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!

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!