Hills + Speed (er, sprints) = FUN

So I’m titling this post: Hills + Speed (er, sprints) = FUN. 

But really, the title *should* be: The workout where my ass fell off. 

Seriously — if you EVER need to get your ass literally handed to you, just talk to my fit and fab friend Meaghan who happens to be my running idol and one of my dearest friends (reason #3,478 why I love blogging: ‘finding’ friends like Meaghan who I’d NEVER have met if I never started blogging to begin with…)

This was our text exchange midway through my workout this morning:

photo

And this was what I looked like when all was said and done:

photo (3)

What you can’t quite see in that pic is just how sweaty I am — particularly my hair: I. Was. Drenched.
…and exhausted

But deliriously high from the rush of the endorphins this workout gave me. For real, it was KILLER. But I managed to keep my promise to Meaghan — I had FUN with the workout even though it was quickly kicking my ass. And you know what? That, to me, is what working out *should* be about, bottom line: having fun.

Sure, we all have goals for ourselves when it comes to our own physical fitness and those goals come in many shapes, forms and sizes. But honestly? Setting hard and fast goals aside can be such a liberating thing and can be just the reminder you may need to get your ‘mojo’ back. At least that’s what I’ve been LOVING lately — having fun with my workouts, not focusing on any real goals other than staying as fit as I can while having as much FUN as I can. And making as many fitdates as I can fit into my schedule (something I’ve been failing at miserably lately, but I’m determined to fix this in the new year!). 

While I’m not going to share every last detail of what this workout looked like (since it was Meaghan’s creation, I think it’s only fitting that she share it if she so chooses…maybe if you ask nicely, she’ll post about it soon, hehe #peerpressure), I will share what it felt like:

The warm-up was fun, nice easy pace and it shook the cobwebs out (fighting off some weird sniffly thing over here, bah #notsicknotsick)
The first set was all about hills mixed with speed. There were SIX (very intense) rounds with tonnnnns of incline work.
The second set was all about speed, speed, speed. Sprinting FAST, but not so fast that form suffered. My core is now killing me from focusing on my form so much during this set (it also didn’t help that I taught arms & abs last night at the studio, heh)
The final set was a mix of moderate speed mixed with a small hill. I needed this set, like whoa.

In all? I managed to kick out 6 miles of INTENSITY all before 6:30am this morning. If THAT doesn’t make you feel badass, nothing will I’ve decided. 

And on that note — I’m off to find my ass, it fell off somewhere around mile 3 or 4 during that first set… 😉

If all else fails…

…intervals FTW. 

Seriously. I was a sweaty, smelly, exhausted mess after this, but I NEEDED this workout. Like, whoa. 

Before: 
I was grumpy (needlessly)
I was annoyed (again, for no real reason).
I was snippy (I hate when I get that way, especially for no real reason). 

After: 
I was energized.
I was renewed.
I felt like me again. 

…just a sweatier, smellier, more exhausted version. 😉 

So my advice to you — if you’re ever whacked by the grumpy stick out of the blue like I was last night: run intervals. Preferably like the ones I did last night (a throwback from last winter’s stash of interval runs). 

I say it again: Intervals: FTW! 
(that’s all I got today, nothing more profound than that lol)

 

Modified fartleks for 10 (miles)

Saturday’s run – my description: Modified fartleks for 10 miles (holy hell)
Saturday’s run – Scott’s description: ‘we had fun.’

Um hi, who the heck throws fartleks into a 10 mile training run and *then* says it was ‘fun.’
…that would be my husband, who I know believe is crazier than I am.

For those of you wondering – a fartlek is:

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever the athlete wishes

So while we didn’t do full-out fartlek work on Saturday, we sure as hell did a modified version of it. And it hurt. A lot.

I still haven’t decided if I would’ve liked a courtesy heads-up from Scott that this was in ‘his’ plan for us on Saturday or not — I kind of think if I knew it was coming, I would’ve wussed my way out of it somehow. Or at least whined a heck of a lot more at the outset (and I admit to whining a LOT after the first sprint session, not gonna lie).

