4 Steps to Getting Through the Grind

Long runs and long workouts tend to scare people. It can feel intimidating looking down the barrel of a double digit run or mulit-mile repeats. We’re distance runners, we love this stuff, but large quantities of miles (especially faster miles) still intimidate us.

Running and that mental component, can’t escape the mind games. Our bodies are apt to surprise us and prove our limit-setting minds wrong…BUT it’s a matter of pushing past the mind crap (doubts/fears/discomfort) before we can be ‘pleasantly’ surprised.
skulls on a track
The best thing about running into new territory, be it your longest run, the most number of long intervals, or the most volume of hard running, they’re all scariest before you do them. Once you’ve conquered the best you’ve proven you’re capable of it and you get a new frame of reference.

Example: You’re afraid of running 10 miles because you’ve never run that far. You then run 10 miles and flash forward a few weeks and 10 miles doesn’t scare you at all. But 14 miles does…sooo, you run 14 miles and the cycle continues.

See how DOING something takes the fear out of it. Let’s up the ante.

You can run 10 miles but now you’re supposed to run them hard. EEK!!! New challenge. Time to fight through it:

4 Steps to Get Through the Grind

1) Relax: the first part is you gotta stop building the run or workout up into epic proportions. Say with me, “it’s just a workout (or race), all I can is my best, so that’s the goal.” Deflate some of that pressure and take the power away from the workout…give yourself the power by realizing that you’re going to give it your all and THAT is all that can be expected. Times are there for guidance and motivation to push…but you can’t let them put so much pressure on you that you implode.
running in circles
2) Start: easy peasy, right? Funny how fear sort of get muted the second the gun sounds and you just START freaking running. It has a way of shutting your brain down for a bit or at least taking it down a few notches.

3) Segments: your runner-brain gets overloaded thinking about the WHOLE run (26.2 miles…holy crap!!!) so you break everything down into smaller segments. Think of it like a meal with a zillion courses if you have to. Get through the plate, the miles, the quarter mile, the repeat.

4) Fight and Lie: running isn’t easy and training is painful. You break it down into itty bitty ‘plates’ but even each bite is still hard. (can I push this metaphor any further?) You need to just cycle through the above three steps on repeat…relax, roll, be confident, be smooth…start, click the watch on that next interval and go, make it until you hear the magic Garmin beep of another mile and keep going…segment, make it 100 meters more, run until you pass that guy, stick like GLUE behind the person in front of you and don’t think how far the finish line is in front of you.

Doing all of the above is really a series of lies. The good lies that you use to ‘trick’ your limit-setting brain into proving itself wrong. Your body CAN keep going, you just have to fight like h*ll long enough to show yourself you can do it.

The cool thing is once you get through the grind you’ve just re-calibrated what’s ‘suuuper scary’. Whatever you just did won’t scare you so much next time…

…but don’t rest too easily, Runners, because that just means later the ante will be upped. That’s okay, because you know the drill. ;)
“The Big Three: Talent vs. Work Ethic vs. Mental Toughness- Which matters the most?”

“Effective Mental Strategy: Race better by out-thinking your brain”

1) What’s the longest you’ve run?
2) What’s your favorite long repeats workout?
3) How do you get through the grind?

A Runner’s Starting Line Confidence

Sometimes a runner’s already won the race before the gun’s even goes off. Questions. Doubts. Insecurities. None of these belong at the starting line; starting line of a race or a workout. A runner needs confidence. NEEDS it… no amount of physical endurance, speed, or fitness can make up for it.

How one steps to the line is what separates the GAMERS from the runners who perform at about the level they do in workouts, and then harriers who self-implode.
runners confidence
Confidence is a tricky one, it’s a mental factor of running and training. Once shaken, a runner’s confidence can be quite difficult to fully restore. Injuries, off days, strings of bad races, all of these plant seeds of doubt. Doubt is like a monster that, once you feed it, it grows exponentially in size. It’s a voracious monster that will eat a runner whole. Step to the starting line enveloped in that ugly monster and you might as well not even wait for the gun to crack. You’re already a dead runner ‘running’.

By the time you step to the starting line, there is NOTHING you can change about the past. Stop any questions of, “Should I have done…?”, “Did I do enough…?”, etc. You can’t do it, so no use worrying about it.

Don’t let that scare you off, if you’ve got some doubts, that’s only natural. And if you’re currently fighting from falling into the pit with that ugly doubting monster, THERE IS still hope for you yet. It works two ways. You CAN restore your confidence. You CAN still step to the line a gamer. It just takes some work and shifting your thinking.

