I’ll be honest. There are times when running can become monotonous — more or less the same routes, same distances, same long run on the weekends . . . same, same, same. : )
Well, I have this idea that I think might actually be kind of fun, IF you have the discipline to do it right.
No, it’s nothing ground shaking, but if you’re feeling bored with running, perhaps try racing yourself into race condition this year!
Uhhh, what’s that?
Here’s the deal. Variety provides new experiences. It’s hard to get bored when you’re doing something new. So, instead of doing the same “ol” routine, get online and find as many races as you can and prepare to sign up for them (based on your availability calendar).
But BEFORE you do, understand that you need to have the mental discipline to do this “right” or instead of racing yourself into shape, you could instead race yourself into injury.
So, let’s start with those of you who enjoy running 5Ks. Conservatively (meaning realistically) estimate how long it would take you to race a 5K distance today . . . and NO, I didn’t say what was your PR LAST year or how long it would take you to race a 5K if the “stars aligned, the moon was full, the race conditions were perfect, and you had boundless energy.” Be brutally honest — typical day and based on your current conditioning.
Okay then, take that time and and ADD 31 seconds (1 second for every tenth mile). Sign up for your race and run your splits evenly — in a way that you finish somewhere between (NOT BELOW) your estimated time and that estimated time PLUS 31 seconds. So, if you estimated you could do a 5K in 29:00, you should finish between 29:00 and 29:31. Do NOT beat your estimated time. Pull back if you find yourself ahead (you should know what your mile splits should be). ALSO, if you find yourself struggling to MAKE the plus 31 seconds time — don’t push it! Run steady, run strong, but DON’T strain yourself to make the time. This is your benchmark race. If you push and strain and grasp and claw (or should I say “GASP” and “COUGH”?) you’re defeating the purpose of this plan.
Once you finish the race, note the time. By how you feel when you finished the race and what time you finished it, you’ll know whether you overestimated or underestimated your current condition… you’ll have a much more accurate measure from here on in.
Okay, your goal could be to race every Saturday or every other Saturday. Your Saturday race days become your speed work days, so be sure you warm up and stretch well before each race. Every Saturday you race, evaluate the course (a hilly course will likely be slower than a flat or downhill course) and based on your 5K races so far this year, estimate a decent (NOT awesome) time for you to finish and again, add 31 seconds. Do what it takes to finish between those two numbers . . . and I don’t mean walking the last 50 meters (check your pace every 1/2 mile if you have a GPS watch or every mile on the mile marker signs if you don’t).
What you’ll find is, if you’re doing this properly, after three or four races, your times are dropping and every time you “evaluate” what you could finish in, that should also be inching downward. The whole idea though is to start out NOT with racing in mind, but success being defined as meeting your goal time. Each race is to finish within that 31-second range…and you should actually feel like you failed if you beat the time. Sure, in the short term, it may feel great to beat that time, but just like you harden your body to the pounding of running, I believe you also have to temper your body to the stress of a faster pace. Too fast, too soon and you blow a muscle.
The idea here is two-fold: One, you’re adding variety to your running (boredom gone! : ) ; and two, you’re getting in speed work. After four races you should be ready to see what you can do…or to keep the race from becoming a “stress point” (gotta get a PR type thing), continue to run it within the adjustable 31-second window marking “success."
For 10Kers, I recommend the same thing (though you may want to start with a 5K and then do a 10K), just adding 1 second per tenth mile to mark your distance extremes (62 seconds in the 10K). Again, after four races (which could include a 5K), you should be ready to test yourself, if you’d like.
Marathoners and half-marathoners, a 10K is a GREAT place for speed work, but I would recommend putting the race in as part of your long run and DO NOT treat it like a 5K or 10K race. Warm-up with 3 to 5 miles. Do the race at a marathon or half-marathon race pace (or a FEW seconds faster). Warm-down with some miles to have your long run in for the day. Why? Well, especially on longer runs, having something to distract you/change things up, makes that run go a whole lot faster. So, not only are you breaking up the monotony with a race, you’re getting quality pace-work in and mileage. The key is not getting caught up in the race and running WAY below your race pace range. Treat races as benefit events not to be won, but to participate in — with a “higher goal” (half-marathon or marathon) in mind.
Okay here is one significant “con” to this plan. Money. Even 5Ks can cost $30 these days, but if you plan far enough ahead, many races (at least around here do), offer a discount for early registration. And always check with your HR department at work to see if they happen to offer any kind of health incentives for participating in a run/race. We have a run/walk team at work where employees get half off their entry fees on particular races throughout the year.
Well, maybe this idea is for you; maybe not. You decide! : )
Either way, have an awesome run today!
P.S. If you happen to be in a middle of training for a particular race, do NOT switch your program to this. Stay the course with what you’re doing . . . this is a program more for those looking to change up an old routine, enjoy the social nature of running, and/or to help make speed workouts a little bit more enjoyable.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!