Here’s what we did, generally speaking:
Ran our first 2ish miles as our warm-up — this portion of our route is particularly hilly so not entirely fun as a warm-up, just sayin’
Ran the next 2 miles at a picked-up pace (this is all guestimates since I am garmin-less as you know)
Then, we we rounded the bend towards the golf course, we pulled back a bit in preparation for our first sprint
Over the bridge we went, right over the ocean — the most beautiful part of our run. And we were sprinting our asses off. It was probably about a quarter mile or so sprint. My legs were FLYING. And to be honest, that first sprint felt good. I had no idea I had such speed in my legs.
Post-sprint, we wound our way around a cute neighborhood, up a rolling hill that surprisingly kicks your ass on a good day, nevermind right after a speed burst. Oy. Our breathing regulated and we prepared ourselves for the next sprint. Back over that bridge but about double the distance and faster. This one REALLY hurt.
Gasping for air, I was whining my ass off, so ready to be done but we still had 3 miles left before home.
Off we went, back up another rolling hill, and another before we rounded the bend towards the final two streets before home. Scott took off. Left me in his dust — this is his cue to pick up the pace. It always pisses me off because he does it when I’m at my most tired…and I know he is smart for pushing me that way, but in my head, I’m bitching and moaning. The more I bitch and moan in my head, the faster I go though, so I suppose it all works out. (man, my husband is so smart, isn’t he? Knows just what to do to get me moving…lol)
Finally we’re at the home stretch — the final half mile to home and I’m just DONE. I’ve slowed way, way down but I’m still moving so that’s a good sign, right?? So I sprint to the finish as best as I can, rushing towards Scott who finished before me and he’s a sweaty smiley mess. Such a beautiful sight, I must say. ❤

So after ALL of that? I can’t say that I love mixing sprints/quasi-fartlek work into training, but I will say that I needed that. A reminder that I can push myself even when I’m dead-tired and that I can push past the mental doubts that started to creep in as I grew more and more tired. I’ll need all the mental endurance I can get leading into this marathon, yeah? So I suppose I should thank my husband for kicking my ass then, huh? Even if I whined a bunch about it. 😉

(and finally, from the ‘you know you’re a runner when’ files…)

Intervals. FTW!

Monday morning, this happened:

That would be me, covered in sweat, totally worn out but with such a look of glee in my eye, I just couldn’t help but post this pic to twitter right after I finished my interval rounds. <–what? I was proud of myself, ok? 😉

Plus, it goes along nicely with what you might already be seeing a lot of on twitter and in bloggy land — for us FitFluential Ambassadors (a group I love more and more by the day!), we’ve gotten into the habit of not just talking about our workouts, but PROVING them out by tweeting and blogging about that hard work with picture proof. So if you see me talking up the whole #PROOF thing a lot more up in here, you know why. I love seeing everyone’s sweaty, post-workout glow, it’s so cool!!

But anyway, back to those intervals I mentioned. The reason I was so proud? Not only was I able to push faster during my favorite go-to mile-repeat style intervals, but I felt REALLY strong and happy throughout. <— Happy during intervals? Is she crazy?? (yes, yes I am)

The intervals in question – looked like this (you’ve seen these before):

Mile 0-.5: warm-up @6.8-7.0 mph
Mile .5-1.5: speed round@ 7.6 7.7 mph <–improvement!
Mile 1.5 – 1.6: recovery round @4mph
Mile 1.6 – 2.6:
speed round @ 7.6 7.7 mph
Mile 2.6 -2.7: recovery round @4mph
Mile 2.7-3.7:
speed round @7.6 7.7 mph
Mile 3.7-3.8: recovery round @4mph
Mile 3.8-4.8
: speed round @7.6 7.7 mph
4.8-5.5: Recover!

Thank you happy and really well-rested legs for pushing me through some speedtastically fun intervals to kick off Monday morning in style. I guess the whole 9-miler that didn’t happen this weekend was what did it for me. Maybe that’s my body’s way of telling me that a little speed work in lieu of endurance work isn’t such a bad thing now and then, hmm?

Either way, I was really happy with this, especially the progress I’m seeing with my speed and my ability to push through the pain. I’m hoping this translates well on race day – which is almost a month away. Eeks. How did that happen??

