Couch to 5K
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Week 6 Run 3 -- Now I'm a Runner!

I've found a new use for our inclinous friends: Tunable runs. I'd better explain that before describing my run.

If you run up a long hill, you can actually afford to push it along a bit, and risk ending up out of puff, if you take a flexible enough attitude to your route planning. It's very simple: If your legs start going lame, you can just turn around and finish your run going downhill instead of uphill. Show me a piece of flat ground where you can do That! But wait! It gets better; it gets tunable. Let's say that your cowardly legs treacherously turn your heroic upper body around, and force it to go downhill, and that the result of this is that your legs start to spin nicely again. Well then why not march those idle good-for-nothings back round in the opposite direction, and head uphill again? I'm sure you get the picture now.

So today's run was accidentally/ carelessly mostly uphill. I ran for about 3.6 to 3.7 km, of which about 2.5 km were uphill, some was level, and a lovely little bit was downhill through a little dip in the middle. When I reached the gentler upgrade I had my idea of the tunable run, but didn't implement it, because somehow I found my stride better and better as I went on today.

My careless accident was simply not to go up a little incline I'd meant to go up, for my warm-up walk, so I wasted the first little downhill section on warming up, and missed out on some more downhill I could have had, had I proceeded as planned.

It turned into a fantastic run, so there's not really that much to report. To begin with I went really slowly, just to make absolutely sure I warmed up my ITB (or so my doctor tells me) before anything else, and then went very slowly because the hill was resisting a bit. And then there was the little downhill in the middle, where everything just loosened up nicely, and I could have run forever if the bloody traffic light hadn't put me into a holding pattern down the bottom of the dip.

The end was the best. There as a steep bit of hill I struggled to walk up, exploring it, yesterday, and somehow the legs just roadrunnered up there without too much loss of puff. It all just came together. I was running tall, my feet were landing under me, not ahead of me, the legs were rotating nicely. In short, the work on trying to run efficiently (which is what all this "form" is all about) started to work, and the result was more forward motion for the same or less effort. I wish I could just start like that and keep it up.

I even ended on a high, as Laura suggested. I'm sure that temporarily that wasn't very good for my blood pressure, but it felt every bit as good as it felt awful (I'm sure I don't need to explain that apparent contradiction here).

So can I offer something useful from this account?

Yes, I can:

1. Try to make your runs tunable if you can. Find a hill that can both help and hinder you in benign ways, and leave some escape points for excessive pain in your runs.

2. All the time, be focused on running efficiently, rather than strongly, etc. Just focus on one aspect of that at a time, and make that your current reason for running (except when you're on that lovely little downhill, and you're running on sheer exhilaration that it would be stupid to spoil by fussing with your technique).

During those moments where your work on running better sometimes pays off, you feel wonderful. Would that such moments would only last!

6 Replies

I predict that you and your inclinous friend are going to become the best of mates :)


I already like the ones that are not too cruel to me. It may take a while to make friends with the steeper ones, though.


I think I got the gist of that , hill reps?

Most avoid hills or inclines like the plague in the early days where possible .... well done you for making them work for you :D


I had to do a bit of googling to see if the "tunable run" is a form of hill rep training. Maybe, but I think there's a significant difference I have in mind. In hill reps, it looks like you make a plan of hill-and-rest sections, and you stick to that. The "tunable run" is more geared to spur of the moment decision making. Probably the main plan underlying the tunable run would simply be, "Slog up that long hill yonder". Adding "tunability" to that plan is simply altering the failure strategy for the case where one's legs run out of fuel halfway. On flat ground, the only bail-out available (if you're too knackered to even shuffle) is to walk or drop to the ground and lie there panting; on a hill, you have the option of switching your state from "slogging" to "cruising" by the simple expedient of turning back the way you came, when things get too much. So you can keep running.

And then the extension to that would be that, once you're giving yourself a break (but still running) you might find that you get some usable voom back in your legs; and if you do, (again on the spur of the moment, rather than according to your plan), you can decide to turn around yet again, and give that swine of a hill another go.

So, yes, it's a bit like hill reps, but with the difference that it's governed by the impulse of the moment, rather than by some pre-determined strategy. Also, it's meant to be a fail-safe you ideally don't make use of. It's just some reassurance to yourself that you'll be completing this run (as far as time goes, at least), one way or another, even if it turns out you overdid it in the beginning.


I love the "inclinous friends" idea!

I could not avoid inclines from the very start, due to where I live - now I'm trying to do hill reps once a week, with a secret goal in mind :)

I find the true problem is not my legs (they took me up and down Hymalaian valleys before I started C25k) - but my breathing and heart rate - sometimes even while fast walking steep hills it goes up quite quickly True, now I recover really fast, only 20 -30 seconds of slowing it down and it's back in the aerobic training zone...


It's the creation of MIles_Yonder, a graduate of this programme, now. Exactly the right attitude, isn't it?

As far as the breathing goes, yes, that's why I like running with music. It spares me the anxiety I would feel if I could hear myself gasping for breath all the time. :-)


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