Follow your plan and you will succeed. Quiet the doubts in your mind. Understand that they are natural, and will continue to come. Daily, intentional engagement will lead you forward, onward and upward.
How many of you like to slip into a comfortable groove, let the minutes and miles add up, and lose yourself in your runs? Me to… this is why we run! The flow, the feeling of easy, steady effort and the satisfaction of completion keep us coming back for more of these amazing experiences!
When I first started to “train” for running, which was later in my fitness career, mid-20’s, I was introduced to track workouts and tempo runs. Man, I hated these! My ability to gauge effort was non-existent, therefore I would go too hard, too early in the workouts, and struggle to hold on and finish them. Where would this leave me? Down and out for 2-3 days not wanting to even run a step! This is how you disrupt flow.
As I’ve progressed in the sport and have a more solid grip on my abilities both in training and racing, I’ve been able to engage in these more challenging workouts and reap the benefits that come with them. I’ve also learned about another way to trickle in speed work while I enjoying my daily “cruise” runs. This form of training is termed “speed play” or “fartlek” style.
Speed play is exactly that, you mix in 10-30 second bursts of accelerated running or even sub-maximal sprinting during a run of easy pace. There is no set schedule as to when you do them, just when you feel like it. Sometimes I’ll run to a certain landmark (fire hydrant, stop sign, driveway, etc.) and other times I’ll run for set periods of time.
There are many benefits to these runs. First, I believe you can recover from them during the run much better than a standard track or tempo run. This is excellent for beginners or recreational runners, which, most of us are. Second, I believe that it prepares you to race! Setting multiple in race goals, and knowing what speeds you are capable of running makes racing fun and competing more engaging. Third, they make you faster! You’ll see your cruising speed increase, which may transfer to other runs.
How to apply:
Start walking and warm up into a jog. Take 10-15 minutes to properly warm-up before starting your first speed play interval. For the next 30 minutes have fun. Mix in some speed with your cruising pace. You’ll cover more ground, realize new abilities, and hopefully reap the benefits of turning over those legs a bit faster! To finish, slow down and jog it in. Walk around for a couple minutes and stretch your hamstrings, hip flexor, and groin area. Start with one a week and gradually increase to two of these engaging workouts each week.
Enjoy the run!
Balancing the Fitness Equation
To ensure our health, wellness, and a steady progression, work and rest need to balance each other out. This is the same principle that defines many other areas of our life: financial, social, work, school… you name it.
I exercise everyday. Whether I’m in training for a race, or focusing on another area of my fitness, my weeks are littered with physical activity. For some time, I trained intensely almost every day. It was like a drug, or therapy, if I did not reach that lucid feeling of muscular fatigue I was not finished. For a period of your life, you can train like this. It was not stressful for me. I could handle the workload, and relished the pain, intensity, and strenuousness that each day entailed. This was my twenties. Entering the next decade I found myself seeking more balance in my life. Not simply a balance to my weekly exercise, but a balance in my life: work, social, physical, and athletic. Seeking to be “well-rounded” and diversified is a tough task. It’s easy to slip into the obsessive, single-minded state of goal achievement and optimization of an activity we see some success in. Hence, if you are good at working out, and you enjoy it, see positive changes in your self-image, you’ll make this a daily priority.
Motivation + Positive Feedback = Continuity
If I want to run a 100-mile trail race I’ll first sign up for that race. That commitment is the kickstart I need to start training specifically for the demands of running 100 miles. Otherwise, I simply go on with finding a balance in my daily life, which in terms of fitness is pretty much whatever I feel I need on that particular day.
If you don’t already love to workout every day, or even 5 days per week, you’ll need to make a commitment to develop these habits. Think of how many people you know, or have met, that run 5k’s, 10k’s, ½ marathons, marathons, or any other event that entails registration (buying a ticket J). Now, think of all those people (maybe yourself included) that hire personal trainers, and commit to scheduled weekly workouts. This helps immensely when establishing a bond with fitness and exercise. It works. Understanding the psychology of commitment is key. Once you realize that to commit is to begin, you can then move forward.
Looking at my week, during a buildup period to a ultramarathon, you would see running listed 6 of 7 days, consisting of a strong modulation of intensity, duration, and stimulus (hills, track, trails, road). Learning how to modulate exercise is the progression. The body thrives off of specific imposed demands. In a runner, this is essential to being able to deal with the stresses of racing. If I train to my strengths day in and day out I fail to prepare myself for vital elements of the race. I’ve committed, but failed to properly prepare.
How does this apply to the person seeking to enhance their image with 1 hour of exercise, 6 days per week? They must prepare. Simple preparation goes a long way. Knowing what you will eat, and when is vital. Setting aside a specific period of time each day to workout is essential. Eating well, and exercising never just happen. It’s a myth. No adult happens upon fitness. If they tell you they did, they are lying. Remember, motivation + positive feedback = continuity. If running 3 miles a day, plus doing 50 pushups and 50 situps elicits the results I desire, I’ll keep it up. Maybe after a month I’ll add another mile every other day and a few extra pushups and situps… this is gradualness. Assessing the feedback my body is giving me from my daily exercise I can then make adjustments based on my desired outcome.
Knowing your level of commitment and personal goals with exercise is mandatory. Opinions, distractions, snake oil solutions, and fad programs will constantly ping your daily life. There is absolutely no reason to get on their bandwagon. If you’ve been fit and healthy in the past, why then would you need, depend, or rely on raspberry ketones, green coffee beans, or the new 10-minute workout routine? See the message and use your brain.
Plan. Prepare. Prioritize. Balance. Achieve.
Discipline removes the element of surprise from the fitness equation. It ensures continuity, applies modulation to your week, and promotes change in the form of gradualness.
Success should never be a surprise.