Run-strength (and weakness)

My blog friend Amanda wrote a killer blog post yesterday on running strengths and weaknesses. Her post had such a great message behind it and was a really good exercise for her to go through as she continues to get and keep her head in the game while training for her first marathon (go girl, go!).  Side note – if you don’t know Amanda, get your butt over there -she. is. awesome.

Since I’m on a fun little journey over here as I also get my head in the game for my first-ever full marathon, I thought the strengths/weaknesses exercise was a good one to give a whirl.

Run-strengths…

  • I’m a “free” runner by nature — most of my running is of the “just run” variety. Get out there, log some miles, enjoy the fresh air, the “me” time, the sheer ability to be able to run. “Free” also means – no garmin, no iPod, no distractions.
  • I’ve gotten pretty good at getting out of my head when I run — my favorite motto continues to be “run the mile you’re in” which has saved me many a time when a run started to get the best of me and all I could do was focus on the finish “line” versus powering through each mile as it’s own entity.
  • I’m not afraid of hills – yup, I said it. Now the Universe is bound to throw some crazy hills at me on my next run, just becaues I said that, huh? 😉  But anyway, I am not afraid of hills — mostly because my routes around my house are all fairly hilly. So I’ve never been the one that has always run flat routes and freak out a little if a course on race day is hillier than I expect. I hope this bodes well on May 6 — the Providence course has a bit of a ‘rolling’ aspect to it. So there’s that.

Run-weaknesses…

  • I sometimes like to think I know more than I do – call me stubborn (no really, go ahead and call me stubborn, I know I am!), but I often find that I bristle at *too* much advice giving my runners out there. It could even be a magazine article that I’ll scoff at. I figure, I’ve been running on my own, without any sort of hardcore training coach or personal trainer, I know what I’m doing. Of *course* I do. Bwahahaha. And then I realize that I’m not perfect. Far from it. And I’m always learning. Running definitely falls into the “constant learning experience” camp. So I should probably heed advice more often and quit letting my stubborn side take over.
  • I strive to be faster but sometimes I hate speed work — Yet, sometimes I love it depending on the day. Usually once I’m into a speed workout, I’m ok with it, it’s the anticipation that kills me, haha. On the one hand, I know it’s helped me speed up the pace (my last PR proves that!), but on the other hand — I don’t ever want to be that person that runs and races with an eagle-eye focus on time, time, time. For me, there’s a time and a place to focus on a PR and there’s also a time and a place to focus on the run itself. And running it proud. That’s huge for me – running strong, sure, but running proud. Way more important to me.
  • I need to learn how to fuel/hydrate better – this also falls into the “stubborn” camp above. Tuesday night’s run proves that. The nausea I felt after that run was partly due to exertion, but it was also partly due to the lack of water on a warmer-than-usual night in March. Thanks to some great advice from a couple of running friends, I’m (about to be) the proud owner of two Nathan hand-held water bottles (the iFitness belt I bought last summer just doesn’t work for me, too slippy) – a smaller one and a larger one, depending on my needs on a given day. I’ll also be giving honey stingers a try on my longer runs. And more frequent fueling than I’m used to doing during a longer run. I’m doing everything I can to avoid that “OMG I’m gonna puke” feeling after a long (or challenging) run or race. I get that feeling after EVERY half marathon I’ve ever done — and I am sure it’s due to lack of proper fueling (I’m sure you’ll yell at me, runner friends, but two shot blox for an entire 13.1 mile course *probably* isn’t enough). I am determined to figure out the right balance for me — I don’t want to overfuel or overhydrate (I run “heavy” very easily when my stomach has too much in it), but I certainly need to fuel/hydrate better than I have in the past. Note to self.

Whew. That was a fun, but very mind-churning exercise. My mind is now going in a million more directions, running-wise. But the bottom line in all of this?
I am a runner.
…I love to run.
…It brings me joy.
…I am filled with gratitude that I’ve been blessed with an able body that can carry me through the miles.
…and I’m determined to continue to learn and evolve as a runner.

But most of all? I want to continue to trust my body to do what my mind thinks isn’t possible (why hello there 26.2 miles!). Which is precisely what drew me into running in the first place. To face down (what I thought was) the impossible.

When your body doesn’t fail you

Last night’s run?

A prime example of my body not failing me, even though my mind had other ideas.
(well, that’s  not entirely true – gimme a minute and I’ll explain.)

