Just thought I’d pop on and share a quick one with you today. The reason I’m keeping it brief is because I was a bit of an idiot (I know, I can’t believe it either), and so don’t particularly want to dwell on it.

With less than a week until the Silverstone Half, my complex and carefully thought out training plan was as follows:

I’ll start tapering. But only when running stops being fun”.

On this particular day I’d decided on a cheeky mid-morning interval session on the treadmill, so after a gentle warm-up I fired up the machine* and started my run. I’ve never really blogged about the finer details of my interval sessions, but if I really dragged it out and applied a little artistic licence I reckon I could make it pretty darn exciting. It’d be the blog equivalent of a car chase. One with extra ninjas and perhaps an angry bear. Instead I’ll give you the stripped down version: “Whooosh! I go fast for a bit. Then I slow down. Then I slow down a bit more. Then whooooooosh! I go fast for a bit, even faster than before. Then I sl…” well I think you get the idea. To put it in a slightly less sexified way, my current interval programme goes something like this:

10 minute warm-up

2000 metre run @ 12.4km/hr

300m recovery (jog/walk/jog)

400m run @ 12.4km/hr

300m recovery

400m run @ 13.2km/hr

300m recovery

400m 13.8km/hr

200m recovery

300m run @ 14.5km/hr

200m recovery

200m run @ 15.2km/hr

5 minute cool-down (or fall-over)

So if you discount the warm-up and cool-down it works out at a nice even 5k. I pretty much made it up as I went along so it might not count as “proper” interval training in the purest sense of the word, but it works for me so that’s okay. I’d also like to point out that a far more experienced runner than me used that treadmill earlier this week and reckons it needs calibrating as it’s considerably faster than the readout suggests. Translation: I’m marginally less sloth-like than I think.

The thing I wanted to talk about from this particular session came during the first recovery bit. I came hurtling (sort of) out of the run phase and after a little bit of a jog I slowed it right down to a brisk walk. My max heart rate is 181 or thereabouts, and as I glanced down at the LED readout on the treadmill’s StarTrektheNextGeneration-esque dashboard I saw that it was currently banging away at 169, which is pretty much where I’d expect it to be after a good few minutes of hard effort**. My HR normally drops to around 120 during the recovery period, at which point I start running again and hoof it back up into the cardiac stratosphere***. But after a good 20 seconds or so of walking I looked down again and saw that it now read 170.

That’s odd.




I quickly realised that things weren’t right at all, and that medically speaking the best course of action would be to distract myself by looking at the TV instead of my heart rate. However, someone was interviewing Jedward and I had visions of them trying to explain their views on the Syrian crisis through the medium of interpretative dance, so I decided to take my chances with heart failure after all. Besides, I’d been walking for a while, it would have settled down by now.


Oh s***

(That last bit wasn’t directing you to a footnote. It was me swearily filling my shorts****)


I glanced back up to see that one of them (not sure if it was Jed or Ward) had crossed his arms and was doing some sort of hippy-hop hand gesture while pouting at the camera. Maybe he’d been asked to sum up his thoughts on the current proposals for NHS reform or to name his favourite viking.



Okay, okay, the important thing was not to panic. Panicking would only make things worse. Just because my heart rate was still climbing to unprecedented levels even though I’d slowed down to a walk.




By the time it reached 190 I was finally starting to wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me to stop walking and at least go and have a sit down next to someone who knew how to phone an ambulance and pass me the defibrillator.

But still I kept going, hoping I’d be able to simply “man up” and walk off my impending cardiac arrest. I was burying my head firmly in the sand, because if I carried on doing normal stuff, then everything would be fine, right? Hmmm…

Fast forward about thirty minutes, and as I showered I mused about how I’d learned an important lesson about life that day.

What I learned was this…

On a Life Fitness 95Ti treadmill, the heart rate is on the right, and the calories are on the left.

“D’oh” doesn’t even begin to cover it. So I’d made the simple mistake of thinking that the treadmill was signalling my imminent demise, when in fact it was helpfully pointing out that I’d burned off two jaffa cakes and a handful of quavers. Surely I’m not the first one to fall for that.



* I can’t decide whether that sounds like a smutty euphemism or not.
** I’m still in the very early stages of learning about this kind of thing. The book “Heart Rate Monitor Training for the Compleat (sic) Idiot” by John L Parker Jr has been sitting on my waiting-to-be-read pile for a while now, and once I’ve finished working my way through “Jean-Paul Sartre and the friendly dinosaur” it’s next on my list. What I do know about heart rate is that I struggle to keep mine down in the “fat-burning” zone. My resting HR is quite low (currently around 44bpm) but it doesn’t take much for it to shoot up to 80-90% of max, and even a slow jog has it bumping along at 75%. To begin with I was a bit worried by that, but I’m put at ease a bit by the fact that I feel quite happy at those levels and it recovers quickly when I stop or slow down. Consequently, I end up working more to RPE than rather than sticking religiously to heart rate. (RPE = Rate of Perceived Effort, acronymjas).
*** metaphorically speaking of course. I don’t literally take my heart out and kick it up into the air. That would be mildly stupid (even by my standards), not to mention sore.
**** And not in a good “Fire up the machine” kind of way.


10 thoughts on “Oops…

  1. Brilliant! That’s classic!

    My wife had a similar problem with her heart rate – it would never go above 80 on her HRM. Turns out she was looking at % of max, rather than BPM!

  2. Yup and when you told me this story it was like I should have been surprised. This story comes from a man who so spectacularly lost a fight with a pistachio nut in the office today that the 3 additional occupants of said office received minor injuries……….

  3. I’m curious; your running programme has all the hallmarks of the “drunken boxer” school of fighting (with less fists and more running, obviously). Is there a book I can buy that will pass on the wisdom of this method of learning? Or is beating myself around the head the next best thing? 🙂

    In other news, I was worried as to why my pace was getting steadily worse – I read bits of articles (well, skimmed the titles and looked for cartoons), consulted oracles and finally thought about going to see some fancy-dan sports therapist type of charlatan.

    However, while explaining my problem to a random person in the queue at Sainsbury’s (if you believe some of the books out there, we share some kind of mass human consciousness, or a racial memory, or something like that, so essentially if you ask the nearest tramp you’re actually tapping into the global knowledge bank. Hard to believe, I know, especially if you’ve had the same sort of conversations with tramps that I’ve had) they pointed out that when the number goes down, that’s a good thing, as it means it’s less minutes to run a mile, not less miles in however long.

    I was so shocked, I quite forgot to swipe my Nectar card. No, really. Staggering, I know.

  4. Pingback: You’re so vain: The social perils of interval training | Born to Plod

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