Enjoy

There are those who go on vacation and take a break from working out. They decide in advance that this will be their break from their normal routine and they will kick back and take a vacation from running.

I am not that person.

Amen.

Amen.

Not because I don’t enjoy my time off. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, running is FUN for me. I LIKE to run. It’s not punishment or a means to an end. It’s what I do to relax, to feel good, to wake up, to meditate, to work sh*t out. It’s ME.

When I go on vacation or to someplace new, I love to go out and explore my new surroundings with my handy-dandy Kinvaras and the brightest clothes I own.

More often than not, it's pink. Pink is my signature color.

More often than not, it’s pink. Pink is my signature color.

Sure, you can sit by the pool all day and drink mojitos. But you can be active, too, and not feel like total crap when you get home!a

  1. Ask a local runner if there’s a great place to lace up your kicks.
  2. Run barefoot on the beach at dawn/sunrise/low tide. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
  3. Make your own triathlon: go for a run in the early part of the day, swim at the beach/pool, go for a bike ride around town later.
  4. Explore your vacation city on your feet on an easy out-and-back run.
  5. Check and see if there’s a local race while you’re in town. Nothing crazy but how fun is a 5K in a small town with all the kiddos along the course? The cutest.
Seen on my run: a 1 mile hill back to my sister's house. Torturous but beautiful.

Seen on my run: a 1 mile hill back to my sister’s house. Torturous but beautiful.

If I hadn’t woken up early to run down this massive hill, I wouldn’t have the bragging rights to say I ran up it at the end of my run. Bragging rights > calf soreness. Boom.

Do yourself a favor, just pack your running shoes and a pair of shorts. Tuck them in your bag in case you have an opportunity to run in a beautiful or interesting or new place. And enjoy the run.

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.

 

The “Hills Make You Fast” Workout

I talk about it a lot, speed work, and I think most people are cool with Mile Repeats, Yasso 800s and Tempo Runs. What most runners shy away from are HILLS. Oh yeah, those dreaded HILLS.

But why? Well, to be honest with you, no workout in the world makes me want to vomit than a good old fashioned hill workout. Pushing your body on a flat surface is only about one thing: speed. Pushing your body on a hill is about speed AND power. It’s brutal but worth it.

So, how do you go about putting together a hill workout? I’ll share my most brutal favorite one with you.

There is this hill in Central Park called Cat Hill. Why is it called Cat Hill? Because there is a very large cat on the hill. You have to see it. Anyway, the hill is about a quarter of a mile (.25 mi) from the Boathouse to the stop light at the top of the hill. Here’s what I do on Hill Day:

  • 1-1.5 mi easy warm up
  • Sprint up the hill, jog slowly down (4-6 times)
  • 1.5-2 miles at race pace

The warm up is an absolute necessity with this type of workout. If you don’t warm up, you won’t be able to reach your max speed on the hills. The idea is to run each hill repeat in the same amount of time as the one before. Don’t forget to find a hill that is at least .15 mi long so that you get more than a minute on each hill. I think I did 5 last time before I was sure I couldn’t do anymore. I was totally trashed. Those last few miles are to stretch your legs out, find a comfortable breathing rhythm and let your muscles relax before you stop dead in your tracks and collapse on your couch.

It may feel like you didn’t run all that far–and you didn’t. However, distance isn’t the goal here, intensity IS. If you are hitting those hills with everything you’ve got, you will see an improvement in your distance running. If you are loafing about and phoning in your hill workouts, you will see no improvement whatsoever.

Got guts? Hit the hills. They will rock your *running* world.

Now go out and run!

Short Distance Challenge

Are you crazed right now? I am. SOOOOOOOO busy. Despite the fact that I didn’t have classes this week, I still found myself struggling to make time for my workouts. They haven’t been as long as I would like nor have I been able to get to a class of any kind. Bummer. Or is it?

Presents had to be wrapped and shipped. Oh, hey thanks for overcharging on the holidays, UPS.

Some runners get hung up on distance. I get it, marathoning is all the rage right now and more people than ever are taking up distance running. I think it’s awesome. Welcome, one and all, to our running community! And a very special community it is…

Image courtesy of Adidas

But there is more to running than just marathons and long runs on the weekends. I’ve actually found that my shorter runs have been kind of awesome. I am focused, fast and 100% tuned into my workout because I just don’t have the time to fool around. Result? Kick-butt speedy runs! And I like it. In fact, I am about to pose a challenge to you. For the next two weeks, right into 2012, I would like to challenge each and every one of you to only run short distances. No more than 5 miles total for a run.