Usually doubts start from one of two places:

1) An Event: Events would be after injuries, poor performances, etc…it starts with a legitimate reason to question if your fitness is off and snowballs. Usually the first race or workouts back after an injury a runner naturally goes in with a little more trepidation. You need some solid performances under you belt to steamroll that confidence train back.
To help BOOST that train, remember that your talent and fitness never goes away. Your first race back may not be your PR, but trust in the process, trust in your dedication, and trust that you’re only going to improve from here.

2) Anxiety and Stress: Anxiety and stress tend to spike around pre-race time. I wrote whole posts HERE and HERE on how to use those nerves to your advantage. If you let too much pressure, internal and external, load you up, it’s like running with a weight vest. To help unload that pressure, usually it takes the runner looking within THEMSELVES and finding that passion and love for running that brought them to the sport. If they can get back the excitement and joy for just running, eventually the times, workouts, and races will get back on track.

Ironically, the LESS you think about races and workouts, typically the better you’ll do.

Remember that NO race is the last race in the world. Yes, it can be a Championship race or a PR you’ve been wanting to pop FOREVER…but know that tomorrow will always come and another race will too.

1) Where do you draw your confidence from before a race?
2) How do you use a race day atmosphere to BOOST your performance compared to regular workouts?
3) Have you ever had a time when your confidence was shaken, how did you get it back?

One of the Biggest Culprits of Lost Time in a Race or Workout? A wandering mind…here’s how to catch it.

If I weren’t attached to my runner legs I’m pretty sure I’d lose them. I take the saying, “I’m the worst with directions” to an entirely new level…I make blondes look like GPS tracking whizzes I’m sure. Today I passed the right turn I should have taken, the one that is less thank 2 miles away from my home and that I’ve taken dozens of times and wound up a tad lost or turned around.

fast runner

Step to the line a gamer and STAY that way during the actual race too. ;)

It got me thinking though, do you know what one of the biggest culprits for lost time in races or when running workouts is? The case of the lost mind. It happens to all of us no matter how awesome you are with directions and it happens on the track all the time even though I’ll guarantee all of those runners know to turn left and keep running straight ahead.

What does a case of lost head look and feel like?

* Wandering Mind: You’re in the middle of your workout or race, say miles 2-5 of a 10k…the adrenaline and excitement of the first mile has worn off, you’re not quite close enough to the finish to ‘taste it’ and you’re stuck in the middle. Here is where your mind can JUMP on the opportunity to shut down, meander away from you and get lost. Your thoughts drift to random things, maybe even blank nothingness, but wherever it is it certainly isn’t at the task at hand. If you’re noticing that someone is wearing your favorite shirt on the sidelines and ignoring the fact that your form has turned to the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’ve lost your mind.

* This hurts, I want an ‘out’: Naturally we all think of this but we have to ‘tame’ our mind to forget this and distract it; usually we focus on what we can control (breathing, form, stride, etc.) or look at the person ahead of us to distract ourselves from the hurt. If you get stuck in the endless loop of: 1) Why am I doing this? 2) I’m not even half-way there yet, how will I ever make it? 3) Today’s just not my day, I’ll just give up, who cares? You’re focusing TOO much on the pain and trying to come up with an ‘out’ for yourself. Be honest here, are you looking for an excuse or do you actually have a legitimate reason to stop?
man running
Catch it! The sooner you catch your brain and wrestle it back from La-la-la Land the less time you’ve lost from your race and your workout. But if you wait to long, by the time you check-back in you could have only 100 meters left in the race, and really who can’t run fast for the last 100 meters? By that point you could have needlessly lost a PR or the place you hoped to run.

What SHOULD you be thinking during a race or workout?

* How is my form? Do a form-check.
* How is my breathing? Breathe from your deep belly, not shallowly from your chests, and keep it controlled and smooth.
* Where am I going? Look straight ahead, if it’s on the roads look for the tangents to run, actively be seeking and looking to the horizon. It may sound ‘dumb’ but never loose sight of where you want to go. This go tri-fold if you’re climbing a hill…look high to the crest and lock your eyes on that point.
* Who is ahead of me? Key in on who is in front of you, work on ‘picking people off’ or not letting a gap open up between you and the competition.

Zoning out and letting your mind wander are two different things. Zoning out is when you’re focused on one of the ‘good distractions’ just mentioned, you’re still present in the moment and ‘working’ the race.

Getting lost in life is annoying and a wast of time…getting lost during a race or workout is also a waste of time but you’re also jyping yourself. You’re there, the course is marked, don’t visit La-la-la Land. ;)

1) A wandering mind on an easy run isn’t necessarily a bad thing, here is where randomness helps break up the repetition and can work as a great way to stay consistent and GET the run in. Does your mind tend to wander a lot on easy runs?

2) How do you keep yourself from checking-out during a race or hard workout? Do you have a trick to catch yourself and pull your mind back to present?
I usually do a form check.

