Over the last 9 months I’ve gone from running 1x/ week to 2x/week to 3-4x/week. Building up your mileage takes time and I didn’t want to ramp up too quickly. I chose the constant training method where I did 55% of my longest run or what I felt like my max distance was and trained at that constant distance and tracked my progress via RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion. I wanted to observe my training in blocks of 3-4 months.
RPE 10 Max Effort Activity. Feels almost impossible to keep going. Completely out of breath, unable to talk. Cannot maintain more than a short time.
9 Very Hard Activity. Very difficult to maintain exercise intensity. Can barely breath and speak a few words.
7-8 Vigorous Activity. Borderline uncomfortable. Short of breath, can speak a sentence.
4-6 Moderate Activity. Breathing heavily, can hold short conversation. Still somewhat comfortable, but becoming more noticeably challenging.
2-3 Light Activity. Feels like you can maintain for hours. Easy to breathe and carry a conversation.
1 Very Light Activity. Hardly any exertion, but more than sleeping, watching TV.
The Mt. Wilson trail is 14.5 miles round trip and it was the first time I had ever done anything that far and Orchard Camp which is about halfway about 8 miles roundtrip is about 55% of my max. I wanted to keep the distance I ran constant and track how my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) changed throughout the course of a year and use this information to help me establish a baseline and progress accordingly. I also kept track of approximate elevation change and average RPE and mileage/month.
FYI: I have a background in running 4 years of high school cross country (I’m 34) where I averaged 500-800 miles in a 5 month season. I still kept running here and there, but switched to playing more basketball 1-2x/week. I only recently started running and during the 1x/week I was still running around and shooting 2x/week. I have a very solid base and have an aerobic capacity to work for 2-3 hours.
When I did the Mt. Wilson ascent it took 2 hours and 43 minutes. The first 4 miles were fine, but the next segment was awful. My legs were burning and I felt like my legs were going to collapse and they were twitching as I was walking up the last 1 mile. I was at a 10 and definitely almost wanted to quit.
10 Max Effort Activity. Feels almost impossible to keep going. Completely out of breath, unable to talk. Cannot maintain more than a short time.
After establishing my 1RM or max distance, here is what I decided to do:
4 tips I focused on to get myself to run 4 days a week.
Accountability: Tell a friend, write it down, say it out loud, make a promise to your cat, whatever it is. Put it out there, make it known so that someone out there besides yourself knows that you have set a goal to do something. I, personally, like to do all of the above and I think it helps to tell as many people and vocalize your ambitions and what you intend to do. You putting it out there means that you need to back it up and the more you do. It helps if you take a friend and make them do it with you too, so you’re not alone.
Be flexible: DO SOMETHING, but don’t do nothing. Most likely, you have some form of familial or social obligation, work is nagging you or you’re just tired of it all. Have a Plan B or C. Find something that you know that you can do that is convenient (takes little space and equipment) that you can do in 5-15 minutes. That’s all it takes. This is the oh shit plan and it’s better than nothing. You won’t feel bad about missing a work out, instead you’ll be glad you did something! Try a bodyweight ladder circuit.
Ladder: Squat, T, forward Lunge, Push up, Lateral Lunge
Repetitions: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS. Study the data. Find out who you are and what you’re capable of. After establishing my 1RM (1 rep max) or longest run, I decided to constant train at 55% of 14.5 miles or 8 miles and tracked how my Rate of Perceived exertion changed as I progressed my mileage per month. I established my 1RM as my baseline of 10/10 Difficulty and found my average RPE decreased from 9/10 from when I first started to 3.64/10 at Month 9.
August: Training at 22.5 miles/month my avg RPE was 9/10
September: Training at 16 miles/month my avg RPE was 8/10.
October: Training at 32 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 7/10.
November: Training at 24 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 6/10.
December: Training at 48 miles/month my avg RPE increased a little to 6.8/10
January: Training at 60.5 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 6/10.
February: Training at 48 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 5.67/10
March: Training at 59.7 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 5/10.
April: Training at 19.7 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 4.67/10.
May: Training at 123.53 miles/month my avg RPE dropped to 3.64/10.
I took 6-8 months to build up from 16 miles/month to 60 miles /month and varied my progression and regression during this time. From December-March I cycled high between 48-60 miles/month and saw my RPE steadily decrease from 6.8/10 to 5/10. After 8 months of training, I was forced to stop running due to COVID-19 and did a lot of strength training during this time. The Month of April, I worked on a lot of plyometrics, strength training and mobility and once I started to pick up my training again I felt a boost in my strength and endurance with all the time off from running and instead focusing on strength and conditioning. This past month I took a big jump once I started running and because I was feeling confident in my abilities and I felt like the 4 month training block of 48-60 miles/month really helped me build up a solid foundation. Although, at the time my RPE felt great as I was doing this, my prediction is that I will be hit with the after effects of this increase in training volume and will most likely see a drop in my training volume and a slight increase in my RPE.
Plan your ascent / Be patient / take your time. Preparing things ahead of time whether it’s bills, work, or food prep, taking care of the preparation is doing 90% of the work. Having things planned or prepped in advance makes things easier for you and gives you more time to focus on things that matter. By committing to a time and a place, you know where you have to be. As you get more comfortable with this commitment, you are free to add in another day of the week. I, personally, started on Sundays and then added in a Wednesday run. Then, switched to Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. Then, I started to do every other day and if I felt like I needed more time off I gave it another day until I felt ready to get back into it.
Coming into this I had:
A plan for how to build myself up
A way of tracking my effort
A sense of confidence that if I stuck to the plan, and prepared for plan B or C I could give myself some lee-way to be flexible and adjust as it came by.
I was able to see how much easier this once extremely difficult run was, as I got to become very familiar with it. The same run that felt extremely tough 8/10 RPE to not so bad 4/10 RPE. It's amazing to see how your perspective can change and your body can adapt.
I highly recommend using the RPE method to track your workouts.