Let me set the stage first. It’s been ridiculously warm around here lately – as in hitting 70+ the last two days. In March. In Boston. Unreal. These legs have been itching to run, run, RUN in this weather. Hence Monday night’s impromptu rundate with my sis and last night’s planned rundate with the hubs – to the tune of 6.5 miles, around one of our favorite running routes in our neighborhood.

We set out a little after 5pm. It was still in the 60s. Peepers were chirping. A nice warm breeze was blowing. I had my wunder unders on from Lululemon (my latest purchase and newest Lulu infatuation!) and a t-shirt and was ready to rock our run.

However.

My body was tired. I knew it as soon as we got into the first mile. But I told myself to chug on. I knew I had it in me to get through all 6.5, or at least that’s what I told myself at such an early juncture in our run.

However.

We hit mile 2 and I was still feeling really beat up. Tired. But elated that the weather was so gorgeous and that I was running with my favorite running companion ever. So I kept it up.

However.

The miles kept coming and my body was getting more and more tired. And now I’m getting mad at myself. Like what the heck is wrong with me – this is PRIME running weather, I should be rockin’ a mean runner’s high right now.

And then it hit me. Well – two things, really. First – I realized how fast our legs were moving. No wonder…we’re running like maniacs out here right now (no idea on exact pace since we run garmin-less, but my body tells me it was holy-sh*t-fast). And second – my rest day is near. As in – it’s today. Thank God for that. Clearly that’s why I was struggling so much last night. I realize this now, but didn’t fully understand it in that moment last night.

Anyway, we finished out our run, I got past the “struggle” feeling and started to feel better as we neared closer to home. We hoofed it up the last hill, around the corner and to the end of our route. I have never been so happy to see the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. I’ll tell ya that.

This is how I looked right after the run – it’s not pretty, oy. Check out that beet red face, hot stuff, lemme tell ya.
(and wow is that a blurry iPhone pic, sorry about that!)

Well – things sorta deteriorated from there. After dinner, I got super duper nauseous. Ick. Took a shower. Sorta felt better. Ended up on the couch the rest of the night. A sign that I pushed it really hard *and* probably a sign that my body was just a wee bit tired, eh? Thank GOD today is my rest day — I am fully and utterly embracing it. Why yes, yes I am. 🙂

So – while I ended up feeling less-than-stellar at the end of the night last night, I still contend that my body did not let me down in the moment I needed it most: during the final few miles of that run, when my mind kept telling me to stop (or “please don’t puke”),  my body kept going. Gives me confidence that this mind over matter thing is for real *and* that if you trust your body, 9 times out of 10, it won’t let you down. <—can I get an “amen?!”

The sneakers or the runner?

Picture this scene:

It’s Tuesday morning.
The first day of half marathon (#4) training.
Intervals on tap.
Brand new Brooks Ghost 3’s arrived in the mail the night prior.
This girl hadn’t run hard speed in weeks.
Off she went…

(anyone want to take a guess at what unfolded next?)

An EPIC round of mile repeat-style intervals ensued.
…it looked something like this:
Mile 0-1:
warm-up @6.8-7.0 mph
Mile 1-2: speed round@7.6mph
Mile 2 – 2.2: recovery round @4mph
Mile 2.2 – 3.2:
speed round @7.6mph
Mile 3.2-3.4:
recovery round @4mph
Mile 3.4-4.4:
speed round @7.6mph
Mile 4.4-4.6:
recovery round @4mph
Mile 4.6-5.6
: speed round @7.6mph
Mile 5.6 – 6.0: recovery round and cool-down @6.0-6.2mph

RUNNER’S HIGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Now. Not gonna lie. At first I wanted to chalk it all up to the brand spankin’ new kicks I was sporting, figuring that was the added boost I need to kick out some awesome speed yesterday. But then two thoughts occurred to me.
1 – I haven’t been running very much this past month, at most 15 miles a week or so. (for obvious reason – hi barre n9ne training!) 
2 – Half marathon training started yesterday and I am SO jazzed about the race it’s not even funny. It’s equal parts being back in training and loving that feeling and the fact that I’ll get to run this race with friends (yay Sam!).