Why?

  1. It’s (probably) something different for you.
  2. The next week or so is likely a busy one for you and shorter workouts = workouts more likely to be done.
  3. Challenges are fun.
  4. Speed workouts are scary.
  5. What better way to start the New Year than with a new challenge?

I know I’m crazy-busy right now with my Physics final tomorrow, last-minute trip prep, doctors visits, flying tomorrow night, the whole family will be together over the weekend, there will be baby cheeks to distract me from my workouts…as much as a long run would be nice, I just don’t see it happening.

Multi-tasking: liquid iron lunch + one-handed blogging! Busy girl.

The added bonus of doing short, hard, fast workouts is that it kicks up your metabolism and makes you a stronger runner. And since I plan on eating Mrs. Obi-wan’s cookies for breakfast, lunch and post-run snacks, the hyped-up metabolism sounds like a good idea for me!

Here are some ways to break down your runs over the next two weeks so that they’re shorter, harder and faster. Don’t forget to always warm-up for a mile:

  • Out and back: Negative split this by timing yourself on the out part and beating that time on the way back
  • Ladders: 400m-800m-1600m-800m-400m *repeat* (best done on a track)
  • Hills: duh, find a hill and try to run it at the same speedy pace over and over again OR run in a hilly park and sprint the hills while your recover on the flats
  • 5K race: Map out your own 5K race route and time yourself…maybe you’ll PR!
  • 1 minute Dashes: On Dasher, on Dancer! 1 minute sprints followed by 1 minute jogs can be done just about anywhere and if you’re really kicking your own butt, this workout takes 30 minutes max to wipe you out
  • Yasso 800s: They’re not just for marathon training! Try to run each 800m sprint at the same pace 4-5 times with full recovery in between

Are you up for the challenge? Come on now, runners. Let’s RACE into the New Year stronger and with new workouts that challenge us instead of the ‘ol 5-miler.

Who’s with me? What are your holiday running plans? Are you doing a Jingle Bell Run? Share it in the comments.

Now go out and run!

Hills Can Be Your Friend

Hills. I hate ’em. We used to have to run the local ski hill in junior high and high school cross country. Admittedly, it was in Chicago so our “ski hill” was a true skier’s bunny hill. BUT STILL. It sucked.

My least favorite, but most rewarding hill, is the climb to the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon. It finishes at Arlington Cemetery in front of the statue of the soldiers at Iwo Jima. It’s an up hill finish line and it is torture. But, it’s the end so it’s kind of awesome. Still, not my favorite way to finish a race.

Reasons I don’t like hills:

-They make my quads burn

-I can’t stride out

-They seem endless

-I sometimes want to vomit when I reach the top, but it’s almost never the end.

I sound like a great, big whiner right now. Pathetic, I know. But don’t be fooled by my whining, I still do my hills. Actually, when the race has some rolling hills, I do far better than if it’s completely flat the entire way. You do, too, you just don’t know why.

Hills do our bodies good. It allows our hamstrings to take a break and our quadriceps to take over as the main muscle group of our stride. This switching back and forth keeps our legs fresh because one muscle group isn’t being beaten up for the entirety of our run. This is more valuable than you think.

The Brooklyn Half-Marathon used to start at Coney Island and go north for 8 miles up Coney Island Avenue into Prospect Park. This meant that the first 8 miles of the race were completely flat. Great, right? Wrong. It wears out the hamstrings and your body gets overtired from running on the same surface for such a long time.

I remember very vividly hitting the park, which has some hills but nothing like the Presidio (that place was terrifying!), and being able to go faster. I tapped into my bored quadriceps for energy and gave my hammys a break. I left a lot of people in my dust because I focused on the previously second-tier muscles of my quadriceps and decided that they were ready, willing and able to take over as the motor of my running. I also had the very lovely reward of also going down the hills which I climbed. This is both tremendously mentally rewarding and physically rewarding.

A little thought about fact is also that running up hills takes away a tremendous amount of pounding on your joints. Because you’re pushing the weight of your body uphill, the force on your joints is lessened (well done, first semester physics teacher). The benefits of less hammering on your body is obvious. Suffice to say that this is a good thing. A good thing for racing and a good thing for your weekly workouts.

So next time you’re looking at a race and marveling about how flat and fast it is, remember that a flat road isn’t always your best friend. Try a race with some rolling hills. You might surprise yourself and enjoy the benefits of going both up AND down.

Now go out and run!!!