Embracing Speedwork: Why running faster is mental AND physical, how to shift your thinking to run faster

So one very hot singer has crooned, “Speed kills…” Well any runner can tell you that one! It’s a little two-fold though, speed kills your opponent and if you consider the lactic acid factor it probably feels like you’re killing yourself too! ;) Remember THIS cartoon??

It’s true, us distance runners, of the slow-twitch muscle fiber realm would most likely opt for a 10 mile tempo than sets of 800′s or 200′s. Distance logic right there.
runner on track
The thing is though, while you can’t inject your distance running legs with fast-twitch muscle fibers you CAN hone the ones you’ve got and it’s quite remarkable how malleable that muscle make-up can be with proper training. But here’s the thing, for long distance runners, GETTING FASTER takes both a physical and mental component.


I’ve written a few articles on the specific physical training tips to run faster. Distance runners SHOULD embrace those horrid 200 repeats, choke down those shorter intervals because speed translates up. You need to reverse ‘common’ distance logic and build from the bottom (aka shorter distances) up.

The faster you can sprint, the faster you can comfortably hold a ‘slower’ pace and longer. That reads as faster 5k’s, 10k’s, and marathons.

Do those shorter intervals, add some hill sprints, anything that involves explosive power. That’s the muscle-building and training factor.


Here’s the thing, if you’re like me you HATE that short running stuff because you ‘feel’ like you suck at it. You feel out of your element and get stressed more for the short stuff because it feels awkward, doesn’t come naturally, and thus gets a little frustrating.

ALL those thoughts create is PHYSICALLY impossible to run your best sprints. Crazy how the MIND can once again stop you from being the best runner you can be. The thoughts of feeling ‘out of your element’ create a foundation for stress and rather than running RELAXED as you should, you’re running tense. Ironically the more you ‘try’ to run faster, the slower you’ll be. True fact.

Learning and reminding yourself to run relaxed is an ongoing process. Here are some mental thoughts that can help you stay relaxed and allow your body to run faster:

* Arms: Laws of running physics (?? lol) hold that your legs can only move as fast as your arms. I like this because rather than think about your legs (let’s be honest they’re hurting like mad, let’s NOT think about them at all to block out that pain!) I think of moving my arms front-to-back as quickly as possible. The legs will follow.
turn left on the track
* Eff It: This is the mentality I’ve adopted during short intervals, but let me explain. I KNOW ‘trying’ to run faster will shoot me in the foot, so I force my type-A brain to do the opposite. I remind myself, “Don’t worry about the times, I know speed isn’t my strong point, but it will only improve if I work on it. So eff it, relax, you can’t FORCE anything so just roll with it.” Basically you have to embrace the ‘awkward feeling’, loosen up, and just ‘have fun’ with it. Also, stop telling yourself that you suck at the shorter intervals! ;)

* Effort: Tying to my tip above, ultimately running and training comes back to perceived effort. The watch and numbers only tell part of the story, so another thing I tell myself is, “Just run hard.” Run faster and even if you don’t look at your watch (this can help runners if they have built themselves a little speed phobia) if you’re running HARDER and FASTER you’ll get the rewards.

Bottom line here: even distance runners NEED speedwork if they want to run their longer races faster. Embrace the nasty shorter intervals, adopt the ‘eff it attitude’ and stop FORCING it. Relax the heck up and in true ironic distance logic you’ll run faster when you’re ‘trying’ less. ;)

1) Speedwork, love it or hate it?
2) When is the last time you did speedwork?
3) What’s something you tell yourself to make sure you’re running relaxed?

Farting is NOT a Crime: Runners Freeing Ourselves of ‘Strict’ Social Etiquette Standards

Running can put you in some awkward situations. At a certain point all runners realize that control over our bodily functions can only go so far. Whomever happens to cross our paths at just the wrong time…well, that’s on them. Maybe a hazard of living within a 10 mile (maybe 20+ mile) radius of a runner. ;)

running cartoon cropdusting

The thing is, be a runner long enough and we tend to have a warped perspective on just what IS socially awkward…and how awkward it rates…the lines get blurred. Farts, spitting, talk of all that, it become just commonplace. Business as usual. Ducking into a bush to avoid an ‘in your shorts’ disaster…there’s not shame in it.

