Why am I doing this workout ? What will it do for my running ?

Happy Wednesday everyone ! Its been a wet week so far in Hertfordshire, although we managed to run in the dry last night, just before the deluge came again. Fingers crossed for some good conditions for a ride with friends tomorrow !

Have you ever done a specific workout and wondered ‘Why am I doing this ? What possible reason would I need to do this ?’. I’ve thought that many times, normally when its a swim drill I dislike the most or another set of planks that make my body shake……….. but like everything, they have a reason and ‘coach’ does tend to be right !!

Yes I know, I know....... resistance is futile !
Yes I know, I know……. resistance is futile !

I have invested a lot of time in my running this year – a year ago I couldn’t run a 5km without taking walk breaks and was achieving a new record on my heart rate monitor each run out – so the plan was set and all it needed was for me to commit and get it done ! You see that’s the trick isn’t it, we have to commit and get it done – took me a little while to realise why my running wasn’t improving. It was time to up the number of runs a week from 3 to 4 and not drop any of them through being ‘too busy at work’ or ‘it was raining outside’ 🙂

What’s been in my plan ?

Long slow steady runs (LSDs, but not the hallucinogenic drugs, although at times they may have been helpful !!) : Hands up who has found these a real slog in the past ? Me !! I used to do mine on a Sunday afternoon, to justify a good roast dinner in the evening and it was challenging to get out of the door sometimes. But they work don’t they ? Over time I found them easier and I was getting quicker over the same route while having my heart rate under control.

A point around this would be whether you run by time or distance : for me the real benefit was running by time……… but that’s a topic for another blog I think. Would be good to hear your views too !

Tempo runs : My first one of these happened by accident – my coach and I were due to be back at the start of the out and back route by a certain time, but went too far………. a bit of a hurried run back, but proved to me that I could run faster than I actually thought – perhaps it was time to trick the body and mind into doing something that it didn’t think it could ? Hmmm perhaps coach had a cunning plan all along.

Hill sets : I have a ‘favourite hill’ that honestly has become a bit of an old friend ! Moving to a new area meant it took awhile to find the routes that worked for each type of workout. Early one snowy morning, I found this hill and weekly x10 hill sets have been a regular part of my plan and while it hurts, there came a time when I faced every uphill with a new level of confidence, there was nothing I could run up even if it wasn’t at a fast pace – in my recent 1/2 marathon the mantra on the multiple hills was ‘I will not walk on this hill, I will not walk on this hill’.

'My Hill', with remains of snow
‘My favourite hill’, with remains of the snow

Track workouts : I’ve struggled with these a little and I think it was because I did them alone as opposed to with a group. My initial response was that I would rather run on a dread-mill than do a solo track workout ever again. The major benefit I found of doing these was to start feeling my pace without the aid of a fancy watch. It has helped but wow, please go out with others on a track – being alone out there lies insanity !!

Sprints : aka Speed ladders, speed triangles etc etc. Running fast was something I just didn’t or couldn’t do, or rather I couldn’t do without becoming very out of breath. With just the right level of discomfort for a specific period of time, its amazing how quickly you get used to it and you push your body to do things you didn’t think it could. I’m still not super fast, but I am faster that ever before and know that I can surge if I want to and can bring my heart rate to a normal level during the recovery interval.

Fartleks : aka surges. Watch the auto-correct spelling of this one – have had a few interesting Facebook and Twitter posts linked to these over the months :). Fartleks were added to a couple of my medium paced runs a week as I was making the final preparation for my 70.3 race. Again they gave me confidence in my ability to increase pace and surge for a specific time and then drop back to normal pace and heart rate.

Leg cadence is something I have thought about in my cycling a lot, but the sprint and fartlek sets also gave me experience in increasing my leg cadence, while keeping the stride length under control. Now when I watch the athletes on TV and I see their ‘pick up’, I stare in awe at the ease in which they do it – I can appreciate the effort and hours it takes to make it look that easy !

BRICK runs : Ouch, my legs don’t work anymore and they hurt in places I didn’t know they could hurt……… Anyone else said this after leaving T2 ? BRICK sessions have a place in race preparation, but interestingly enough I didn’t work on them as much as I expected to leading up to my A-race. Instead we focused more on the individual disciples with a few bricks included just before race day which was due to my race being over a longer distance. In the late summer, a number of shorter races really helped me in with the technique for this area – nothing like the heat of battle to test out the muscles recovery from the bike to run !

Recovery runs : Ahhh my lovely running time – this is normally when I set out without a route in mind, just running and finding new areas. Fun, fun, fun………. and we all know the importance of recovery and resisting the urge to work very hard on every single workout session. I like to think of these runs as my ‘active’ recovery sessions for my body and my mind, don’t think, just run !

Don't think, just run !
Don’t think, just run !

As you can see, my coach gave me a great plan with a variety of workouts that has built my strength and confidence over the past 10 months. The results this summer has been : 7 mins off my 5k PB (25.41), 10 mins off my 10k (55.10) and 30 mins off my 1/2 marathon (2hrs 10). Im aiming for a 60 min improvement in my next marathon, London in April 2014, so we will see – something is working, so why not shoot for the stars !!

13.1 miles of smiles and a new PR
13.1 miles of smiles and a new PR, St Albans June 2013

All this talking of running has given the itchy feet, but I still have a few chores to do so a run will have to wait until later this evening !

Speak soon

Catherine, Age Group girl

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