PT365 Run Plans: Elements of Efficient Running – Part 3

PT365 Run Plans: Elements of Efficient Running – Part 3


Consider this your primer on the Run Plans — a little bit of background to understand the methodology behind the charts. Don’t be overwhelmed though, it boils down to: Have fun, be smart and be patient.

Catching up? Read Part 1 and Part 2.


Using a heart-rate monitor

Sure, you might be a bit rusty at first. A heart-rate monitor will help you get a handle on what your body is telling you. This is called biofeedback. The human mind has an unlimited capacity to synthesize multitudes of data accurately and instantly into a “knowing.” This takes practice, so pay attention to your feelings and learn the language of your physiology.

But a word of caution: Do not become so reliant on the monitor that you bypass your own inner technology. These devices are limited to specific information for which they are programmed. Always keep in mind that the most accurate feedback ultimately comes from you.


* Slow down on uphills, and don’t worry if you briefly go above your maximum aerobic heart rate to maintain a run.

* Pay attention to whether you can have an easy conversation. Trying singing “Happy birthday to you” in a single breath.

* For the type of monitor, simple is best. All you need is a zone alarm that you can program. There are models available for $50 that do this.

Signs of improving fitness and health

So you’re a couple weeks into training. Now is a good time to step back and assess how it’s going. All of these are signs that you’re improving:

* Drop in resting heart rate over weeks of training.

* Weight loss from the beginning of the program to the present.

* Ability to hold a lower heart rate at the same pace as previous runs.

* Lower perceived exertion at the same pace as previous runs.

* Less post-run recovery time needed.

* Fewer injuries and down-time.

* Faster overall speed with no increase in perceived exertion.

* Better overall health.

* Lower blood pressure.

* Improved mental focus and mood.

* Better sleep.

Goal setting

Sometimes the race finish line isn’t always your finish line. Ask yourself:

Where are you now? Plot your current fitness levels and health measures, including waist circumference and blood pressure, and perform the maximum aerobic function test described in Need to Know: Part 3 <<LINK>>.

Where do you want to be?

How will you get there? Chart the course.

How will you stay there? What will make this sustainable and enjoyable for months and years to come?

Select specific, short-term (8- to 16-week) goals with clear, objective results. Make sure they are realistic and achievable. Share your goals with a friend or family member. Enlist a friend to work with you. Example goals:

* I want to finish a 5K.

* I want to achieve 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity.

* I want to lose 10 pounds of body fat.

When you can achieve your short-term goals with comfort and confidence, work toward longer-term and sustainable goals.

Read the complete PT365 Run Plans program here.

Mark Cucuzzella

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella is a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is also designing programs to reduce running injuries in service members. He’s been a competitive runner for 30 years — with more than 100 marathon and ultramarathon finishes — and continues to compete as a national-level Masters runner. His marathon best is 2:24, and he’s won the Air Force Marathon twice, including in 2011 (2:38) a week shy of his 45th birthday.

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