Runners united, at least WE can laugh at ourselves…the rest of the ‘normal’ world and their standards of social etiquette be da**ed! ;)

1) What’s another hazard of living within a 20 mile radius of a runner?
2) What’s been a scenario where you did get embarrassed or at least felt bad for some ‘normal person’ bystander you happened on while running?
3) Who’s racing this weekend? What are all you other runners doing??
Running…a’duh! ;)

4 Crazy Important Stretches for Runners: Hamstrings, hips, glutes, and psoas

For once my running cartoons will be used and I’m deathly serious. Stretching, Runners, is no joke. I used to HATE stretching, I’d do it begrudgingly, but ever since my little revelation in Boulder I’ve pulled a total 180.

Now it’s good too because I don’t have a little bit of guilt writing about and telling runners just how crucial stretching is. I’m practicing what I preach, yo.

Areas that rank most common across the board for running injuries and the areas that runners are notoriously tight in are: the hamstrings, glutes, hips and groin region, and the psoas. I took my cartoons and put together a quick stretching routine that you REALLY should be doing as much as possible. Like daily…I’m doing them daily, so now I can say, fully absolved of any lingering guilt, that you should do the same. ;)
[Click to enlarge so you can read text...but please respect a starving artist's work, you can always purchase prints, contact: cait@caitchock.com]
4 important stretches for runners
More posts on flexibility HERE
And a post on WHY flexibility will make you faster HERE

1) How often do you stretch? Be honest. ;)
2) What’s one of your tightest areas?
Hamstrings and adductors.
3) What’s something you kinda feel a bit of guilt about when you tell others to do it because you don’t always follow that advice yourself?

No Sissies on the Track

Please clear the track, we’ve got some runners coming through, and they’re taking care of business!!
no sissies on the track

Running is not a sport for the excuse-makers of the world. It takes lots of motivation and dedication to improve, but the glorious thing about that is the power to get better is RIGHT there, in your hands (eeerr…feet?), and within your control.

In a sport where work ethic is more important than your height, shoe size, or inborn talent, the mentally tough, refuse-to-give up runners are the ones who come out on top. And after all, it’s watching those kind of runners overcome obstacles and odds that in turn inspires US to follow our own goals. Dream bigger than our running shoes and put in the work.

*Cue the African Safari Music* “It’s the circle of runner-life.” *Bamboo lifts your racing shoes to the heavens above.*

Running is also a state of mind. It’s mental. I’ve had people call me a jogger, and I joke about being heinously offended. Then I’ve had people be offended that I’m offended about the j-word. Like I’m a runner ‘snob’ or sometimes people feel judged saying, “I’m not a runner, I’m not fast enough to be a runner.”

In both of those instances, my reply is the same:
* The difference between a runner and a jogger ISN’T pace, mileage, or numbers related.
* Earning ‘runner’ status is in the mind, the spirit, the dedication.

You’re a runner if you LOVE it.
You’re a jogger if you feel ‘forced into it’, like it’s a chore, or you’re only doing this to lose weight.

Runners are self-motivated and if anything have to have someone else beat/talk ‘sense’ into us at times, to hold us back, learn the times when not to run.
Joggers aren’t all that worried about skipping days. They celebrate any ‘excuse’ not to go jogging.

Joggers aren’t hung up on injuries, again, “I hurt my toe…welp, I don’t have to go the gym!! YAY!!”
Runners go through mental torture and endorphin withdrawals. Injuries are about the closest to h*ll that we can get.

So you see, me NOT wanting to be called a jogger isn’t being a snob. It’s just that I know I’m a runner in spirit. And others, regardless of their pace or point in their running life journey thing, shouldn’t force the jogging title on themselves.

As a runner, you’re a runner. You know it. You can’t lose your running license during injuries or setbacks.

You’re only NOT a runner the day you decide to stop. Until then, keep on running, My Friends!

1) What is one of your criterium for being a runner?
2) Do you get offended being called a jogger?
3) Do you care either which way at all? hehe.

My New Love Affair With Stretching and How it’s Rocking My Running

I love running (duh) but you may recall I’m not entirely in a Ménage à trois with stretching AND running. Don’t get be wrong, I KNOW how important regular stretching is to prevent injuries and improve your running performance. Heck, I write about it tons HERE and HERE…oh and I harp on it in my Competitor and Running Time articles.

