

    *Long slow run - gradually increasing length from 15km to 30km

    It takes a lot of effort to follow such a schedule and some weeks I substituted the recovery run with a cycle ride (but much longer) as that was something I could do with hubby.

  • Thank you - that sounds similar to what I used to do (4 long runs a week). That was following b210k though rather than tempo /interval/ recovery/ long run :-) My biggest problem (at the moment) is I'm stuck in a routine that I need to follow for various personal reasons. Sigh. (Ultra) Marathon training on hold for me then - for now, anyway!

  • Swanscott-- from what I understand, that programme would be about perfect for amateurs like us :) -- the more enthusiastic would probably do another 2-3 shortish easy runs on top of that -- then the even more enthusiastic ones would "double that up" -- running twice per day. :)

  • Yes, I would love to do extra short runs over above that, but know i can't. i fit in full-day hikes occasionally, or long cycle rides (~50kms) instead.

  • Their training programmes "progress" through the training season - for example, they will spend a lot of time ( months?) in the early "base building" phase doing almost all "long and slow" -- 80% of their time or distance is slow/easy pace.

    Have a look at this -- as an example.

    Problem also is that there is a lot of disagreement/conflicting opinions about just about every aspect of "fitness training" around - there are a lot of people now who say that you should do nothing but interval raining - no slow runs at all. However I prefer to listen to those who have the "runs on the board" so-to-speak and say that doing nothing but fast and hard training is the road to injury

  • Thank you. That does make sense: c25k is like a mini foundation phase, which can lead on to this longer, bigger foundation phase.

    Each of the techniques is useful and has it's place: how we chose to use them depends on our individual goals. For example, I wanted to get up to 10k, so did b210k, then wanted to focus on speed so have just done two weeks of nothing but interval training. Admittedly there was a bit of a selfish element too :-) I was on holiday and wanted to have the elements of enjoying a lie in but also doing some running too. They say a change is as good as a holiday though and since coming back, there is an improvement to my running. I guess the key is to balance the use of the different techniques. But this long slow running does seem a very good way forward. My biggest problem is that my "fast" is the same as most people's slow :-D

  • Just as with beekeepers - you ask three and you get five conflicting opinions - there seems to be no great consensus of opinion as to which approach to running is best, even among the 'greats', Lydiard, Cerruty, Daniels, etc. I have just been reading Seb Coe's biog and his father/coach threw out all the rule books and devised a strategy that was designed for the specific runner and his needs. Which makes a lot of sense to me - there is no one size fits all method of training as we are all different and coming at running from different places, ages, levels of fitness.

    I think the answer is experimentation and use what works and discard what doesn't.

    Personally I have come to the same conclusion as you Bazza, albeit for a slightly different reason. I have a slow road pace and an even slower trail pace and as long as I stick to them I keep increasing my distances and up my weekly mileage without any real discomfort or injury. Every time I start putting in fartlek or interval speedwork though, my knee flares up and I'm off for a week. So I have decided to just stick to my easy pace and gradually up my distances. The trial of miles, Miles of trials, as John L Parker puts it.

  • Honestly, who in 2014 has the time for 50k a week? (Well, actually I probably have, mostly being a lowly housewife, but I think I'll stick with my nice comfortable 10k or so!).

  • Hmm, I was running 50K a week for marathon training (1x 5K, 2 X 10K and 1x 25K) and many other runners do 50 miles a week.

  • Well I take my hat off to them. That's a hell of a commitment - I'm amazed some of the contributors on here find the time to do the 3 x 30 mins with kids and jobs etc. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it though :)

  • Just asked hubby how many miles he ran in his younger running days and his diary logs (he still has them like school reports) say he was running twice a day most days and covering between 60-80 miles per week going out twice a day most days.

    Not sure if this helps the lung question and this is received wisdom rather than directly experienced (I get as kn*ckered as the next person very quickly at the moment) but am told lung efficiency and lung capacity are different and as we develop our running the capillaries increase making the lungs more efficient - so not so much about how much air but what we can do with it. Part of the fittening process seems to be how we get rid of waste products and a super-fit athlete will throw out mostly Co2 and very little o2 but someone at my level of fitness will throw out quite a bit of o2 and the desperate sound to be heard is my lungs trying very hard to grab some more.

    Obviously this is going to take way longer than the 9 weeks we start from with the, IMHO, marvellous programme that is c25k but I suppose we will all reach our optimum at some stage or another. I am hoping there is a bit more left for me yet though.

  • Slookie - I think you have hit the nail right on the head- with all aspects of your post . The lung efficiency versus capacity part -- and also the understanding that even we "C25K graduates" are really just "beginners".

    Some many months ago, I caused a bit of a stir here - and many people felt I was being "negative" - but at the time there seemed to me to be many people here who were injuring themselves. I blamed C25K in that it leads people to think that they are "runners" after they graduate. Well, I guess we are -- if you compare where we are now compared to where we were at the start -- BUT, like tiny babies who first discover and learn how to walk, if they get too confident in their abilities -- over they go!!! :)

  • I do understand what you are saying and how it might be perceived that after that final run in week 9, when we have pushed ourselves quite hard, we should continue to push ourselves even harder. But common sense tells us that if it hurts more than a little, then we should pull back and explore why and people here, present company certainly included, are generous enough to share where they went wrong as well as their highs, so those of us who are following behind can benefit with gratitude from the very wise words and cautionary tales.

    I don't think c25k has given me any illusions that I am a runner to equal those runners who have been at it a lot longer or who have competed in 'grown-up' races but what it has done is get lots of people out of their slippers and into their trainers and that has to be a very good thing, dunnit?

    Bazza your posts are so great I can't imagine anyone thinking you are being negative. Rather just offering caution cos you care for your c25k community. Ta ever so :)

  • Last summer I found it wasn't so much a case of run, run and run some more, but exercise, exercise and exercise some more that helped. In my case it was cycling. I cycle commuted 4 or 5 days a week, doing 50km some days and 25km on the days I car-shared part way. An average of about 150km per week. This was usually a fairly quick, steady pace in the morning, and a slow, steady pace each evening (usually into a headwind). This really helped my general cardio-fitness and the HM I ran at that autumn is still several minutes faster that subsequent HMs, without the benefit of so much cycling.

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