First off, Happy Memorial Day – and while for most of us it is an excuse for a long weekend, and perhaps watching our kids march in a parade (or in my case, one kid march while the other is home with a broken foot) … it is worth remembering that the heroes who have put their lives on the line for us and our country are the true reason for this day. Take a moment this day to remember them and their service.
It is interesting – just a couple of months ago many of us were lamenting a long, grueling winter and wishing for the joys of real spring weather to get out and run. Yet these past couple of weeks, I have seen more people talking about being burned out or just not knowing what to do.
As we get to the end of May, the first ‘season’ of races is coming to a close, and folks who have been training all winter for their first marathon are suddenly faced with great weather but a lack of direction. Or like me, they might have spent all winter single-minded (for me, it was getting in the runs, but for others it was treadmill work or whatever).
Whatever the reason, I have seen lots of people who have seemed lost … and this week I have fully embraced spring by mixing things up myself, so here are just a few things to do to try to keep running fresh as we get used to this great weather:
1. Find Another Race
This weekend I didn’t run a race, choosing family time as I always do – but definitely felt a twinge over missing the Glassfest 8K on Saturday (which I for some reason thought was Sunday). But anyway, this weekend I had local friends run in no less than a half-dozen races within 30 minutes of my house!
Right now there are loads of races – so if you feel the let-down, get back out and do another race. If you have been training for a goal race, now just do some fun runs – grab friends, and just enjoy!
2. Try Doing ‘Fartleks’
These have always been one of my favorite things to do since I learned about them a couple of years ago. Basically they are ‘speed play’ – you are doing what all kids do “race you to the light post”, or whatever.
I have a few areas I tend to do these – just turn on the speed for a defined distance, really push it. It is an adrenaline rush, but because you are focusing on speed, it can help you push things if you are looking to get faster as well. Thing is – this shouldn’t be your only speed work, if you really want to work on pace, look into tempo runs and other things … and at that point you should be setting up training plans, which is far beyond my knowledge and the scope of this post.
3. Run With Weights
By which I also mean DO NOT run with weights … the problem is that adding artificial weights can really mess with posture and form and other things. So be very, very careful about doing this.
But if you sometimes carry a water bottle, you are basically running with weights – so here is the thought: run with a 1-2lb weight in each hand. As you go along, use them and stretch yourself and do exercises. You will probably see your pace drop, and you WILL feel it in your arms and chest.
And if you do it for a couple of days then run without weights … you will feel like you are flying! Another caution – this is really not something for long runs, and again, be very very careful.
4. Track Work
This week I did my first bit of track work – not on the full track, but on a smaller school trail/track. Just a couple of laps, but basically I took a few minutes from my normal run and absolutely punished myself.
The thought is that with dedicated running on a track of known distance, you can really focus on improving your speed work. It is intriguing to me, as I consider it a torture device that was a high school football team punishment … but like so many other things, being a runner now changes my perspective on this!
I have read a bunch of people doing track work for the first time – I would love to hear about things you have tried, what works and doesn’t, and so on!
5. Kill Those Hills
OK, so me doing hills isn’t news – I have 400ft incline in my daily runs and actively seek the hills on a regular basis. For me, they are fun – grueling, punishing fun. It is always amusing having people driving up or down the really big inclines I do looking at me like I am crazy … because I am, of course – and I love it!
Hills are painful, draining, and really force you to focus on HOW you run them. You will torture your quads and calves and if you do them wrong might end up with an unplanned rest day – but the burn you get and the sense of exhaustion is just exhilarating. And they also allow you to set new goals all the time – just getting up, running all the way, maintaining heart rate and/or pace, and so on. I always make sure to get in some hills every week.
6. ‘Destination’ Run
Last week I headed on a short drive to a packed gravel trail to take a run for a few miles, and it was just something different. Different sights, sounds, and path. If you are like me and run the same places – I have about 6 different main routes I do on a regular basis, but they all center around my house.
So it seems silly, but sometimes just doing something a little different provides a new challenge, or at least gives your brain something new to contemplate.
There are just a few ways I have found to keep things fresh and interesting for myself. Everyone has different things that motivate them – running with friends, groups, or other things. It is all about getting out there!
My Running Summary
As we get into full-on spring, this week we still had two mornings with frost! Not so fun, and one day as it was 30 with a breeze I even put on my heavier gloves to keep my hands warmer.
Sunday: Family time
Monday: 9.5 miles
Tuesday: 8.5 miles, including some track time
Wednesday: 9.25 miles, 2 x 1 lb weights
Thursday: 9.25 miles, 2 x 2 lb weights
Friday: 9.75 miles
Saturday 14.5 miles, heavy on hills!
Very happy with the week – nearly 61 miles. Feeling like I am hitting my ‘summer stride’ in terms of pushing in the miles – eager to get out the door, reluctant to come home. As you can see, this week I did stuff that is on my list – the week before I felt like I was starting to get into a rut, so I wanted to nip THAT one in the bud!
So how do YOU shake out your running blahs?