The “SmartCoach” program that I use to train for the Boston’s Run to Remember had “Speedwork” on the program for today. The distance was scheduled to be 5 miles with one mile of warm up, two 1600-meter repeats, each followed with 800-meter recovery jogs, and a final mile of cool-down. Well, living in Boston means the start of Spring on March 20th is only a suggestion as the winter often reminds us of its presence in March and sometimes even in April. So given yesterday’s large amount of snow, then slush, then rain and slush, then ice, topped with an additional white dusting, the indoor tracks were the choice yet again. The speed for the 1600-meter repeats was listed at 9:32 minutes per mile which even for me, a slow runner, doesn’t sound all that bad. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to monitor my speed, so I did the interval training by a subjective rating of perceived exertion. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being an all-out effort, I alternated between a rating of approx. 5 for the recovery jogs and a rating of approx 8 for the 1600-meter repeats. The repeats felt very tough and I was relieved when each ended. I guess it’s time to get my heart rate monitor fixed so I can get a better idea of how strenuous the workout segments really are (they certainly felt much tougher than a 9:30 pace!).
I am curious to know if all that grueling speedwork really pays off! The question is, does interval training increase the aerobic capacity of my cardiovascular-respiratory system? If so, how many weeks should I train and at what intensity to reach a meaningful improvement? Somehow my “SmartCoach” application seems to know the answer to my questions. There is indeed a way to test this scientifically. It’s called a graded exercise test. The idea is to measure the amount oxygen and carbon dioxide in the breath (see picture) while the exercise intensity is gradually increased. This way one can measure the maximum amount of oxygen that a body can utilize during maximal exercise, a measure called VO2max (ml of O2 volume per kg of body weight per minute). I’m wondering what my VO2max currently is. What percentage of improvement can I expect at the end of training? Anyway, this type of equipment is expensive and available most often only in exercise physiology laboratories and rarely in gyms.
All I wish for (in addition to reaching my fund raising goal) is to have a better finishing time than the last half marathon I ran, perhaps even a new personal record. Who knows? Everything is possible!