From Zero to Fartlek

Welcome to the holiday season when everyone wants to lose 10 pounds, eat their faces off, join a gym, live at the open bar, and party like it’s 1999.

In the running world, this means a whole lotta Newbies. For me it means a whole lotta questions.

No worries, Newbies. I got you.

Some people will tell you to run as far as you can every day and you’ll build up to whatever distance you want to run. Eh. Not so much.

You’ll likely feel like this if you just go out and run as far as you can until you can’t anymore. That’s no fun.

When you start a running program, you’re better off working at speed and strength first and distance second.

What’s that you say? Isn’t it all about getting to that golden 26.2?

26.2 or bust?

You gotta get stronger before you can go longer. Guess what makes you stronger? Fartleks. No, it’s not a dirty word. Yes, it does make everyone giggle when someone says it.

But, seriously, it gets the job done.

Speed play.

…and you should too!

Running fast for short periods of time at your maximum speed will make you stronger. It will make your body work more efficiently to get oxygen to your muscles. It will help make those longer runs easier.

It doesn’t have to be all structured or anything. You don’t need a fancy Garmin to track your distance and pace, any distance at your max pace will do.

So. True.

In the winter, I do a lot of these types of workouts on the treadmill because I’m the girl that slips and falls all the freaking time. Add ice to the mix and I’m a gonner for sure.

So, yeah, get a long run in once a week and an easy one, too. But make the majority of your first two months of running shorter bursts. Increase the distance and time of the bursts, add a few more in every other week, and do some on hills. These drills will make you a stronger runner faster than just plodding through mile after mile day after day.

Oh my god, does that sound boring. Running is fun, I swear!

Happy runner, even in the beastly heat of a NYC Summer. It’s weird how I long for those days.

And if you haven’t experience that “runner’s high” yet, don’t worry. I’ve been “back” to running for about three weeks now and I haven’t had one run that was easy and felt good, either. It takes time.

Now go out and run/fartlek!

Workout Wednesdays: Hard & Fast

I have said it probably 763,229 times: If you want to run faster, you have to train faster. Apparently, last night was a “train faster” night for me, which is stupid of me. I was running my 3 miles at a 7:40 pace. Ummmm…definitely NOT a recovering-from-surgery pace, stupid. Note to self: next time, shoot for 8:00 minute miles. Oy.

What can I tell you? The music got to me.

Who can resist running fast while listening to “Born to Run”? I ask you, show me this person!

There are so many workouts to do that will test your anaerobic capacity, but my supreme favorite is a good ‘ol track workout. You may be a track newbie, so here’s the skinny.

  1. Tracks are 1/4 mile around or 400 meters, 4 laps = 1 miles (1600 meters)
  2. They run counterclockwise
  3. Fast people on the inside, slow people on the outside
  4. Don’t spit your gum on the track

These rules all apply to the Warning Track at Yankee Stadium. You could do your speed workout here, too, I suppose. I mean, some people get to do that (AWESOME!). I don’t know your life.

 

That’s all you need to know about tracks to do this workout. Ready? Go!

  • 1 mile warm up
  • 4 x 400 meters @ max pace, 1 minute rest in between
  • 2 x 800 meters @ max pace, 1 minute rest in between
  • 1 mile (4 laps): 200 meter (1/2 lap) sprint, 200 meter (1/2 lap) slow jog
  • 1/2 – 1 mile cool down, slow jog

The Great Lawn is actually my favorite place to do speed work. In the light, though. I trip a lot when I try to run fast (or at all) in the dark.

 

Should be a fast workout that doesn’t take all day. Be specific about your recovery times so that your body doesn’t cool down to much in between sets. This is all about pushing your body to it’s limits, which will teach it to become more efficient during longer, slower runs. What are you waiting for? Find a track or measure out 400 meters in your neighborhood. HIT IT!

Just a pretty picture of the Reservoir. Not that I would EVER try to do speed work there. So. Many. People.

Now go out and run.

Why You’re Injured

So, I’ve been a runner for going on 22 years. I started off running in 5th grade track and graduated to a full mile in 6th grade during my first cross country season. The next year is was 1.5 miles and by 8th grade, I was running 2 mile races. High school cross country introduced me to the 5K and freshman year of college was my first 10K (Bolder Boulder, baby!).

I was always very active. Not fashionable, mind you, but active. I never did learn how to stop properly in my roller skates. I always just ran into the grass.

It was a very slow progression. From 1-6.2 miles in 8 years. From there I started running LONG distances and ran my first marathon in 2003. I have run 9 marathons in 9 years.

And I’ve only missed one month of running due to an overuse injury.

One month.

It was an overused/underdeveloped left side gluteus medius and one month off of running + 3 months of rehab got me to my fastest marathon to date (3:46).

Post-injury Marine Corps Marathon. PR!

One month.

Why? Because it took me 8 years to get to 6.2 miles and 11 years til I ran my first marathon. That’s why.

If you understand connective tissue, you’ll understand why so many people experience overuse injuries when they decide to just “pick up” marathon running as a hobby in their 20s and 30s. Ladies, you have a huge strike against you. Estrogen contributes to the break down of connective tissue. Yay for being a woman. So, on top of all the repetitive movements that are making your newfound hobby hurt a little more than you expected, your hormones are actually working against you.

