Is Faster Fitter?

I recognize that paying for personal training means paying someone to make me do what I don’t think I’ll do on my own, and so that on some level I *want* to be forced to work out harder than feels totally comfortable. Given that, it’s kind of irrational to refuse to do what I’m told.

So the latest thing I’m being made to do is run around the block as a warm-up at the very beginning of our session. That’s not so bad, actually. But he’s timing it. The other day was the first time and I came in at 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

I guess that’s pretty slow because — let’s call him Josh — Josh seemed to think I should be aiming to improve on that. He said something like, “that’s your baseline. You’ll do better next time.” Thing is, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I don’t really aspire to run fast, or even faster, than I run at the moment.

I am slow — yesterday morning when I was out for my run it took me a really long to time to catch up to and pass a woman who was out walking her dogs. My slow run was only marginally faster than her fast walk. In terms of physical achievement, it’s quite amazing to me that I am running at all.

When I started, that was what Josh and I disagreed most about. I don’t know many runners who haven’t suffered injuries and I didn’t want to be among them (so far, no injuries here). The only thing I really want to be able to do (in the short-term) is run 20 minutes in a row without having to take a walk break (right now I’m up to 7).

So when I said that I didn’t really care to make a faster time, Josh would have none of it. I guess just about everyone who runs wants to be able to run faster. And my question is this: Why? Is faster fitter? I’m the same on my bike. I like a leisurely ride. I don’t really mind if people are zooming past me or pedaling more vigorously. That’s all okay with me.

Now maybe, as I run more and ride more I just will become faster. That’s okay with me, too. But at this point I’m not motivated by it as a goal. And maybe once I get to my 20 minutes, I’ll feel like I want to go faster (though I’m guessing I’ll be more inclined to want to extend it to 30 minutes, or I’ll start thinking about going further rather than faster).

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying running at my pace. It does feel like hard work, like I’m getting “fitter.” And the fact that when I started I could only do 2 minutes in a row and now I can do 7 (3 times!) seems to indicate some sort of improvement. Maybe next week in my pre-workout round-the-block I’ll try pushing just a bit harder, not because I want to, but because I’m paying to be made to do what I wouldn’t naturally choose to do.

8 thoughts on “Is Faster Fitter?

  1. You are doing wonderfully. Three and a half minutes, in outdoor air, enjoying what you are doing–not wanting to do it differently at all. Keep on putting one foot down in front of the other (but not in front of the knee of the same leg–this is too long a stride and causes you to ‘brake’ your forward motion).

    Running injuries tend to be chronic and come from overuse, inflexibilities, and poor form. I experienced these and a couple of acute injuries (ankle rolls over hard objects hidden beneath soft-looking snow).

    On form, I spotted an advertorial video for running shoes that opens with a list of bad form habits: over-striding, heel striking the ground, and leaning backwards with the upper body.

    We find what we want in a running form after negating the previous list: (1) a relatively short stride (2) fore- or mid-foot striking the ground (3) leaning forward. This is running. Jogging is more of a bouncing up and down; jumping rope is a much more efficient exercise than jogging.

    Running is a lot like bicycling with gears only the gears are adjusted by your mind. In cycling, cadence (pedal speed) and the strength effort expended are inversely related. In running, a longer stride is like a more difficult gear; it takes a lot of work to overcome the braking effect.

    Consider where elite sprinters place their feet in this slow-motion video. It looks like their lead foot touches the ground about an inch in front of their hips–the rest of the stride length coming from extending their leg behind them. Carrying forward the cycling analogy, the sprinters are in bottom gear and pedalling very quickly to maintain their speed. They used up their strength in the first phase of the race after pushing out of the starting blocks and must maintain their speed for the remaining 80m.

  2. Celabrate the fact you are out running and biking. Improvement is what you establish for yourself.
    I Love your blog.

  3. Faster is fitter, and speed/distance is how running fitness is usually measured, but I think you’re right, for now, to focus on getting comfortable with running 20 min in a row. Play with speed when it feels like play, when you can run fast for effort and then run slow to recover. Enjoy yourself and the great outdoors.

  4. I’ve been running for almost 20 years (since early in grad school), and I’ve never paid much attention to my times. I’ve found that most runners do care about their times–and they enter races (whether they’re 5K’s or marathons) to stay motivated, and to have goals. I just really *enjoy* running, and I think that it’s important to do what you love! I’ve done a bit of racing (I’m not so fast, but kind if in the middle) and as much as I love being surrounded by other runners, I don’t enjoy the stress of being in a race. I’ve measured my accomplishments in other ways–running up very steep trails (after years of avoiding hills, I found that I love going up hills if I’m surrounded by natural beauty), and running longer distances were ways of marking my achievements.

    I’ve never worked with a personal trainer or coach (so I don’t know how to handle that), but I think you should just be proud of your progress wnd know that you will continue to improve. Your times will likely get faster anyway, as you become more comfortable running.

  5. Is faster fitter? Yes. Is slow and steady fit enough? Yes. Maybe? For what? I struggle with this. What is fit enough? By some measures (heart health, I think), 30-60 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. I like being able to do lots of physical things at the drop of the hat, which requires more than that. My real goal is to still be able to do lots of physical things into my 60s-70s. What’s the best way to achieve that? I don’t know.

    In particular, I’m interested in figuring out how much weight I need to be able to lift. One can’t keep increasing one’s weight indefinitely, but just how much is fit enough?

  6. As I age and the decrepitude of my body, as a result of that and of the disease of MS, become more apparent, I perceive staying fit in a whole new light.

    I used to be a competing bodybuilder and personal trainer so setting unattainable goals was my reality. When I realized I had past my peak and my body progressively got further and further from that “almost perfect” state, my outlook on fitness shifted.

    It’s now about continuing to do it without setting goals which are too difficult to attain or to keep replicating in the long run. It’s not about Sergeant Manon pushing herself day in and day out because I know that won’t last and it won’t be coming from a place of love.

    As I age, wisdom about fitness continues to surface which is what I hear in your words Tracy. I personally think that a longer run at a slower pace is better than a faster run for a shorter period especially if weight loss would be a welcome benefit.

    Best of luck!

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