So, my conclusion to this question: Was it the sneakers or the runner?
In this case (while I love my new Brooks!) – I’m giving all the credit to the runner this time. This girl worked hard.
…and has very happy feet to prove it. 🙂

Love to run – winter and summer edition

So, after seeing tons and tons of “why I love to run” style blog posts yesterday in honor or Valentine’s Day thanks to #runchat’s call for posts on the topic on Sunday, I got to thinking about my own lovefest with running.

But rather than talk about why I (love to) run – which I’ve covered a couple of times already here and there (though I feel like I could answer that question differently any day of the week!), I thought I’d take a slightly different slant.

Why I love to run – the winter and summer edition.
(mainly because, up until this winter, I used to despise winter running. And now I don’t (so much). But I digress. Let’s carry on, shall we?)

Winter:

It’s freezing.
…which makes you run faster. As in holy-hell-there-must-be-crazy-angry-polar-bears-chasing-me fast. <—this was how Sunday's run went, thanks to 15 degree temps and mad wind.

being freezing means two things.
1 – you’re alive and ought to be pretty darn excited about that fact.
2 – you get to pick out wicked cute (and warm) running tights, running hoodies, headbands, etc. And lust after a few items over at Lululemon, wistfully hoping for them to magically appear on the “we made too much” section. Like this:

(I WANT.)

And, winter running means be-friending the dreadmill which for me translates into interval training and hill work. Both equally puketastic. Both equally needed if I want to kill my half marathon in May…and to set me up nicely for Chicago Marathon training which begins in June (um, puke…that’s coming up pretty quick…)

Summer:

You sweat. A LOT. I dig that.
(recycled post-rundate pic from this summer)

You get to run much, much earlier in the AM and outside, not on the treadmill. Which means – birds chirping, bunny sightings, warm summer air and ridiculous runner’s highs. I have such fond memories of summertime rundates with my running buddies Steph and Jo, and many long rundates with Scott. Come to think of it, summertime is actually where most of my half marathon training has taken place, to date. So I guess you can say I’m a big-time summer runner, high heat and muggies, be damned.

…which from what I hear is a good thing given the weather for the Chicago Marathon can be fairly unpredictable (but usually pretty warm). <–so choosing this as my first full marathon was a wicked smaht move, who knew?!

And – it takes far less time to “gear up” for a summertime run than a wintertime run. Don’t get me wrong, I dig all the cute winter running gear I’ve accumulated (or lusted after) this season, but nothing compares to running in nothing but Lululemon run shorts and a tank top.

(after the YuKanRun half marathon with Isabel – she’s so little here!)

…which reminds me of a little goal or “bet” that Jo, Steph and I have. That this summer will be the summer we will throw caution to the wind and run in just shorts and a sports bra. Something none of us has ever been brave enough to do (in public) before. Eek. We promised we’d make it happen this year, that we’d let go of insecurity and own that run. Call it a running bucket list item if you want, but dammit – we’re making it happen this year. Right, ladies??

So, this post turned into a bit of a rambly mess, I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes my mind wanders all over the place when I’m blogging, especially when it comes to running. It’s on my mind a LOT lately. That and barre n9ne, barre n9ne, barre n9ne. Not much room in my brain these days for much else.

…which I don’t consider a bad thing. Not. At. All. 😉

Thinkin’ hilly…’n stuff

After chatting with my sis about her recent success (asslap, sis!) with tackling her first hill-style interval workout yesterday, I got to thinking about my own “relationship” with hills when running.

…which quickly blew up into a much bigger topic once the wheels started turning. (typical!)

To start – I thought about how I approach hills when I run. I really can’t avoid them all that much in my neighborhood since I’m sort of surrounded by them so they’ve never really “scared” me so much as I’ve just dealt with them and learned to push through them over time. I rarely, however, use much of an incline when I run on the treadmill though and I got to thinking about that fact.

So sure, I’m pretty decent on hills when I run outside…but how does that change when I’m facing far less hills in the winter (due to fewer outdoor runs and much more time on the ‘mill)? I’m sure it’s doing me no favors in the winter months not to be doing much in the way of hill work except on the rare occasions that I get to tackle them outside in the chilly winter months.

