Month: January 2013

Trail Running Fartlek Training

I went out this morning for some winter trail running. My goal for the current program was 4.2 miles. I figured I’d be able to crank that out even with some uphill walking in less than an hour depending on snow conditions. I started at a local pool parking lot, like usual. I had done some ice climbing the day before which required a mile approach with over 500′ of elevation gain hiking up a steep gully of rock and ice. I wasn’t sure how that would affect my trail running, so I was ready to just jog lightly if needed.

Spiked Trail Running Shoes
Spiked Trail Running Shoes: Hoka One One Mafate WP with screws

The first part of the road was slick ice over the surface. I was glad to be wearing my spiked trail running shoes [article]. They stuck to the ice and I didn’t feel at risk of falling at all. I ran to the gate, and through. The road surface was pretty icy for the first half mile, with long strips of ice-impregnated dirt showing through. My shoes stuck well. I was glad to be wearing them.

Trail Running in Keystone Colorado
Trail running up Keystone Gulch Road behind Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado

I actually felt really good. I did intervals up the road, choosing somewhat random targets. I ran to a fence post, or a stick along the shoulder, or a mottled shadow. Since you’re not at a track, trail running intervals don’t need to be structured as exact distances or times. This type of random-ish unstructured interval is called “Fartlek”.

Trail Running Fartlek

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, as the athlete wishes. Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting. Fartlek training is generally associated with running, but can include almost any kind of exercise. From Wiki

I ran out 2.1 miles, my half-way point and rested for a minute and took some pictures. I started down, and felt like I was flying. I did a somewhat long trail running interval, and walked down till my heart rate was below 130, then took off flying again. Usually in winter trail running I slog along and just enjoy the scenery. I again set my distance target to various appealing looking sticks or trees or shadows or rocks. It was a struggle to get there sometimes, but it’s great mental discipline.

Trail Running at Keystone Gulch Road
Trail running turnaround point at 2.1 miles surrounded by snowcat tracks

I continued my trail running intervals to my “targets” and walking till my heart rate descended below 130 till I got to the gate. There were a couple guys skinning-up their skis, and someone walking a big dog. I walked past them so I wouldn’t scare them. My heart rate got below 120 for a couple minutes. I took off again on the ice-covered road to the parking area. I felt great. Since I set my new goal to do the Uber Rock 50k trail run in Vail this coming September I’ve adjusted my training program into something like “40 weeks to an ultra”. Trail running 30 miles up and down the mountains between Vail and Minturn will require that I be in the best of shape for it. I learned that in Aspen Backcountry Marathon in 2011. I survived. That about sums it up.

trail running stats on a gps hrm watch
Stats from my Polar RS800cx

Above is the result of my winter trail running fartlek session, via my Polar RS800CX GPS G5 Heart Rate Monitor. Oddly the intervals are mostly fairly regular. I didn’t do that intentionally. According to the Google Earth elevation profile I did 560′ up and down. I take into account stats from both Polar and Google. One is based on atmospheric pressure, the other on waypoint interpretation.

The temperature was about 15 degrees F, but in the sun it felt warm and in the shade cool. For winter trail running you have to dress for both the fast and slow portions of your run. You should feel a little bit warm while fast, and a little cool while slow. I had dressed for a slow trail running session, so I was really warm during the speed intervals. It was a bit too cool to unzip during them though. If you choose to go trail running in the winter, please be careful, dress appropriately to your own metabolism and running goals, and consider wearing spiked shoes or some detachable traction device.

Trail Running in Winter at Keystone

Trail running in the winter can be exhilarating and quite an adventure. It’s one of my favorite activities. I love to run in the Winter in Keystone Colorado at 9300′ or more in elevation. One of my favorite trails to run on is the Keystone Gulch Road. This is the access for snowcats and snowmobiles to the back lifts of Keystone Resort. Normally the road is packed down by the constant daily snowmobile traffic, so it’s easy enough to run in spiked shoes. I had done Gray’s Peak with a friend on Saturday December 29 on a very cold day. My Polar Graph showed that I should have about five days of rest. Today, January 1 was a whole new year, right? I decided a mild bout of winter trail running should be fine.

