With today’s Fabulous February tip, I’m sneakily advocating speedwork, but just hear me out.
If you run the same route day in and day out – or maybe just a few times a week – it can become a mindless run where you zone out and just log miles without paying attention to your body. Usually this is a route from your home or work; one you could do in your sleep.
But if you head in a different direction, you’re likely to encounter different terrain and potentially new heights, maybe even using different muscles. Why not deliberately go to the track, hit the trail, or do some hill repeats, once a week for four weeks? During that period, avoid timing yourself on your “regular route.” Then, after a full month of mixing it up, compare your time on your regular route to the last one you did before this little experiment. I am willing to bet that you’re either faster or your perceived effort is lower – meaning you’ve become a stronger runner.
Without completely avoiding that “regular route,” it would be really hard to avoid noticing things like, “I don’t feel as winded after that hill;” or noticing that you’re back a few minutes earlier from the run than usual. But without timing yourself on that route you know like the back of your hand for a full month, you’re forced to operate on faith and barred from over-analyzing your pace on a day-to-day basis. For many runners, those frequent check-ins prevent you from relaxing and sometimes unnecessarily tinkering with your plan. In this case, it will also set the minimum amount of speedwork sessions at four, which is usually a good foundation for you to start seeing results.
If you live in the Portland metro area and want to try out some track workouts in a supportive, non-judgmental setting, join Team Red Lizard for one of their weekly speed workouts. They are currently at Lincoln High School track, with workouts starting at 6:15p each Tuesday. (Be warmed up and ready to start at 6:15p.) Learn more about this and other TRL group runs, which are all free, here.
If trail running sounds like more fun to you, look for a hilly park such as Portland’s Forest Park or McDonald State Forest outside of Corvallis. Flatter parks still offer benefits as long as you’re running on an unpaved trail.
And if you just want to climb some hills, you’re likely able to find one near you. The best hills are those with little traffic and a low speed limit (to avoid a car flying up behind you), and one that is anywhere from 100 m to a quarter mile in length. The best hill workouts that I’ve found are on roads where the incline gradually becomes steeper and then tops out on a flatter area where I can run easy between repeats. Be careful to take it very easy on your recovery and especially running back downhill: you may even want to walk back down to the start.
Good luck and let us know if you try this tip by commenting on our facebook page.