But do I love it? Eh…we’ll say I would choke it down.

Then the world shook. You probably felt it actually. Remember THIS post where I talked about the BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST in the world?? Al Kupczak (aka also my BFF…all runners should contact him: 303-817-9961) literally solved a string of 3.5+ years of injuries stemming from my car accident. Side-not, getting hit by a car and almost losing your leg isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Well I mean I was able to run…but it was ugly, it never really felt like it used to, I couldn’t go faster than an easy pace without getting injured to where I couldn’t run at all. I saw lots of docs, tried lots of things…yada yada yada…finally got my butt up to Boulder, CO.

“Cait, you’re tight as h*ll.”
“I know, Al.”
“It’s not all your fault, there’s lots of scar tissue and calcifications stopping you from being able to stretch.”
“I’ve been TELLING PEOPLE!!! See, it’s not my fault, stretching doesn’t like me!!”
“Well now that I’ve broken all that up you CAN stretch now.”

[not verbatim but you got the gist]

It was an intense 12 days, saw Al Kup every other day, hours on the table, and then…miracle beyond miracles check this out:
pre stretching
First day in CO…I’ve never IN MY LIFE touched my toes before.
mid visit stretching
This is only four days later after 2 treatments. I was able to touch the ground and even grab my ankles and pull myself closer to my thighs. [yes I'm wearing the same scrubby runner shorts, don't judges. I had to pack light...it's called rinse, hang, and repeat ;) ]

I had a lot of issues but the main ones were my hamstrings, adductors, and abductors. They were extremely tight and in a constant tug-of-war when I ran. When I left CO, Al sent me home with a bunch of stretches and some lovly parting words, “If you want to stay healthy you have to keep stretching.”

So I’ve been religious about my stretching routine.


I had to touch my toes to take that first shot!! Booyah! ;)


Now I want to also tell people that when you have a TON of issues [like I did, Al had a lot to work on, and fixed a pretty marked leg length difference] and you make changes, even ones for the better, your body is thrown for a loop. It takes time to adjust to the new running style.

Think about it, you do something one way for years and years, it will take time for the body to adapt. There will be weaker muscles not used to working as hard that need to get stronger and to avoid compensation injuries you’ve got to be careful.

So my new runner body IS going through lots of changes, sorenesses and tightnesses I’ve never had before. I call Al freaking out but his answer is always the same: “Stretch. Be patient.” He’ll give me the best stretches for the specific soreness and I am always amazed that *viola* a few days later the sorenesses are gone.

The world has been flipped upside down. I actually AM embracing a three-way with running and stretching. And I certainly hope you do too…preferably it’ll take you SOONER than I did to open up to the miracle of the stretch. ;)

Side-note here…this Arty Runnerchick is FINALLY on instagram!! You can check me out HERE…and see my very first picture. Awww…sooo cute…like a baby taking their first steps, except I’m a fully grown adult who was too lame to get on the site at a decent age. PS- I’m an artist, I post my art my choice…so don’t worry there will not be tons of selfies :P

In case you missed it…check out my NEWEST running shirt!

1) Do you stretch often?
2) Do you actually LIKE to stretch?
3) Are you on instgram?? Let me know!!

Got Legs? Run…because being stuck with fins would suck

Sorry, Ariel, nothing quite compares to running.
running princesses
Nope, nothing like the special kind of endorphins only running can supply!! Motivation lulls happen to the best of us so in those times, take these thoughts as reason to put those two legs of your to work think of this:

1) I ALWAYS feel better when I’m done.
2) Is the runner guilt of skipping my run worth it?
3) I’ve got goals I’m working towards…consistency is the ‘secret’ to getting better and faster!
4) I’m lucky I’m not injured and ABLE to run!! Don’t take your running for granted.
5) If I start, I can dream about the cake and chocolate chip pancakes I’ll come back to. ;)

Now, if you’re injured and need some motivation to plug away at your rehab and cross-training:

* I WILL heal. And when I do I won’t take my running for granted. I’m going to do the work now so my transition back to running will that much better!