So I resolved right then and there to start incorporating hill work into my running plans this winter. It could translate into every-other-week hill-style intervals vs. straight-up speedy intervals. Or, it could translate into one of my steady-state runs including hill work, particularly as the winter months drone on and steady state treadmill jaunts grow more and more tiresome. And it most certainly means making sure that my outdoor runs still include any and all routes where hills are involved. Just for good measure.

But what this little exercise also reminded me of? That anyone can be the victim of a plateau or falling into the “well, I’m already pretty good at that so…” mindset. In other words – don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a rut or a routine just because “it’s how you’ve always done it.”

I want to apply this to all of my workouts from now on. 

Not that I’ve felt like I’ve hit a wall or anything with my workouts, but more because I never want to get complacent. I don’t want to hit the barre and feel like “I’ve done this workout before…” I want every trip to barre n9ne to feel new and challenging and shake-worthy. Same goes for each run – inside or out. I want to walk away from each run feeling as if I left nothing to spare. No speed left on a speedy day. No leg stamina left on a hill day. No endurance left on a long distance day.

This isn’t me being all hard core and crazy. Nope. This is just me never taking my workouts for granted by phoning them in. To me, there is nothing worse than complacency –not just with workouts, but in any area in life. Always be looking for ways to grow, change, evolve.

…to me – that’s what this lifetime is about – living your best life right now, and always working for that personal “best”…even if it stings a little. 😉

Winter running plans – the eatdrinkbreathesweat edition

Now that I have no choice but to officially admit that yes, winter is here, I figured it was time to throw down some winter running plans – the eatdrinkbreathesweat “way” of course.

<I’m also doing this in part to support my fab sis who is embarking on a 6-month running challenge – a challenge many of you are also committed to, which I LOVE!>

While I’m not in training mode for a race right now  — I sort of always consider myself “in training” when it comes to running because it’s something that needs to be nurtured consistently for it to evolve. This is true for other activities as well, but I think it’s particularly important as a runner.

My ultimate goal this winter is to maintain – as best as I can – my run-durance built up from the two half marathons I trained for this summer/fall.  I worked damn hard for that endurance,  and I don’t want to see it completely fly out the window this winter. I’d love nothing more than to have a really good, really solid base under me around March-ish of next year (foreshadowing of race plans to come, perhaps??) versus feeling like I’m starting from ground zero again.

So – what do these big, bad winter eatdrinkbreathesweat-style winter running plans look like, you ask? They’re pretty basic, honestly — but I thought I’d share them in case any of you runner’s out there were looking for ways to ward off the winter crankies with runner’s high, instead. 😉 <—plus, jotting down my running plans here keeps me WAY accountable, never a bad thing in my book! 

The winter running plan*: eatdrinkbreathesweat style…
Day 1– 6-7 miles, treadmill-style (early-AM, no choice!)
Day 2– 6 miles, interval-style (treadmill, again)
Day 3– 5-6 miles recovery-style (slow and steady, hopefully outside)
Day 4 –  7-9+ mile long run (outside as much as possible)
*cross-training will center on barre n9ne, obvs 😉

I told you, very basic, right? Throughout the winter, I promise to share with you guys snippets of what these runs look like, but for now – you get the gist. Four days of running. One long run. One interval run. Perfection.

The key for me here is consistency. Both in terms of mileage and maintaining a base of between 6-9 miles (or maybe more) throughout the winter; and in terms of four committed runs per week. No more, no less. For me – four days of running is ideal. It keeps my legs in great running shape but doesn’t burn them out.

Another important factor here is speed and building that pace during the winter months where it’s easier for me to do interval work. Since I run garmin-less, doing intervals outside would be tough (not impossible, just tough) so I tend to do more interval work in the winter than I do in the summer. However, that *will* need to change once I get into 26.2 training mode. But that’s a story for another day (I promise).

For now? I’m digging my simple and smart winter running plan. It’s quite honestly the most consistent running schedule I’ve ever had in the winter — and there’s obviously a method to that madness. I have grand racing goals in mind for 2012, afterall!

But that’s a story (and a post) for another day this week – stay tuned for some 2012 race “musings” and *maybe* even a sneak peak into my marathon training plan (but only if you ask nicely, heh) later this week, too!