Throughout grade school and high school I hated writing assignments. I would have done two math tests if I could escape one written paper about the latest novel we were reading in English class. I also disliked when we were asked to give our opinion about something because I found that I often didn't have an opinion. With that background, you probably understand why I’m definitely the last person that I though would start a blog. The thing is, along came running and it changed my life in so many ways that here I am starting a blog. Why am I telling you this? Because you just never know what you're capable of with the right motivation.
What seems impossible today could feel easy one year from now. Just think of the first time you tried running and how you never thought you would be able to run a kilometre without stopping. Maybe now a five kilometre run is what you consider a "short run". You probably don't even remember when the changes happened because you were so focused on doing just a little bit more each time you went our for a run. I think a lot of runners can relate and believe that they can go farther than they have ever gone before, but what about speed? I notice that a lot of runners believe they can go farther, but don't think they can get faster.
If me starting a blog is any indication, you can get better at anything if you put your mind to it; and if you don't get better, well, at least you can say you tried. Just like your small increases in distance can get you from not being able to run a kilometre without stopping, to now easily running five kilometres or more, incorporating small amounts of speed work into your training can make you a faster runner over time. If you've never done speed-work before, then I suggest starting with 15 to 30 second strides. When running strides you want to go as fast as you can while still maintaining fluid running form. Why do I think you should run strides and not 800 meter repeats? Well, if you've never done speed-work before, or are returning from time away from running, 800 meters is a long time to be running fast. What ends up happening is that as you get tired, your pace gets slower to the point of not being that different from your usual running pace. Strides are great for pushing your top end speed because they're over by the time you start getting tired.
So now that I've hopefully convinced you to try strides, you're wondering how to get started, right? A good place to start is with eight times 15 second strides. If you're going back to the start for each one then either jog REALLY slowly back to the start, or just walk back. If you're doing them during a continuous run, then jog about 1 minute between each. You want your breathing to go back to baseline so that you can put just as much effort into subsequent strides as you did for the first one. The focus is speed and good form, not endurance, so you need to recover between strides. Do these twice per week for 3 weeks, and then you can either increase the number of strides, the duration, or maybe a little of both. Keep on doing your usual mileage and try entering a race. I bet you'll notice a difference in either your race time or your effort during the race, and that is just the beginning. You might need more than strides to get that Boston Qualifier, but it will be a great start!
Let me know what running goal seems impossible to you today. Have you already started incorporating something new in your training? Do you have any questions about running? Email me through the contact form on the home page and I'll try to answer your questions in future posts.
Photo: My training partner Alan on his way to smashing his all-time PB in the 5k at the age of 64! I take full credit for making sure he did a thorough warm-up, although the credit for the race performance is all his.