Some frustration and understanding a frame / timeline for change | 80/20 Endurance

Some frustration and understanding a frame / timeline for change

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    Hey friends,

    I’m feeling a bit, well, to be honest, I’m feeling a lot of frustration around my “progress”. This is likely going to be a long post — I’ll give some context and then lay out my questions / problems.

    So, I’m 30, 5’11” and 185 pounds. I have ran a lot throughout my life, but off and on. I wrestled from peewees through college and ran peripherally for that, I was in the Army for 6 years and ran to maintain a fast 2 mile, but never really pushed for any sort of distance. After separating from the Army, I ran off and on to maintain fitness. In 2018 and 2019, I really tried to begin pushing mileage. I was learning from guys like Goggins and Cam Hanes (I’m a big time outdoors person), but quickly realized their mentality was not for me. I had ongoing injuries and could really only run for about 6 months at a time. At the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, I started running “seriously’ after listening to a podcast with Tommy Rivs (Rage ON!), who recommended Matt’s book. I read it, bought in, and I ran consistently for about 4 months, loosely following 80/20. COVID hit and my twins were born, so my commitment through 2020 was poor. At the end of November, I picked up running again. I tested my zones and committed to the 10k beginner plan in the book. Finished that plan and have moved the level 1, half marathon plan. I have really been following with fidelity (middle of week 3). While the long runs are a bit taxing, I feel fresh for each workout and don’t feel that the volume is too high at this point. I wear a garmin Phenix 5 for data tracking. I live in Colorado (so I run in hilly places, this is part of what I enjoy). I have been using pacing as a primary measure and heart rate as a secondary.

    All of this context to ask – I feel like I can do less work at any given heart rate. I feel like I am “slower”, or maybe “weaker” is a better word — specifically that I feel less capable of maintaining a zone 2 heart rate at a zone 2 pace. My garmin has indicated that my VO2 max has decreased steadily over that last 4 months to the point that I am in the “bottom 20% of my age”. While I have been injury and (mostly) pain free and I have really been trying to stick to the plan, I feel like I cannot maintain HR in the zones that I tested in at the paces I tested in.

    According to my last 30 min run test:
    LTHR: 170
    LTHP: 9:41

    Is this just an issue of conditioning, maybe I haven’t been running in this method long enough to see real change in my system? That slowing down is what happens before we speed up long term? Should I not be using my day-to-day runs to gauge my “fitness” or “improvement”? I think I am going to retest my 30 minute time trial, but I feel it is unlikely that I have changed my paces much in such a short time. Maybe just as a way to confirm my previous testing?

    I’m a patient man! I am totally willing to keep on keeping on, as I realize this is a life-long endeavor, but I think I need help understanding a realistic timeline for my running practice to be enjoyable.

    While I am in Graduate school and money is tight with the twins, I would be willing to pay for some extra coaching to get on the right footing moving forward.

    Thanks for reading this book of a post and thanks for the support,

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your post. Numbers aside, are you actually not feeling good when you run? In other words, if you weren’t wearing your watch and didn’t know your heart rate or pace, would you feel still know something was amiss? If so, that is not normal and the cause should be identified and addressed. Possibilities include overreaching, low vitamin D, low iron, insufficient carbohydrate or calorie intake, poor sleep quality, life stress, and viral infection, among others. Any hunches?

    Coach Matt


    Without my watch, I don’t think I would know. Now that you ask that, I think maybe I feel fine while running, maybe even good, but then when my pace is right and my heart rate seems high, I feel down about it and frustrated during my run and then after. I often feel a lot of doubt about the accuracy of my heartrate watch, but then I google stats and it is really unlikely that I am the statistical anomaly — these things are accurate and def accurate enough for me at the paces that I run.

    Matt Fitzgerald

    That makes sense. If your intuition is correct, your problem is artificial. In other words, there is no real problem. It’s important that YOU be the boss in your relationship with your watch, not the other way around. There’s a good chance that either your HR zones or your pace zones or both aren’t right. I recommend that you do a Talk Test in your next run. This is the quickest and easiest way to make an appropriate adjustment.

    Intensity Guidelines for 80/20 Running

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