Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Love and Hate of Speedwork

Remember that promise I made to add speedwork to my running schedule this training season?  I stayed true to that promise by doing my first speed session this week.  Big deal, right?  Well, yes, it is a big deal for a slacker like me.  It has been a long time since I last visited a track for any kind of workout session and it shows in every way in my running form and lack of speed.  I have become gradually slower and more plump over the years without speed workouts, and I've had a damn good time in the process.  You won't catch me making excuses for my slow pace or my weight gain from the last few years.  I loved every morsel of calorie rich food I ate and earned every pound I gained like they were lottery prize installments.  However long this little healthy streak I am currently on continues, I will have to own up to my dietary sins and up the ante on my running with weekly speed sessions.

My love/hate relationship with speedwork is long and complicated.  The way I feel about doing hard intense loops around that boring track is similar to the way I feel about taking medicine when I am sick.  I know it is good for me but the actual process of swallowing the pill is bitter at best.  If you want to see me act like a complete child, tell me to do a speed workout and I will come undone.  Lately, my running has not been about intensity or serious effort.  It has become a social escape when I can chit chat with my buds and forget my worries for roughly 40 minutes to an hour.  Speedwork on the other hand involves concentration, effort and a lot of unsexy heavy breathing.  There is nothing fun about looping the same 400-meter track over and over again as my Garmin beeps to tell me to quit dragging my ass.

Nevertheless, even I am mature enough to recognize the merits of track workouts.  Just like with dietary improvements, the results are unmistakably positive when I put in the work consistently.  There was once a time a few years back when several of my buds and I followed an advanced training schedule that included track work, circuit training and good old fashioned calisthenics.  I followed the training schedule for roughly three months and I nailed PRs in various distances that season.  The lesson learned was if I put in the work, I would see the results.  However, the work part is what I have skillfully avoided for the last few years.  Walking onto that track this week meant a lot of cobwebs would have to be dusted off to make the time well spent.  My running buds and I agreed on a simple workout of 5x400-meters, with 200-meter rest breaks in between.  No it wasn't much by super athlete standards, but it promised to kick my lazy butt well enough.

Since the temps in the Houston area have already begun to climb into the mid-90s, our track time had to take place in the early morning hours before the sun was up.  Surprisingly I was actually a bit anxious to get the workout started.  The good thing about doing any speed session is that there is a definite predictability to them. Someone in the group states the workout, the group executes the moves, and then it is over.  Whether it is 4 laps or 14 laps, you know exactly what you are doing and how long it will take.  There is always a warm-up, a cool down and a marked number of fast laps in between.  No chance anyone will accidentally add extra miles (like we sometimes do) onto an uncharted running route.  I vowed ahead of time not to whine or groan as we counted down the laps.  Luckily, there was no chance of me cheating through the workout because one of my running buds just happens to be a personal trainer who never whines or complains.  She ran alongside me, not judging my sloppy stride or loud rhythmic breathing.  She simply kept me on pace and gave me a high-five when it was all over, and I was grateful.

Once we finished, I was more proud of the fact that I didn't complain instead of my actual performance.  Which by the way, my performance sucked but I look forward to seeing my speed interval times drop as the weeks go on this season.  My victory was not in how well I did (or didn't do in my case), but in the fact that I took the first steps to make a necessary change.  My list of goals I made a month ago were rooted in getting me out of my safe comfort zone.  In the past, my husband has also done personal training and one of his philosophies for seeing big improvements in your fitness level is to remain uncomfortable in your workouts.  He always tells me to get uncomfortable, but it did not hit home until recently.  His belief is that if you are comfortable during your workout, then you are not pushing your efforts hard enough.  Working out should feel like work, not a casual comfy stroll through the park.  Your workout should be a hard strenuous effort in order for it to work in your favor.  Yeah it sounds like a cliche, but it makes sense to me after my brain is mush from seemingly endless loops around that dreadful track in the dark hours of the morning.  Let's see if I can apply this to other areas of my life.  I'm going to have to put in the work if I expect to see any changes.  Guess I better get started now to reap the benefits later.

No comments:

Post a Comment