Posts Tagged ‘workouts’


Just so we’re clear, this isn’t the arsonist in me with a passion for flames trying to get people to set fires, though a nice campfire is the s–t. So forget about the pyro in me, the obvious play here is in reference to the classic idiom, which means taking a risk, involving yourself in something that could be dangerous, which is right up my alley. Taking risks and accepting challenges helps me stay above fear. Like heading down a black diamond for the first time (damn, I can’t wait to go boarding) when I knew a nice wipeout awaited me at some point during the downhill. It was best to just suck it up and do it. Clearly I’m sitting here just fine right now, and now I’m terribly certain to do anything but catch the edge of my board. And thus, due to the numerous faceplants, I forced myself to learn the alternative methods of snowboarding survival. And while there are no Black Diamonds on the track or the roads, running has its opportunity for risk-taking.

Play with Fire

So, how do we risk it?

Well, you need a balls-to-the-wall day every now and again. You want to let it all hang out. There are opportunities to play with fire in workouts and in races. When most people run workouts, they run with this fear of bonking, as if  a bad workout is the end of the world. Definitely not the case, but I understand the fear of what feels like a wasted workout. So we tread along through our  interval workouts until we’re close to the end and we realize we have a lot left and we push it to the limit on the last interval. Funny thing is, whether it’s freshmen in high school, freshmen in college, or people new to this type of training, the same thing always happens. There will be a workout where that person decides today is their glory day and finishes first on the team in the last repetition, though they were nowhere near first throughout the entire workout. It happens every. single. year.  That’s one thing I’d bet on if I were a betting man. And the worst part is, you’ve gained so little from that little show, you even end up worse off since you don’t maximize your anaerobic work.

Interval workouts are the best time to give it a go. I look at at this way: Every other sport primarily trains certain skills (in addition to studying film and all the other nonsense I’m glad I never had to do) and it’s all “here’s a situation you will find yourself in on gameday.” And cross-country, track and field, and road runners need to look at their training the same way. It’s all situational and you want your feeling 1/3 of the way through the workout to match that (or honestly feel a little worse) of how you want to feel 1/3 of the way through a race and continue the workout until you are completely gassed approaching your last 1/4 or 1/6th of the work. You want to work past your glycogen depletion. You are teaching both your body and your mind how to react under these extreme circumstances.

Tune-up races are also a good opportunity, since they’re not what you’re truly training for and they are only there to give you a benchmark of where you are at. It’s a great opportunity to teach your brain where your body is at by testing the waters and figuring out the opportune times to go and the best times to hold back.

You can also choose to turn it up a notch during tempo runs, which will help build your lactate threshold, but you must be sure to not make it a race, because then you’re doing too much. Pushing yourself on the occasional regular paced run and/or strength training session won’t kill you, you just have to choose your timing wisely – you wouldn’t want your decision to “push it” to negatively affect a more important workout. Definitely DO NOT play with fire on easy runs or LSDs – you are then defeating the purpose of the run. I think the only to challenge yourself on LSDs are to give yourself a longer distance to survive – every once in a while screw the whole “one mile longer than last week” theory and go out there and lay one down.

Get Burned

OK, so you went for it and things felt like they were falling apart at the seams… It’s awful. It sucks. It can be the worst feeling in the world, but so is brain freeze and that too passes. Maybe you started too fast, maybe you started pushing it too far away from the end of the workout. Worse things have happened in the history of running. You know what didn’t happen? You didn’t give in to the fear. The fear that told you that you weren’t good enough, and that it’s in your best interest to stop. Psychologically, that’s a milestone to cherish. You just pushed your limits from point A to point B because you had the audacity to believe that you could.

Your nervous system is the “hall monitor” of your body that takes its job too seriously. You start pushing the limit and Pocket-Protector Peter (your nervous system) is all “Uhh.. Uhh.. oh my god what’s happening?” and starts locking doors (shutting down certain bodily systems) and stocking up on one-way tickets to the principals office (preserving necessities) to avoid mass chaos (untimely death). It got really morbid at the end of that last sentence, but it’s true, our central nervous system has our best intentions (our lives) in check. It’s what makes you over-react to an iron that isn’t even hot. But what ol’ Pete needs to learn is that running through the hallway is okay. You just have to respect him, and let him know that the occasional forgotten hall pass is quite alright. Just don’t abuse it, there’s no need for mass chaos.

Did I really just compare our central nervous system to a geeky hall monitor? I hope the analogy made sense.

Learn Something

You’re running to learn about yourself. Tell yourself whatever you have to, but at the end of the day this is all it is. There is no more primal and basic activity that can teach you more about yourself. Eating is a close second. When you decide “today’s going to be the day” and you hammer the training you take a step towards figuring out what you can truly be, err I mean how truly fast you are. How was my form during my faster repeats? How did I manage my breathing? I probably should’ve worn spikes. What worked? What didn’t work? What muscles started to fail, and did my counterbalancing muscles perform appropriately. And if you crumble, if you bonk, you can look back and see what it was that put you in bad shape. And guess what, you know what to avoid doing now.

Was that so hard?

Well, yeah it probably was. Christ, it was probably awful and made you wonder why you opted to do this, maybe even why the hell you brought running into your life in the first place. Good… it’s working. You will be sore, but you will be accomplished, you have trained the guts that are necessary to be successful.

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.
– Steve Prefontaine