3) To battle the ‘cop-out’ and actively look for an excuse to toss in the towel for the day, how do you handle that?
I assess if I actually have an injury that would warrant a stop; if not then I remind myself how I’d feel in a few hours if I quit…probably not too happy with myself.

4) Anyone racing tomorrow? I know it’s been a big weekend for races, some have happened other are tomorrow! Good luck to those yet to race and if you already have, brag on yourself. ;)

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Track Your Rest – What’s the ‘Right’ Way to Recover Between Intervals

In training, when you’re running hard intervals the emphasis is naturally on the hard sessions. You want to hit the splits and push yourself all the way through to the end. True, these hard sessions are what are going to tear down the muscles the most so that they can repair themselves and come back stronger…get you fitter and in the end faster.

track runner

How do you 'rest'?

But what does your recovery look like between these intervals? Do you cross the line and immediately come to a stand-still, a statue frozen in place relishing every second before you have to start the next one? Do you pace around a bit to collect yourself? Do you keep running, or jogging?

While the focus should still be heavily placed on the hard parts of your interval sessions taking a look at your recovery time can influence the gains you reap from the workout overall. Furthermore, shifting and adjusting the ‘rest’ phases of your workout can change both the kind of benefits you’ll be able to get and actually to the degree of which you are able to boost your fitness.

Let’s talk rest:

* A general rule of thumb is that the FASTER you’re trying to hit those intervals the MORE rest you should allow yourself. Fast-twitch muscle fibers can only fire for a short period of time, but they fire all-out and thus need more recovery before being fired again than your endurance-based, slow-twitch muscle fibers. If your aim for the day is to improve your base speed, say you’re doing 200 repeats, give yourself enough recovery so that you can really hit those 200′s and make them fast, that was the aim after all, right? Take a really slow 200 jog between each hard 200, don’t rush the recovery here.

* Active rest vs. standing. Here is where people may have slightly different opinions, but mine is that it’s better to keep moving, even if it’s only slow jogging, between each interval. Stopping dead and standing before jumping into another interval of hard running seems akin to pulling the emergency break and then peeling out; that next hard session is a shock to those ‘cold’ muscles. I’m of the school of thought that active rest, actually jogging recovery, is better for you.

tired runner

I wouldn't suggest you take your rest this way. ;)

* Define your workout. What is your goal for the workout? If it’s speed then refer above for how to attack your recovery. The LESS recovery you give yourself between intervals the MORE heavily your workout is going to stress, and hopefully improve, your cardiovasular system and endurance. Your endurance system actually needs less time to recover, (Trust me, even though you may not want to go into the next hard one, your body may be…hehe.) and the more you whittle your recovery down the closer you’re mimicking an actual race. We don’t get any rest there, do we? An example here would be that for 800 repeats, say 6-10 rep’s, I usually would suggest a 400 jog. A 400 recovery lap would also be suggested if you’re doing 4-6 x 1600 meters.

* Adjust your active recovery. How fast or slow are you taking that recovery? Distance runners can be tempted to actually run our recovery even a hair too fast thinking it makes them tougher. That can be true to a degree, but not so much so that you’re never allowing your body to recover between intervals and sacrificing those hard rep’s. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things ratchet it back and don’t feel ‘guilty’ about truly jogging slow, a red flag to go slower on your recovery is if your hard interval times start to drop and fall off pace.

* Playing around with the recovery time. As explained above, cutting down the time of your rest turns it more into an endurance workout and entering the realm of distance runners. The more experienced runners have been known to take incredibly short rests, even run the rest rather quickly, and still hammer the workout. Remember though, that you should build up to that level and make sure you can handle it. An obvious way to gauge that is if you’re still hitting the splits your want; if you are, then go ahead and test yourself to see if you can handle less rest. As you are able to progress doing that you’ll be making the workout harder and should be seeing the the results with more gains in fitness. There’s actually a really great article on Running Times with more on this topic HERE.

Are you sick of me talking about all this rest? Well good, it’s time for your next interval…GO! ;)

1) What does your rest between hard intervals look like? Active recovery jog, stand-still, pace around, etc.

2) How do you adjust or ‘prescribe’ your recovery for a given workout?

3) If you coach, how do you adjust the rest for your athletes or what do your recommend?

4) Have you even thought that much about your rest between intervals? If not, you should…hehe.

