Efficiency (at running)

My relationship with running is complicated. I, like most everyone else I know, hated it in high school. Maybe it was because of the unexplained short cotton shorts schools insisted you wear, but the idea of running 4 laps around an orange, semi-soft circle was a dreaded activity.

Then again, shortly after moving to Portland and joining the “working week”, I fell into a close knit group of friends who were all runners. I was somehow coerced into running a frigid 5K in March and, shortly thereafter, was hooked. These same friends wrote a training plan and I steadily increased my weekly frequency from 1 day a week to 6, and my mileage from a few blocks to 13 miles.

Even though that was a decade ago, I loved the momentum of having a healthy running habit. The momentum of running nearly every day was powerful. For instance, one run might have felt like a battle, which forces you to reflect on how to improve. Or a run might result in a new “Personal Best” and that experience pushing to keep at it. The simple act of lacing up some garrish-looking kicks and monitoring your pace was addicting.

But now I’m almost 40 and have been getting back into running for the past year or so. My frequency is about 3 days a week, and my weekly mileage is about 10 miles. In the past, I wanted to run faster or maybe further but now that I’m older I was just want to be more efficient. I want to run up a hill and not feel like a sack of potatoes, or run down hill and not feel like the Tin Man in desperate need of grease. I want to lace up, do some minimal stretching and feel confident and excited.

So, I’ve started doing a bit of research into how to do this. I’ve searched for V02max and vV02max to try and glean some exercises that would help me. That’s when I read about Veronique Billat. She’s a petite French professor who did some HIIT-inspired studies on increasing these values and eventually landed on the 30/30, 60/60 and 180/180. Here’s how that works:

Veronique Billat’s Intervals

Eventually you should find these to be easy (apparently that takes 4-6 weeks) and then you can switch to 6-12 60/60 intervals, and then no more than 5 180/180 intervals.

Another approach to getting faster, which in turn translates to a more efficient exchange of oxygen consumption, is finishing each run with a “stride”, or a short burst of an accelerated effort. This will increase form, mechanics and cadence. Here’s how that works:


For full discosure, I’ve only done each of these methods once. The former wasn’t as atrocious as I thought it’d be and strides feel like a natural, kid-like way to end your session. Maybe my dream of being efficient isn’t possible a decade later from my Glory Days, or maybe I should be searching for another goal. But at the moment I like the idea of trying these simplistic methods, so I can start feeling like a runner and stop looking like an anthropormorphic pot of noodles.