Trail Running in Winter clothing and gear
Trail Running Winter Clothes and Gear

Trail running this winter morning would be probably the coldest I’ve done. When I started it was zero degrees Fahrenheit out. That’s cold. I’ve run at 5 degrees before. I’ve done the 14ers at below zero. Then you’re moving a lot slower and can wear and carry more emergency gear. I decided on my new Sporthill pants, which did pretty good at 5 degrees the other day. I decided against base layers. I wore a Patagonia fleece hoodie as my next-to-skin layer. Experimenting. I wore a thin waffled fleece over that, then a thin wind shell with breathable panels. I wore my classic favorite TNF running beanie on my head. I’ve grown to like my Injinji liners and Smartwool Men’s PhD Mountaineer Crewsocks as cold weather running footwear. For my hands I decided to experiment with my Burton touch-screen liners under my REI Winter Biking Lobster gloves.

Trail Running on Keystone Gulch Road

Trail Running in the Cold behind Keystone Resort
Trail Running in the Cold behind Keystone Resort

I started my HRM/GPS watch in a parking lot near the entrance to Keystone Gulch Road. The road can be pretty bumpy and has space for only a few cars. Warning: park at your own risk wherever you decide to park since most of this is resort property. I walked quickly up the road swinging my trekking poles, Black Diamond Compactor Ski Poles. Today my goal is to run/walk intervals working on improving my turnover rate (foot strike speed) by making smaller faster steps. I also am going to work on syncing my pole swing with my steps to increase the number of steps per pole swing.

At the gate, just up the road a short bit, I tapped my lap counter and took off running slowly uphill. I worked my way up the Gulch Road with what I interpreted as fairly even run/walk intervals. After a while I decided to do some trail running hill repeats on a particularly pleasant grade. Usually you run up and walk down, or walk up and run down, depending on your training goals. Today I’m running down, quick turnaround then up. I paused at the top for a minute to catch my breath, then repeated it.

Trail Running Hill Repeats in Winter with Poles: Video

When I was done I gathered up my camera and took off trail running in the snow uphill again. The sun was pretty, and the wind was light. Bright flashing crystals of snow blew off the pine trees. I kept up the run/walk intervals for about an hour of total time.

Trail running in winter along the Keystone Resort back side
Making snow at Keystone Resort on North Peak

I had hoped to get to the base of North Peak, near the LaBonte’s Cabin area. I’ve been there a few times for trail running on this road. It’s about three miles from the gate. Today my face was getting really cold and I decided three miles from the parking lot was a good enough turnaround point. I was using my backpack for training and to carry water. I was using my Flexline Hydration system with a Platypus Bladder inside the insulated sleeve of my Marmot Kompressor backpack. I also have my GoLite Bitterroot down jacket for just in case. Smart when it’s at zero degrees.

winter trail running on the snowcat tracks at keystone
View looking down on myself and the snowcat tracks I ran on

On the way downhill I worked to stay around an 11:00 minute mile pace. The footing was rough, between the tracks of a snowcat and multiple snowmobiles passing up and down the road all day. It varied with ice chunks, chopped snow, ice sheets, and narrow gullies between the paths. I can sustain an 8:20 pace on nice dirt trails, but chunky snow is totally a different trail running surface. I had to take a couple of walking intervals but tried to keep them short, drinking from the Flexline tube at each one to stay hydrated. Since the whole run would be less than two hours it wasn’t worth eating. YMMV. Remember that one key to success in using a bladder system at this cold a temperature is to totally blow all the water out of your tube between each drinking session. Short frequent drinks are better than longer drinks at longer intervals. If ice does start to build up you will suck it out of the tube more often and keep it clear with more frequent drinking.

One of my favorite trail running roads at Keystone Resort
Looking down the road at Keystone Gulch behind Keystone Resort

As I got further and further along I had to take more frequent and longer walking breaks. I finally got to the gate and hit my lap counter again to mark it. I ran quite fast down the road, crossing the street carefully, then walked to cool down to the parking lot. My face felt pretty windburned, and when I got home my nose hurt quite a bit when it thawed out. I recommend sealing your nostril skin surface with chapstick when you go out in this level of cold. I will do that next time for sure.