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Farleks Aren’t Just For Workouts – Surging in Races to Break Your Competition

Fartleking. The term probably calls to mind particular workouts, but fartleking isn’t something you do just in workouts. If you watched the US Olympic Marathon Trials and took a look at the splits the women were running (or watched any of the post-race interviews) you’d see that their miles were kind of all over the place. They opened up over 6 for the first mile, then ping-ponged around the mid-5′s throughout; they were farleking.
running race
Why is there farleking in a race? Well, a race can be run for two reasons: to get a fast time or go for the win. The latter is a strategic race and typically seen in the big time races where titles and top three finishing slots are more important than the eventual time. Fartleking, or throwing surges in, is one tactic to break your competition.

Getting back to last weekend’s marathon, Amy Hastings surged to the lead after mile 18 because she knew that it was down to four runners and if she dropped the pace she could potentially drop one of the women, or at least develop a gap. Mentally, getting a gap on your competition can sometimes be enough to beat them before the finish line. Getting gapped or being stuck in ‘no man’s land’ is difficult and can sometimes be the nail in the coffin for a racer.

Hastings wasn’t able to gap the other women because they responded and were just stronger on that day; but that doesn’t mean that throwing surges in late in the race isn’t a smart strategy. Another reason is because fartleking a race is not the ‘easy’ way to get a fast time and it’s tough on the body. Your body runs best (and your PR’s will usually come from) running even paces; when you drastically swing from a fast pace to a markedly slower one your body never is able to get into a real rhythm. If a runner isn’t used to fartleking, it’s even harder for them to keep pace or hang on; the advantage goes to the one putting in the surges.

The lesson? If you’re able to train your body to fartlek, or surge, in a race and hold it together you can use it to your advantage to try and break your competition.

How? Do it in practice; get yourself used to varied paces. There are TONS of different ways to fartlek outside of the traditional one minute hard/one minute easy formula.

Try this – Finish Fast 800′s Workout:

* Warm-up
* 6-8 x 800 meters – Run the intervals comfortably hard through 600 meters but then for the last 200 REALLY pick it up and hammer to the end
* 400 meter easy recovery jog between each one and finish with a cool-down

Another Variation – Slow/Fast 800′s:

* Warm-up
* 6-8 x 800 meters – But alternate the pace of each 400 – The first 400 done at what you’d do a tempo run at or just slightly slower, the second one done at about 3k pace
* 400 meter recovery between and cool-down

*** To make this one more advanced do the 800′s continuous for 4 miles, starting with the ‘slow’ 400; the focus is to really pop those hard 400′s but still keep the’slow’ 400′s faster than an easy/medium effort…even the ‘slow’ 400′s start to get tough by the end!
track runners
Finally, Greg McMillan did a great artlcie for Running Times on the ‘Move and Match’ kind of fartlek workout. Here is an example of having a team or training partner to help add unpredictability to a workout, simulating what would happen in a race.

The bottom line is breaking your competition is all a part of racing, one way to do that is to throw in a surge, or multiple surges. You do it right and you could put a gap on them, break them mentally, or at least tire them out. If you’re used to surging you’ll be better able to handle it and keep the race in your control.

1) Do you do farlek workouts?

2) Do you do farleks or surging in races?

3) Have you tried varying the pace of standard interval workouts like in the examples above? Getting used to finishing an interval even faster is a good habit to keep in mind.

4) What do you tend to think about during your hard workouts?
I try to remember to stay relaxed, drop my arms, and stay smooth. If I’m running with someone I like to be right behind them and I just stare right at their back and try not to let any distance get between us.

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My Podiatrist is Pinched for Training Time: Staying Race Ready With Less Time

“So, I was talking to my podiatrist this afternoon.” No, this isn’t the intro to some corny joke, we’re at a runner’s blog so naturally this sentence should roll off the tongue and everyone should nod knowingly because they were doing the exact same thing a few days ago.
girl runner
Back to what I was saying, I was seeing my podiatrist and we got to chatting afterwards. He’s not so much a runner because of ankle issues but is really into cycling. This year he’s going to take part in an especially grueling bike race, it’s 140 miles and a killer climb…he mentioned the exact incline but I’m fuzzy on the number, sorry.

Now the man is a doctor and has two young children too, so he was a little nervous over whether he’d have enough time to actually put in the amount of training necessary. Typically you need to ride the bike longer than you do running (it’s about a 3:1 ratio of bike miles to running miles) and that could mean hours and hours dedicated to a long ride. Runners can relate to the multi-hour long runs too.

I told him not to worry too much and he also mentioned that he’d read that one of the top cyclists is bucking the traditional training method focused on volume and more on shorter, intense rides. I piped in and told him, “Look, if you’ve only got an hour to train, do intervals, jack your heart rate up there. You can do it, you’ve just got to make those shorter rides count.”

The good news is that he’s already built himself a strong base, he’s got years of cardiovascular fitness to draw upon so from here it’s more a matter of maintaining that. Maintaining your fitness is far easier than building, and this holds true to running.