Unless you are stuck with fins, My Friends, take advantage of those runner legs! ;)

1) What is something you tell yourself to give you a kick of motivation when you need it?
2) What is your go-to cross-training when you cant run?
The elliptical
3) Do you like to swim?
Nope, hate the water. If I’m injured and in the pool it’s like the double-dipping of p*ssed-off runner ‘tude. ;)

Runner’s Strip: The ‘J’ Word

I’m a runner. You can call me every insult in the book and I really won’t care. I will probably even laugh. But the second you call me a JOGGER…all bets are off.
jogger is a bad word
Make your running even FASTER…posts HERE, HERE, and HERE.

More Runner’s Strip comics and cartoons HERE.

1) What’s something that non-runners say or ask you that may annoy you?

2) Do you use runner and jogger interchangeably or do you definitely keep the adjectives in line?

3) How do you usually react to insults?
Usually I do end up laughing.
best running shirts

Runner’s Are Wont to Worry: Make sure you’re stressing over the RIGHT paces

Runners seem to like to worry. Perhaps it’s a bit of the self masochism in us, on some level we must like to hurt, so it makes sense the same attraction is there for worrying. Our brains never seem to never be happy, or feel quite right, unless we’re preoccupied with something troublesome. [Why it has to be a negative is a topic for a post of another day!]

Am I doing enough? Is that a ‘new’ pain? Is that an INJURY?! Did I go out to fast? Am I doing too much? Should I ice that again? etc…etc. A common one is worrying about paces.
deck of runners
Well that’s only natural, of COURSE runners worry about paces…and they should. Paces are numbers, they are concrete, they are the benchmarks that tell us if we’re heading in the right direction, if all of this work is paying off. For runners, numbers are what show us progress. Paces, times, the black and whites of our sport are what feed that runner’s OCD-neurotic monster. It fuels our motivation.

Runners thrive on numbers. So paces and miles, naturally. The problem is worrying stressing over the WRONG numbers. Let’s make a deal:

DO worry about the paces of your hard runs, races, and workouts.
DON’T worry about the paces of your easy runs.

Ahhh, there we go. Easy in concept but quite a different beast to wrestle when applied to the never-logical runner’s brain. ;)
It’s far too easy to get sucked into thinking all paces are created equal. They AREN’T. They don’t hold races for ‘easy’ days…they could but then why not just make it a real race?

You see, it’s the hard running that counts. It’s the fast running that counts for PR’s. Let’s force logic onto our running brains here:

If you want to run FAST then the days that COUNT are the HARD ones.

How do you make sure your legs and body are recovered and prepared to run fast and hard on the days that count? Well, make sure they are able to recover between hard workouts. That means your easy days need to be run at whatever pace it is that allows them to recover.

Simple. Logical. But simple and logical sometimes get mangled in the runner’s brain.

So next time your brain starts off on a manic stress-induced worry attack because *HOLY CRAP* the pace of my easy run was soooo slow. STOP. Pause. Ask yourself this:

What was the pace of my last hard workout or race?

If the answer was that the pace was in the direction you want your running to go, if it’s showing progress…then who the flip cares about your easy day pace?!

Stress about what matters.

If your runner brain must worry about something pick something a little more benign. Maybe worry about the fact that your watch tan is blinding me.

1) The runner brain often can struggle with simple and logical, what’s another instance you have?

2) How do you keep your hard and easy day paces separate and at the right effort level?

3) Some run watchless, do you go naked on some of your easy days?
best running shirts

Approach the Pre-Run Runner At Your Own Risk

My ability to function as an individual relies quite heavily on my running. Perhaps more correctly my ability to function as a sane and friendly person does.
grumpy runner
I like to run first thing, I try to not go out into normal society until after my run…more out of a courtesy. I’m pretty sure I’m grouchier. It’s because something IS wrong with me, there’s a bit missing. It’s my ‘fix’ of miles and endorphins.

So please, for the sake of yourself and everyone else, don’t speak to me until after my run. I promise that I AM a kind, engaging, and humorous person. The pre-run version of myself…we’ll just think of that as my ugly, evil, non-running twin.

More cartoons HERE!

1) When do you like to get your run in?

2) Do you definitely feel like you’re a different person pre and post run?

best running shirts