Winter Trail Running: My Stats

I checked the stats on my Polar RS800CX and found that I had spaced out my intervals pretty decently. I had maintained a good pace, especially on the way downhill. I also looked at my heart rate zones and found a good spread, pretty full in the upper middle, where I want it right now. It was a good way to train my last day in Colorado for this trip.

trail running polar graph with elevation, heart rate, and pace
My Polar Graph with elevation, heart rate, and pace from my trail running adventure

If you decide to try trail running in the Winter, I highly recommend you break into it slowly. If you’ve never run outside before, or on uneven surfaces, it might not be a good idea. It’s going to be cold, and if it’s windy, miserable for most people. Wear the appropriate clothing, and try to avoid sweating if you can. It’s best to be slightly cool rather than slightly hot.

Winter Trail Running heart rate distribution graph courtesy of Polar
Polar heart rate zone distribution for this winter trail running adventure

Above all, stay safe, stay warm, and remember that trail running below freezing can be fun 🙂

Fat Loss with New Years Resolutions

Got Fat Loss?

Like much of the civilized world right now you want to know about fat loss. It’s the very edge of 2013. You are probably thinking up some new years resolutions. If you’re like most people, you also are making the wrong resolutions. Or your resolutions are poorly formed. Here are some ideas to help you make better resolutions.

Reward your fat loss goals with treats if that works
Mt. Fuji in Japan with my wife. I had lost nearly 20 lb at this point in my fat loss journey.

1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.

The definition of “resolution” implies a firm determination and decision. Many people tend to think of it in black/white terms. Either/Or. Fat Loss or … Fat Gain? That’s the catch here. If it’s total opposites, the only failure option available is to gain fat. Don’t get stuck in that trap.

Group activities with a deadline make great fat loss goals
American Fork Canyon Half Marathon 2011 finish line

Let’s begin by thinking of a Resolution as a Goal. A goal is a target. You either hit it or miss it. That simple. First of all a goal should be easily defined. Easily written down. Studies have been cited that people who write down a goal are more likely to achieve success than those that do not. Even if they never ever read that goal again. If they read that goal over and over and over they are even more likely to succeed. Your fat loss goal deserves the best chance of success. Write it down.

Fat Loss Goal? Write it down

for best success in your fat loss goals build a support team of family and friends
My kids at the Steamboat Half Marathon. Get the kids involved in your family fitness adventures.

Your goal has to be measurable, controllable, and achievable, with a starting point and an ending point. It must be a statement of fact as though it were true. Not a wish. Not a desire. Not a want.

I want to be a size 6. That’s not a goal. That’s a dream.

I am a size 8. I will be a size 6 in 10 weeks with carefully controlled nutrition and exercise. Now that’s a goal. It’s defined. It points to the process. It has a starting and ending point. It’s achievable in the time given for many people. It’s even measurable.

Measure your fat loss goals and succeed

track your fat loss goals with apps and software
Tracking software or apps can help you achieve your fat loss goals

There are at least a few ways to track your goal achievement. One way is to set a group of subgoals. Break down your fat loss milestones into smaller and smaller parts. It’s easier to do a little thing several times a day and see if it works than to do one thing every six months or so and just not know. I have a screenshot above from my Web App. It syncs with my Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor Watch that I wear for most workouts. I can track to be sure I’m not coasting in my workouts. I can also see if I might be overtraining. I highly recommend one of the many different heart rate and fitness tracking apps.

Some people can handle daily or weekly weight checks. Others can’t. For body composition goals I don’t recommend weight-based goal numbers. As you work out your muscles might grow a bit, and muscles weigh more than fat. They also can store water better than fat. Your intestinal contents, what you eat on a daily basis, can also hold varying amounts of water. Weight isn’t always the best way to measure fat loss.