You’d be surprised at how well you can keep that endurance so long as you are still consistent and get in your regular, weekly long run. From there, if you’re limited on time then pick two days and pound the intervals. The other days of the week still put in the steady cardio but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an epic amount; realistically most of those days are going to just be recovering from the last hard workout anyways. You could even split the workout time up into two shorter sessions; a ride/run in the morning and then at night.

foot cartoon

Hmm, I wish there was some kind of sale going on at his office today...nope.

The key thing is keeping your heart rate elevated in the correct level. Even on those recovery days you’re going to still be working, and not totally plodding along. Then when it comes to the hard days, do a short warm-up and remember to cool-down but for those intervals really get after it. Aim to feel like you’re working on a level 8 or 9 (scale of 1 to 10, 10 being all out)…we know what it feels like to work hard.

Play around with the length of hard intervals and the recovery time…do a day more endurance based with longer intervals (sets of 800′s, milers…or do 3 minutes or 10 minutes going hard) and the second day focus more on speed with shorter, faster bouts. This could be 200′s, 400′s, or alternating 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy.

So long as you are CONSISTENT, keep at least one longer run, and get that spike in heart rate you’ve got the staples. Sure, if you’ve got extra time to devote to doing more miles or biking, then by all means go for it…though you want to be smart there and not over-train yourself. In the end training is really personal to the individual and it’s more a matter of finding what works best for you and makes you feel ready come race day.

1) How do you go about coming up with your training? Do you have a coach or do you make your own program?

2) What are some of your staple workouts? Do you prefer the longer intervals or shorter?

3) Are you on a first name basis with your podiatrist? Not that you necessarily want to be, I mean we tend to seek them out with something is wrong!

4) Speaking of corny jokes, do you have one to share this fine Tuesday??
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Intervals and Hard Workouts…Don’t Avoid Them, Lie to Yourself and You’ll Love Them

Interval workouts. Speedwork. Running hard. Pushing until your legs are on fire and your lungs burn. Sounds like so much fun, right?!

I’ve said before that there is a difference between running and training. Hard workouts are the difference. They will make you faster, get you on the road to PR’s and the separate the runnerchicks and runnerdudes from the runnerbeasts…beasts being a good thing. You see, in a sick sort of way we crave that burn of lactic acid and pushing ourselves. I think it’s mainly because of the feeling you get afterwards…the feeling of accomplishment. And ya, the better times or PR’s are certainly perks. :)
strong girl
Intervals are just as much a test of the mind as the body. Sometimes even MORE a test of the mind, a battle of the wills, a battle within yourself. Personally, sometimes the HARDEST part of hard workouts are just getting starting, putting the first one down.

Yesterday I was on the precept of doing some intervals, I was watching the minutes count down constituting the end of my warm-up and getting those little butterfly nerves of getting started, “Here we go…let the good times roll.”

I’ve found there are a few tricks on making bringing your best to a workout or at least gutting it out if it’s not your best day or you just are feeling ‘meh.’ One of the biggest: LYING TO YOURSELF.

You read that right. I was doing 10x 3 minutes hard/2 minutes recovery and I took each one as they came. I sort of broke them into sets of two (ten minutes total) and just thought, “What is ten minutes, nothing.” This worked and when I hit six I knew I was over halfway done.

girl runner

Now, the middle intervals are usually even tricker; you’re feeling tired, not so fresh like the first ones, but the end is not yet feeling in sight. The tendency to let those one lag a bit is tempting and you catch yourself wondering if you’re really going to be able to do ALL of them. But you can…keep lying to yourself. Also, ignore the part in your brain convincing you that those recovery minutes are WAY shorter than the hard ones, something must be off with the watch. ;)

So 7 and 8 I took them one at a time, and by the end promised that they were the last one. LIE.

9 you tell yourself it’s just about the homestretch…don’t let yourself mentally hold back or try to ‘save some for the last one’ because the last one usually takes care of itself.

And then the last one comes, you try to finish strong because the most successful workouts end working off of negative splits.

Now, this is another little LIE I love to torture myself with (I know, we runners are an off breed) I made myself do one more. Why?


When you think you can’t do anything else, you usually can. So number 11…let’s just think of it like our dessert. :)

1) What lies do you tell yourself during a hard workout?

2) Where do you stand on intervals, do you like the shorter/faster ones or the longer/endurance-based ones?
Need I even answer?

3) How is your week starting off, and what is on tap for you?
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Cross-training — Longer Intervals and Endurance Based Workout

Cross-training. I have a love/hate relationship with it. The thing is, I know all of the benefits: cardio without the impact, a safe way to supplement ‘miles’, staying in shape during an injury…ahhh, that last one. See, that is where the hate part comes in.

chained animals

I just feel a little chained down when cross-training...but that's not fair to hate on the machine...haha!

