Beyond 200 minutes

In the spring of 2009 I moved beyond pedometers and into an effort to tally 200 minutes of running per week. The target of 200 minutes per week was a result of a previously found relationship between a seven day pedometer average and my seven day total running time. 

A month into the 200 minute program and initial results were promising. The key indicator was a three month weighted average of my seven day total time statistic. The goal was 200 minutes per week, but not a Sunday to Sunday basis. I used a spreadsheet to track my seven day total running time each and every day. A simple seven row sum function handled this. Each day I could calculate how many minutes I needed to maintain 200 minutes of running.

The three month weighted average consisted of a 50% weight on the average of the most recent thirty days worth of the seven day total time, one-third on the prior 30 days, and one sixth on the thirty days before that. Thus the average was a three month span, but with half the weight on the most recent 30 days. This is essentially a modified quarterly average. I refer to the statistics as the three month decay for the seven day time (3md7dt).

By late November 2009, however, a single chart was showing signs of a long, slow downward trend in the 3md7dt for the year to date.
Although the 3md7dt saw improvement in August and September, by late October and November the average was falling again. By the time of the final examinations I was so certain I needed to get "back to the basics" of running that I produced a final of the same name that used numbers from a run. The 3md7dt fell below 100 minutes for the first time in the history of my use of the statistic on the day of a colleague's funeral, 20 December 2009.

Even then I did not know what I meant by back to basics, but by nightfall I knew that I had to get out an run at least an hour a day every possible day. The 200 minute per week/28 minute per day goal had led to a running year of short runs that now felt like junk runs. 

On the 21st of December I started running at least an hour every night. The impact of this change can be seen above on the right side of the chart.

There was one remaining question that I had - was the downward trend in 2009 and the preceding upward trend in 2008 a reflection of pedometers and the shift to the 200 minute per week goal, or was it part of a larger natural cycle in my running? Pedometers appeared to drive my running times up, and the 200 minute goal appeared to lead to a collapse. But what had come before June 2008?

I pulled out all my logs going back to 10 June 1998 when I first started recording the duration of my runs. Although I began running sometime in the fall of 1978, I only occasionally and sporadically noted a particular run or a time. I taught mathematics, physics, and physical science; running was my time away from the worlds of equations and numbers. I ran to see new places, to get out and about wherever I lived. Only in 1998 did I start to track my running duration.

1199 run times later, I had an answer.
The three month decay for the seven day total time begins about three months after the first log entry. The chart came as a surprise to me - I had never looked back at the logs in terms of consistency of running. Besides the overall erratic, inconsistent nature of the statistic, I appear to have run more consistently and racking up more time prior to 2000.
With the move from a home in Lewetik, Nett, to one in town in 2001, my running all but collapsed for the rest of the decade. Taking the 3md7dt to be a form of a quarterly average of my seven day running total, I rarely accumulated more than 100 minutes of running a week. Against a CDC minimum recommendation of 150 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, I was a failure. 
I had fallen below 150 minutes on 07 July 2000 and did not climb back above 150 minutes for a seven day period until 15 July 2007 - some seven full years later. Even that was but a brief spike and I would not again climb above 150 minutes until 18 June 2008, this time remaining above 150 minutes until 13 June 2009. Summer 2009, however, saw some good long runs and some quality hill work despite the low total times.

Yet even the 2009 "collapse" never sank to the "depths" in which my running existed from 2001 to 2008. Clearly the pedometers in late 2007 and into 2008 had a huge positive impact on my weekly total running time. Even the junk runs of 2009 kept my running at a level far above my 2001-2007 numbers.

An hour a night every possible night has caused a reduction in sakau intake. I already had looked at the impact of sakau on running in December 2009, February 2009, and  December 2008. I knew of the immediate sakau impact. Looking over my logs over the past twelve also reminded me of times giardia and other intestinal ailments took me out of action for a few days that then stretched to a many days and even weeks. There is longer term negative impact on vigorous physical exercise for the sakau drinker.

I think there is a real challenge facing any "exercise for health" program in a society with a penchant for Piper methysticum. Although I try to have both running and sakau, clearly there is something almost antithetical about trying to do both.

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