You an get a bodyfat percentage measurement on a regular basis from health departments, fitness facilities, trainers, and several others. It’s a good way to measure your fat loss, and in general it adjusts itself to the amount of muscle you have. You can also just go by how your clothes feel. Count the empty holes in your belt. When your pants fall off. Clothing sizes can vary quite a bit from the different manufacturers. One company can have you at a size 32″ pants and another at a size 36″ pants.

body composition improvement evident in fat loss
Upper back development at 12% bodyfat

You can also track yourself with a diary or journal. Keep track of your daily accomplishments. Keep track of every single food item that goes into your mouth. Weigh it, measure it, note it. Keep track of how you feel when you wake, when you train, in the evening. Keep track of every ounce of weight you lift or push or pull. Keep track of every minute you do cardio of any type. Look back on previous results to compare and establish progress. You can eliminate a lot of fat loss excuses this way.

Reward your fat loss goal accomplishments

Some diet plans include cheat days. I’ve seen some pretty good math to show how you can totally sabotage your entire fat loss nutrition plan in a single meal. Just avoid it. After a while, if you think about it, it just seems desperate. Instead find things that you love to do. Things with your family. Things you love to wear. Things you consider luxurious otherwise. Go ahead and reward yourself. Just not with food. It’s like rewarding a thief for not stealing things for a year by allowing them free reign in a jewelry store.

One of my favorite rewards is a hike in the mountains with my family. I like to try a running event, like a half marathon in beautiful canyons. I know people who like to buy a clothing one size too small and work their way into a perfect fit. Do what works for you. Just don’t use food as your reward for fat loss success.

fat loss nutrition is healthy eating
Fat loss nutrition, not diet, will be key to your success

Take Fat Loss Goal Setting to the next level

When you first start setting goals, they should be easy enough you can hardly fail. Set microgoals that are easy and well defined and well measured. Here’s an example of one of these daily sets of microgoals.

Today I will wake at 5:00 AM, take my vitamins with a large glass of water. I will do 10:00 minutes on an elliptical at Level 4 as a warmup. I will do full Back Squats with 135 lb for 30 total reps in 15 minutes. I will do Leg Extensions with 60 lb for 50 total reps in 15 minutes. I will get on a treadmill and do 30:00 minutes at 6.0 mph and 3% incline. I will eat a high-protein, moderate carb, moderate fat meal. I will take a very hot shower and get ready for work.

Each of these little microgoals are an element of this daily goal. Each of these little chunks of action are simple enough to do, one after the other, to achieve this part of a larger fat loss goal. Aside from the weights and reps involved, which could easily be adjusted for anyone, these microgoals would be very difficult to fail at. When you first start, you need lots of success. As you become an expert at setting goals, you can make more and more advanced goals, with a higher probability of failure and it will not deter you from keeping on the path you set out on in the first place.

fat loss makes your muscles stand out more
Leg Muscles appear more obvious when your skin is thinner from fat loss

Fat Loss Goal Failure?

Yes. Sometimes it happens. You fail. Say that for some reason or other at the end of the 10 weeks you’re not a size 6. Now what? For one thing, if you’ve been keeping accurate measurements and a diary or journal, you probably would have noticed this a while ago and made some microgoal corrections. For myself I have recently had an issue that when I looked back on training journals from two years ago suddenly made sense and I was able to address it and possibly avoid a year of setbacks. Refer to your journals frequently.

You can also evaluate your goal and see if it was realistic. For some people 3 pounds of fat loss a week is possible. For others that might take six weeks. You find out what you can do or get away with by evaluating your failures.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

I think people probably need to fail to figure out their own success. Don’t let it get to you. Re-evaluate. Set a new goal based on your failure. At 185 lb and over 50 years of age I will never run a 4:00 minute mile. It would be silly to set a goal based on that. I will never have a 28″ waist. I will never do a triple-axel. But that doesn’t detract from any goals I set, so long as I avoid those exact goals. I can set a goal based on a 7:00 mile. I can set a goal based on a 32″ waist. I can set a goal based on a waltz jump combo. Find what you can do and focus on that. Not on what you can’t do.

Trail running is an excellent activity for fat loss
Top of Mount Olympus outside Salt Lake City Utah, a favorite trail run

I want you to explore the full range of setting goals and making achievements in your own fat loss program. This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning to set goals. If you can, read books on goals. Listen to audio books on goals. If you can afford it, hire a trainer who has success with goals. Hire a life coach. You can get quite inexpensive online and phone life coaching. Some people are strong enough to do it on their own, some need help. If you want success, do what works for you. It’s your future. What’s it worth?