To be fair, it is really just mischanneled anger that gets sloughed off on cross-training…sorry, x-training. Usually whenever I’m on the elliptical, the bike, the crazy scary gauntlet-style stair climber, aqua-jogging, etc., it’s because I’m forced into it. My body is on the machine but my mind keeps drifting to where I want to be…RUNNING!

But there are plenty of other reasons to be on that machine and many of them have nothing to do with injuries. You can be logging miles but still getting a workout done on the elliptical, they can go hand and hand; it’s just that even when I’m not injured I’d still rather be running. Hehe, oh me and my little running affliction.

All that said; if you are going to use that cross-training to its full potential (as in it’s supposed to be a hard workout day, not just getting in some steady cardio) you can do it a few ways. A big one is with intervals.

Intervals can kick your butt on the track/roads and they can do the same anywhere else…don’t believe me check back midway though a session and see if you change your answer. Intervals also help beat the boredom that can come with a stationary machine; though I will warn you that those recovery minutes seem to miraculously fly by much faster than the hard one…funny how that works!

roller blader girl

Heck, you could even go rollerblading for your cross-training!

I’ve done a few cross-training interval workouts on the Workouts Tab, and here is another. This one is more strength/endurance based; you can do it on any machine, even aqua-jogging, just put in the effort. (My choice would be the elliptical but that’s just me!)

* 10-15 minute warm-up
* 5 minutes hard
— you want to be working the whole time, those middle minutes the mind can drift; to refocus and keep yourself honest I usually peek at the RPM’s of the machine and see how I’m doing, if it starts lagging I try and pick it back up. Get competitive with yourself and see how high you can get them and sustain it there.
* 2 minutes recovery – just keep moving, allow yourself to recover
* 5 mintues hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
* 2 minutes recovery
* 5 minutes hard
— last long, hard one, so push through!
* 2 minutes recovery
* 2 minutes hard
— this one is shorter so try and get moving a little faster; though it’s at the end and you’re tired…but just remember you’re ALMOST done!
* cool-down

***** if you are training for a long event you can make this one a little more endurance-based with this: instead of the standard 15 minute warm-up you will make yours 45 minutes but break it up into 3×15 minute chunks. The first 15 minutes will just be your easy warm-up, the next 15 minutes pick it up each 5 minutes until you’re going harder than ‘easy’ and just below a ‘moderate’ level, for the last 15 minutes keep picking it up each 5 minutes until the last bit of time you are going at about a threshold pace. From here, take 3-5 minutes to regroup and then go into the interval workout.

That’s it for now, folks! I hope your week is going along well and remember that cross-training is your friend. Even though it may drudge up ghosts of injuries past, it’s not fair that we dump all that hate on it…that said, it’s still okay to begrudge it just a little…I mean running is still the best. :)

1) Do you prefer cross-training to music or watching TV?
I’d say for just steady cardio probably TV, but music if I’m doing a harder workout.

2) What’s your cross-training of choice?

3) How do you supplement or use cross-training in your workout line-up?

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When Garmins Turn into Gremlins and a Month of Fartleking Workouts to Refresh You Mentally

Happy Saturfarts to you all!! If anyone has raced, I expect some bragging on your fine selves below pahleeez! :)

My workout was…surprise…9.5 miles on the treadmill to the distraction of Freaks and Geeks on the tube, followed by core and abs today. I know, I really am such a crazy person living on the edge and you never know what my workouts will be. ;) Again, do as I say, not as I do, I know I should mix it up more.

So today I think I want to address a comment that was left HERE by the very fine Vanessa at The Gourmet Runner. It started when I read on her blog about a tempo run she had done. Basically she was saying how she was frustrated about not hitting the exact splits and that during her run she was constantly obsessing about what her pace might be, checking the Garmin, and that it was stressing her out.


Not a Gremlin but I wouldn't want to piss this guy off...

You can read my little comment I left her HERE if you like but I’ll sum it up, and I actually touched on this exact same thing in my own post HERE about things that could derail your race plan. Basically it’s this, in today’s age sometimes runners get sucked into information overload; I’ve seen people out there running at it looks like they’re hooked up to some kind of life support system between the iPods, watches, GPS trackers, Garmins, cell phones…etc. (Don’t get me started on the people fully decked out with fuel belts and three water bottles for a four miler…lol.)

Ummm, am I still the only person who (when I do run outside and am not being a weenie on the treadmill….haha) only wears a straight up watch? I don’t even own a Garmin or anything like that. Now, I’m just as obsessive about times and exact miles, trust me you can ask anyone who’s run with me, so I’m not saying I’m perfect about it and part of the reason I do like the treadmill is because I guess it has all of that info built in.

