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getting back: the ’40’ sessions

This week I decided it was time to start getting back into the swing of things. I felt better than I had been after my brief stay in hospital. Given that my mileage had more or less ceased completely after the Viking Marathon, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing how bad I was.

I read about loss of cardio fitness the first time I was put off my feet with diverticulitis 5 years ago. There is no precise calculation but cardio fitness drops rapidly after only 2 days. An estimated 50% of your fitness is lost in the first 14-21 days off your feet. In the two weeks after that, you lose another 50% of what’s left. If these figures are reliable, it means that I am starting back from ground zero. My doctor cautioned against pushing too hard also. Thus, I couldn’t just jump straight back into where I was and deal with the pain of it. I needed a different approach – something sensible for once. Where’s the fun in that?

the ’40’ sessions

No, not 40 runs to get me back but rather a set of 40-minute runs. These sessions would entertain a mix of patterns and allow me to regain some fitness without pushing myself too hard. I don’t know why I settled on 40 minutes as the duration. It may be because it’s a sensible 5-mile ‘recovery run’ time. Whatever, it made sense somewhere in my head! However, it just seemed like a nice round figure that wasn’t too short or too long. It also opened the possibility of being able to double-day it, if I was feeling up to it.

All my runs were treadmill-based. That was a key thing for me. The last thing I wanted was to “not be feeling it” a few miles from home and have to stroll back demoralised. Getting back into it was going to be difficult. Even if I stood to bounce back quick enough due to the mental battles won throughout the year, it wasn’t going to be overly rapid.

I needed a mix of slow running (just to run). I also needed strides or intervals at 6-min/mile pace (that’s the max my treadmill will do). To round it off, some steady running at a less comfortable pace too. If I could mix in a double-day here and there, all the better. A faster session could balance a 40-minute slow/easy run. So I told myself anyhow.

it was random and very much by feel

Despite putting a little thought into the nature of what the runs would look like, there was no plan. The only plan was to run, almost every day, and if I felt up to it, run twice a day. Getting back on the treadmill for the first time was always going to be a rude awakening. I am the kind of person that maintains a subscription to ‘baptism of fire’ approaches to doing anything. That means that I am likely to make the return harder than it has to be. My first session was an easy warm-up, followed by 8x80s intervals at the treadmill’s top speed. I did wimp out and gave myself 80s recoveries though. Recoveries of 40 seconds would have been more appropriate for this workout. The session ended with a slow recovery mile. I was exhausted at the end of it.

the '40' sessions: a controlled gamble for getting back in the game
the ’40’ sessions: a controlled gamble for getting back in the game

About an hour later, when I had just about stopped sweating and showered, I felt it. The buzz was back despite being traumatised by 40 minutes of running. I was overjoyed to be doing something again. A little too overjoyed perhaps – later that evening I was back on the treadmill again. Although, it was just for a slow run with some variation in incline. A double-day for my first day back? I really need my head examined. That’s how the rest of the week panned out, all by feel. I gave myself 2 rest days but also knocked out 3 double-days in total. Damn it felt good to be back running!

getting back on the road

While the treadmill miles were clocking up, there was a distinct absence of road mileage in my plans. I was playing things a little too safe. I really needed to just get back out there and clock up a few miles. So, this morning I did just that. A pleasant, easy-pace 10-mile run; my first double digit mileage in a month since the Viking Marathon. What’s better is that it gave me a 35-mile week on my feet. Sense must prevail from here on. I felt the lack of strength and fitness after the 10 miles this morning (view Garmin data).

the first 10-mile run getting back on the road again took plenty out of me
the first 10-mile run getting back on the road again took plenty out of me

There’s no point trying to slot straight back into the 60+ mile weeks I was doing 7/8 weeks ago. However, they will come back and as every runner knows, there’s no better feeling than just being back running again. The unforeseen hurdles in recent times may mean revisiting the plan for the year and making changes. However, nothing is set in stone with The Oregano Project. I build, I try, I fail, and I learn – that’s what it’s all about.

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