Q & A: What’s the Point?

So, when I first started running (many, many moons ago), I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I basically just tried to keep up with the boys on my team and hope that I finished in the top 10. This was back when running wasn’t cool and a runner like me could regularly finish in the top 10 at a race.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

As I progressed in my competitive (snort) running career into high school, I caught wind of how we had different workouts throughout the week. We termed them “easy, medium, or hard” and feared guessed which one our coach would throw at us as we changed for practice after school.

But then I started noticing a pattern to the weekly workouts.

You know, the usual.

You know, the usual.

These days, there is a very specific method to my madness, not unlike the daily torture we were prescribed in high school by my mustached coach.

The physiologic benefits of each run cannot be ignored.

  • Repeats: clearing the lactic acid out of your system
  • Tempo: increasing lactate threshold and practice cadence
  • Long: improve cardiovascular and mitochondrial function
  • Fartlek: improve running economy (how fuel/oxygen is used)
  • Intervals: improve VO2 max

There are cross-over benefits in these workouts but they all do one very huge thing:

CONDITION YOUR BODY TO PERFORM MORE EFFICIENTLY WHILE YOU RUN.

Mary Cain is a MACHINE. (Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Mary Cain is a MACHINE.
(Image courtesy of therunningforum.com)

Period. End of story.

If you want to run the same times (or slower) and feel the same (or worse), go right ahead and do the same workouts. Be my guest. Doing the same type of run over and over will not change your body, how it functions, or affect your times.

But if you want to feel awesome when you run and get a little faster along the way, it’s time to get down to business with a real schedule. With some real science.

Ron Burgundy knows what’s up.

Not every workout needs to be balls out (in fact, some are purposely BALLS IN workouts) but there is a purpose to every run. Even if that purpose is to boost your mental game.

Now go out and run!

Workout Wednesdays: Progression Run

There are a lot of runners out there. I mean A LOT of runners.

According to FindMyMarathon.com

According to FindMyMarathon.com

Some are just starting out. Some are long-time veterans. For the middle-of-the-road runners who have trained and finished several races, the goal of finishing often shifts to finishing faster.

But how?

A lot of runners already know the basics: tempo run, long run, hill repeats, Yasso 800s. But there are more nuanced workouts that can train the seasoned runner to run faster and become a more efficient runner.

Enter the Progression Run.

IMG_1519

(Image courtesy of lululemon.com and Ghandi)

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Start out at a warm-up pace. Like, actually a warm-up pace –> EASY.
  2. After 2 miles, increase your pace by about 15 seconds in the next mile.
  3. Continue to increase your pace by 15 seconds each mile for 6-7 miles.
  4. For the last mile, hit it hard and see if you can reach your tempo or race pace.

IMG_1457

Progression runs start out easy but can fool you. If you start out too fast or increase your pace too soon, you won’t make it to the end with negative splits (one mile being faster than the previous). If you don’t consistently pick up your pace by 15 seconds per mile, you won’t feel like the workout is hard enough.

There’s a lot of self control and discipline in a Progression Run. Done right, it is confidence building, solid workout without being a full-on beat down like track work.

Give it a shot. See if you can control your pace. Let me know how it goes!

Progression run = DONE!

Progression run = DONE! (Wow, that is an extreme closeup of me all sweaty and gross, isn’t it. Sorry guys.)

Do you do Progression Runs? Do you find them difficult or more on the easy side? I’m more of a medium gal. They don’t kill me, but they take a lot of focus.

Now go out and run.

Speed Work for Dummies

I take that back, you are NOT a dummy just because you don’t know the ins and outs and physiological implications of speed work. Catchy title, though, right?

Not to be confused with Speed Reading. I did take a class in Speed Reading in high school (I think). Speed Reading? Check. Memory? Not so much.

Speed work can benefit any and every single runner out there. The essential gist is that speed work increases your VO2 max and makes your body function like a well-oiled machine. ROAR!!!!!

Whenever training season rolls around, the Twittersphere blows up with questions about speed work.

Marathon season? BOOM! TWITTER!

  • What’s the best exercise?
  • How many repeats do you have to do?
  • What’s a Yasso?
  • Do hills count as speed work?

Deep breath everyone. I know. So many questions. Let’s hash it out.

Ready?

Run fast for a short period of time/distance. Recover by slowly jogging until you catch your breath. Do the same distance/time again. Recover again. Keep doing it for 30-45 minutes.

Yay for track workouts!!!!!

Done.

Don’t worry about what your heart rate is. Don’t stress about how far you’re running. Don’t get all caught up in your splits.

  • Run as fast as you can every time.
  • Run the same distance/time every time (for that workout).
  • Run hard. Run fast. Do it twice a week.

If you keep track of your splits and long run times, you will see a change in them as long as you are working AS HARD AS YOU CAN every time you do speed work.

I’d be running pretty fast if that were the case.

Work hard and you will see results. Do the same thing every time and you won’t. It’s that simple.

Now go out and run!

Putting Out 100%

A common question I get from runners is, “How can I get faster?” My answer is always the same, “Run harder in practice and you’ll run faster on race day.”