But, I digress, the point is that Vanessa’s workout was a 4 mile tempo at 9 min pace. She actually finished up the workout underpace but was frustrated because it was not ‘exactly’ what it should be and during the whole thing she was speeding up/slowing down depending on what the GARMIN was telling her. So here is a workout where she should leave feeling happy she’s actually fitter than she thought but she’s unhappy and the whole workout wasn’t even enjoyable because of the Garmin induced stresslevel. Can I call it a Gremlin at this point?

Workouts aren’t exactly supposed to be enjoyable, but the lactic acid will take care of that for you, so there is no need to make it harder on yourself. A coach once told their athlete (actually the athlete was my mom…lol.), “Don’t think. That’s my job, I’ll do it for you.” When you’re running, shut the brain off as best you can, zone out, and work on running hard.

Sure, we want to hit splits and times, we don’t want to loaf and we do need to check-in with the clock every now and again so we don’t let the lactic acid beast swallow us and if we are slowing down we need to know and try to pick up the pace. BUT you need to tread a fine line between being aware of the clock and not letting it stress you out to the point where it’s working against you. Running is so mental that if you’re obsessed too much you’ll be the one doing your undoing. (Reread that sentence, I’m convincing myself it does in fact make sense. :)  )

Think about running for FEEL too, you want to get to the point where you know what certain paces feel like. As you’re going along you want to stay relaxed, focus on keeping proper form, expending as little unnecessary energy as possible (don’t clench your fists or jaw, make sure your shoulders aren’t up to your chin), looking ahead, your breathing…and talking yourself through to the end.

Screw the Garmin, Vanessa, and run hard. Run for feel, and I’m pretty sure you’ll wind up running faster AND you’ll feel much better doing it.

In fact, if you want to read my little reply comment to her you can, and I told her that maybe doing some workouts that aren’t so ‘rigid’ for a period will give her mind a break too. Fartleks are perfect for this, you don’t know the exact distance, you don’t know the exact pace, you just run HARD for the sake of running hard and you’ll get in a great workout.

Try this: for the first week do a fartlek workout with sets of 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy. In Vanessa’s case I’d suggest that since her tempo run was about 36 minutes, she should aim for 18 repeats, so that would be 18 minutes of hard running. Later in the week she should run an un-Garmin tempo run for 36 minutes; take only the watch, run hard, she might come in running a little more than 4 miles, maybe a little less…who knows…live on the edge. (PS-it kinda goes without saying, but make sure and do a warm-up and cool-down with each hard workout…haha!)

The following week, for the fartleks do sets of 2 minutes hard and 2 minutes easy. This time that would be 9 sets total for Vanessa. Later in the week try the un-Garmin tempo but make it a little longer and go for 45 minutes. (Anyone can do this, to adjust it for your own pace pick a time that would be about 5 miles for yourself.)

Third week she should do 6 sets of 3 minutes hard and 3 minutes easy. Instead of the tempo for her second workout late in the week she should do this: 2 x 16 minutes hard (she’ll be going faster so this should be around 2 miles) with 3 minute recovery jog between each, then finish with 4 x 1 minute hard/easy. The goal is to finish with something faster to get those legs mooooving.

Finally, the last week will be a pyramid style farlek:

1 min hard/easy

2 min hard/easy

3 min hard/easy

Repeat 2 more times.

Later in the week she’ll come back with a tempo run and we’ll let her use the Garmin but ONLY to see what her splits end up being. The rules are these: she can only look at the Garmin at the END of each mile to see the split and not between. She can’t think about it during the tempo run and try to run like it isn’t even there…just run hard. Run the freaking tempo. When she’s done, look over those splits and I’m pretty sure she’ll have run faster, but regardless, be happy with a solid, hard effort. :)

chained animals

Don't let the Garmin turn into your ball and chain; use it as a training tool alone.

Wow, this turned out to be an EPIC post, so I hope there might still be a few weary eyes reading this. Sometimes taking a mental break from really regimented workouts is necessary and that’s why no one does straight up track workouts all year round, it’s just too easy to make it too stressful. So, perhaps a few others might do well to ditch their Garmins and have a little farleking fun. ;)

1) What do you run with? A watch, a Garmin, iPod, or any other techie thing?

2) What’s your favorite type of workout?I know I’ve asked this before, sorry, but my answer is still going to be a tempo run! :)

3) What are your fun weekend plans?