Ugh. The “why me?” of being injured is probably the most frustrating thing that I hear from newbie runners. Why you? I’ll tell you why:

  1. Because you did too much too soon.
  2. Because you didn’t rest and recover from your last marathon/half marathon/longest race.
  3. Because you don’t lift weights.
  4. Because you don’t take rest days.
  5. Because you don’t run enough for your body to get used to it.

If you go from 0 to 26.2 in a year, I guarantee you will have an overuse injury by the time that year is out. You may not even make it to your marathon because you will develop ITB syndrome, tendonitis or some other overuse injury. Promise. The odds that you will develop an injury can go up considerably when you look at your weight, diet and gait.

How do you get around this? Easy. Don’t go crazy.

Yes, it would be cool to run the New York City Marathon this year. You will not be ready by November. Try for next year. BETTER YET, try for 2 years from now and build up gradually. Sure, a half marathon in August may not kill you, but it will definitely not make you stronger. Why not shoot for a 10K instead?

Race For the Cure 5Ks are all over the country–and for a good cause! Lots of t-shirts with “boobies” written on them. Pretty sure you’re not gonna see that in Boston.

Don’t drop all of your other fitness habits just because you want to run. I still spin 2-3 days a week during first half of marathon training season. I also lift throughout the entire year to keep my muscles strong and to increase the density of my connective tissue, which is a very slow process.

Don’t go crazy. Take your time. If you do it right, you can start running now and be able to run for the rest of your life. If you do it wrong, this might be the only race you ever run.

Your choice. Run forever or run for now?

Tell me about your injury. When did you finally seek treatment? Share with us so we might learn from you!

Now go out and run.

Rules of the Road

To all the new runners out there in the world, welcome! Welcome to a unique community where “fartlek” isn’t a dirty word and the sweatier you are, the better.

As much as we buck the norm where bathroom habits are concerned, we do have some manners that most seasoned runners adhere to. They are the following Rules of the Road:

#1. Spit directly downward towards your shoes. Not to the side. Not way out in front. Down beneath your own feet. That way if you have lousy aim, you aren’t punishing your neighbor.

Farmer blows are ok, just don't do it on your neighbor. (Image courtesy of Adidas)

#2. Wear clean clothes. Brush your teeth. Wear deodorant. No one wants to smell you while they’re gasping for air. Showering is optional, good hygiene and clean shorts are not.
#3. Pass on the outside. Cruise on the inside.
#4. Make way for the babies on board. The pregnant mamas and strolling-pushing parents have a lot more to maneuver than you do. Get out of their way.

Preggers lady gets the right of way every time.

#5. When you cross the finish line, keep walking. The runner behind you wants to get across it, too.
#6. Don’t pace off of another runner without their permission. It’s rude and mean to let them hold the pass while you tag along for the ride directly on their heels.
#7. Don’t brag. It’s unbecoming and no one will want to be your friend.
#8. Refrain from singing along to your iPod. Save it for the karaoke bars.
#9. People running UP the hill have the right of way over people running DOWN the hill. It just makes good sense, no?
#10. Run happy. Check your bad day/attitude at the door and try to enjoy the run. Don’t be a Debbie Downer at run club.

What else? There are so many runners out there doing intensely annoying/dangerous/rude things–tell me what you’ve seen and give me your list of Rules of the Road!

Now go out and run.

I’m A Newbie: Speed Work

Picture this: you’ve decided to start running or train for a longer distance than you’ve ever run before. Hooray for you! You download a schedule from a respected running website and set off on your way to reaching new heights in your running career.

But wait, what’s this? Your schedule doesn’t have just have XXX number of miles for each day. No, no, no. There are things in meters, multiples and foreign languages. What the what? This is not what you signed up for!

Deep breaths. Let’s break it down shall we?

It’s all just speed work. Hills, Fartleks, Repeats, Negative Splits, Race Pace Miles, Yasso 800s and everything else is all just speed work. Each of these exercises has the same goal: to improve your lactic threshold, VO2 max and anaerobic capacity to make running longer, slower miles easier on your body. That’ all. If you run faster and harder in workouts, the longer miles will seem like a piece of cake…well, tough, sweaty cake anyway.

Depending on how many days a week you are running, at least half of your workouts will be of this variety, so let’s break it down.

Speed work decoded:

Hills-Find a hill. Run up it as hard as you can, jog back down. Do it again. Lots of times.

Fartlek-”Speed play” in German, this workout is so great if you don’t have a track or a measured distance. Run hard for a short period of time, recover, rinse, repeat.

Repeats-Usually done at mile or two mile intervals, they will look like this on paper: “4 x 1600m” or some such thing (1600 meters = 1 mile). Pick a distance, run as hard as you can, jog to cool down. Do it again and try to keep the same pace. That’s it.

Race Pace Miles-Any workout will call for things to be done at race pace. Figure out what time you’re going for, divide it by how many miles the race is and you’ll have your race pace. Use it as a barometer for your race pace miles. Boom.

Negative Splits-Each mile is faster than the one previous. Simple as pie, right? Cool.

Yasso 800s-Created by the famous Bart Yasso, run 800 meters (1/2 mile) with jogging rest in between. Try to run each of them at the same pace and if you can do 10 before the marathon and voila, you’ll have your goal race pace.

There you go. Speed work, BAM! Don’t get stressed out about distance, but make sure you get your speed work in! It will make the difference between you running an awesome race and you barely finishing a race. The workouts are shorter (hooray!), more intense and will kick your ass.

You’ll love it.

Now go out and run.