Most newbie runners are given the same advice when they take up running, which is to run slow because the miles are what count, not how fast you do them. They get stuck in this pattern of running a slow-to-moderate pace for every single run and then they wonder why they feel so fatigued in the middle of their race and don’t meet their goal time.

Run Clubbers put out 100% together and get faster together.

HOW FAST you run your runs is just as important as HOW FAR your runs are.

You gotta put out 100% every time.

Me, putting out 100%

When you train slow, you will run slow in your race. If you want to get faster you have got to start by being honest with yourself. You’re not putting 100% into every single workout, are you?

Confession: I’m not. There. I said it. It’s out there. I put out about 80% of the time. I know where I need to put more effort and I’m working on it. In fact, my doctor and I are both working on it. You see, we’re putting our heads together to do everything possible for my body so that I will some day soon go into remission. Drugs, diet, resting, but most importantly, staying on top of all of it.

I am scared of my disease taking over every single workout, so I don’t always put 100% into every single minute because it makes it all the more frustrating when I have to stop dead in my tracks and take care of business. Problem is, this is a lousy way to set a PR and I’m getting nowhere with it. So I’m adapting.

Treadmill = Adaptation. Treadmill haters, you can suck it.

Today I put out 100%. I could have stopped, slowed down, done an easy run instead of a tempo run. But I didn’t. And I feel awesome because I didn’t.

I put out 100%.

Did you? Or did you do the same old thing at the same old pace for the same old repetitions at the same old weight?

Testing your limits and exploring your edges is the only way to get better at your sport. You have to push harder, run faster, run longer in order to see a change in your body and in your time. That is the only way. Speed work, hard hills, challenging weights, one more mile, a longer yoga class. Start now! Push. Put out 100%. I bet you surprise yourself with what you can do. Go ahead, give it a shot and watch the changes roll your way.

Now go out and run.

When was the last time you really put out 100% in a workout? How often does that happen? Do you put out in your runs but not in the gym? Tell me about it.

Getting Started

When I first started running at the age of 10, it was a pretty simple idea. Do what coach tells you to do in practice and then run as fast as you can in the race. Done. I didn’t think about pace, strategy, speed workouts or rest days. I did what I was told and that was that. Well, come to find out, it’s still pretty simple but just not that simple. I’ve heard people say, “I’m just going to run X miles every day and I’ll build mileage that way” when asked about their training strategy. That’s isn’t necessarily a terrible way to go, but I have found another route to be more effective and less painful.

If a novice runner comes to me for advice on how to get started, I provide them with this 3-month Get Started program. Do these runs three days a week for the designated weeks and you will be on your way to your first 5K!

Month One, Week One-Week Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -1 minute run (at an out-of-breath pace)/2 minute recovery walk-repeat for 21 minutes    -4 minute walking cool down (a continuation of your 2 minute walk recovery)

Month One, Week Three-Week Four:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -.25 mile run/2 minute recovery walk-repeat 6-8 times                                                            -5 minute walking cool down

Month Two, Week One-Week Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                               -.5 mile run, 2 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times                                              -5 minute walking cool down

Month Two, Week Three-Week Four:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                               -1 mile run, 3-4 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times                                             -3 minute walking cool down

Month Three, Week One-Two:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -2 mile run                                                                                                                                          -5 minute walking cool down

Month Three, Week Three:

-5 minute walking warm-up                                                                                                              -2.5 mile jog

Month Three, Week Four:

-3 mile jog

Definitions:                                                                                                                                   Run: A pace that doesn’t allow for you to hold a conversation beyond a few words you can spit out between breaths.                                                                                                                   Walking recovery: A pace that allows you to fully catch your breath before you go into your next run (as slow as you like since this doesn’t add to your mileage)                   Warm-up: A brisk walk that is almost a run                                                                           Cool down: A walking pace that first allows you to catch your breath and then becomes a comfortably fast walking pace.                                                                                                   Jog: A run at a conversational pace that is meant to be kept consistent throughout the workout.

Here’s the thing, your body was meant to run in a way and at a pace that is specific to you and your gait. That gait is most natural at a faster clip than at a super-slow jog. When your legs have a chance to stretch out over a longer stride, you engage a variety of muscles at different points in your stride, which makes for less strain on one muscle group (I’m looking at you, quadriceps). I’m not saying that you aren’t a good runner if you run 10-12 minute miles, I am saying that you will feel better and run more comfortably at a faster pace for fewer miles at a time (until you can build into the longer miles) than at a slower one. When you run slowly, you run right on top of your hips because your stride is so short. This makes life very difficult for your quadriceps and your hips, but doesn’t let your fabulous hamstrings and glutes get involved. Stride it out, people! You can build mileage this way, too, and avoid those overuse stress injuries so many novice runners experience.

Yesterday, my client Tampa said to me, “I started running my 3 mile runs at 9 minutes per mile (instead of her regular 10 minute pace) and I feel soooooo much better! And it didn’t even feel that different.” I love it when that happens! You go, Tampa!

See? You can do it! You can run

So give it a try. Run faster for shorter distances and build your mileage that way. Now go out and run!