4) Not really a question, but sorry Vanessa for the way overload of unsolicited advice and don’t feel any pressure to actually do any of it…haha! But, if you happen to, do feel free to let me know how it goes. :)
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The Everest Mile and Track/Cross-Training Intervals II

I remember the day when I first ran an entire mile. An. Entire. Mile. I thought I was the shiznit, the boomdiggity. I mapped out a plan for myself, I thought that if I ran a mile every single day I could be one of the fastest people in the world. I remembered learning in grammar school math 101 that one mile was 5,280 feet, so what did i do? I busted out a ruler and set to measuring a circuit I could run inside my house. (I guess I couldn’t just find a tape measurer?) I figured out that if I ran around the dining room table and then looped around the perimeter of the living room it would only take me something like a billions laps to a mile. I told myself I should just do that every single night and soon I’d be setting world records.

Clearly I was idiotic, living inside a little fantasy world bubble, and going to be really dizzy. This little confession is made all the worse because it’s not like I hadn’t grown up seeing my parents run. How did it not dawn on me that every day my mom was gone for an hour plus, did I think she was running only one mile and then shooting the sh** the rest of the time?

The only point of my little moronic previous past story is that everything is relative. Then I though a whole mile was a great feat of strength (bust out the Festivus pole!) and now flash-forward and there are days I feel lazy for only putting in an hour and doing 8 miles. Funny how that works.

But it’s really easy to get sucked in. Running, and other things too, has a kind of snowball effect. One day you’re one cloud nine for finished a 5k the next you’d count that as a warm-up. One day you’re watching Two and a Half Men, the next you’re running around half naked dodging Sheen sh**. The snowball effect.

Personally, Im one speed Chock and like me the longer stuff. That slow build of pain is much better than the full on bodyslam of lactic acid straight from the get-go in my book. Well, that and probably in my entire body I’ve got about one fast twitch muscle fiber total.

Still, it’s always good to get back to your roots and not lose touch with those shorter distances. Even if you’re a marathon runner it’s good to toss yourself into a shorter 5k or *gasp* even a mile every now and again. The same goes with training, and I’m as guilty as anyone for avoiding short speed stuff like it’s the devil. But often times it’s what we hate the most that is the best for us, right?! hehe.

Anyways, this workout has the best of both worlds if you please. Awhile ago I did a post on how boring cross-training can get and talked about a pyramid interval workout. Here’s another one and I’ll map it out both to be done as a running workout on on the elliptical/bike/swim/your choice of cross-training here.

Running Style- 800/300′s

*Start with a warm-up

*800 meters hard (This is a half-mile for anyone who has yet to figure out that whole metric thing; two lappers for the track school flunkies.)

*400 meter recovery (take a slow lap to regroup)

*300 meter sprint (3/4 of the track people. I’m sure you know this but just to be extra sure…lol) *400 meter recovery jog

*Repeat. Do a total of 4-7 sets. 4 if you’re on the shorter race end of the spectrum and 7 if you’re planning on going longer. The 800′s should be at or a little faster than your 5k race pace but you want those 300′s to be as fast as you can get them. Working on your base speed will make those 800′s feel comparatively much ‘easier’ or ‘slower.’

*Finish with a good cool-down and

NOTE: if you don’t have access to a track, you can do them on a treadmill (Though those 300′s might put that baby thorough a decent pounding! A 300 would be 0.18 miles if you go that route. But you can also take it to the streets and if you know about your pace just go for time.)

Cross-training version- 3 minutes/1 minute

*Warm-up 10-15 minutes easy

*3 minutes hard interval- try and ramp-up the resistance a notch or two as well and work on getting that heart rate up; you want it to be hard but controlled, feeling like an 800 meter effort
*2 minutes easy pedaling- lower the resistance a couple notches and keep moving but allow yourself to recover

*1 minute power interval- ramp the resistance back up and really motor that minute; should feel like a sprint

*2 minutes easy pedaling

*Repeat 4-7 times. Finish with a cool-down.

That’s all she wrote for today folks! But think back to when you thought one whole mile was the equivalent to climbing Mount Everest and look to where you are today. It’s usually pretty funny. I remember the day I came home from my mile effort (at that point I’d taken my mile outside and did a loop around the block, I meant laps in the house, what was I thinking?!) and was talking to my mom. She asked me how far I went, I told her and then I asked her how far she had run that morning. Her answer was a nice slap or reality. That and later on that summer the Oly Trials were in Sacto, CA and being that I lived there I was able to beg my way to a seat for one of the days. It was inspiring and helped put that whole mile=a marathon thing in perspective….hehe. Hey, at least I wasn’t as bad as the dude sitting next to me, he turned and asked, “So one lap around this track thing, that’s like a mile right?”

1) Do you remember the first time you were able to run a full mile and thought you were the boomdiggity?

2) How long until the snowball effect took you over and what do you think a ‘shorter’ run is for you today?

3) Favorite running, workout, or pump-up song?

Has been and will forever be The Distance by Cake.

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