A few weeks ago I was out doing a long run on my own and as the miles passed by and I looked at my watch I was getting more and more frustrated. I just couldn’t understand why my speed wasn’t coming back after my injury. I had been running for almost two months since my return and although my speed had somewhat improved I was still 30-45 seconds off from the pace I was used to.
That was when it clicked. Just as a few months ago I posted about dieting honestly, I wasn’t being completely honest with my training. On one hand my Achilles isn’t quite healed up enough to do speed work but at the same time when I was doing my runs I was never pushing myself past that threshold that would help improve my speed. While I was being honest with myself I had to admit that a part of me didn’t want to endure the pain that comes with picking the speed up a bit…..which is partially fair because hey it has been ridiculously humid, and who wants to pick up the pace through that?!
Doing long slow distance runs will help improve your endurance, a key component to improving your running especially as you begin or come back from an injury. But unless you do speed work, it is unlikely that your speed will improve. It is essential to really tapping into any potential speed you have. While speed work can be “fun” it is truly hard and most people either hate it or have a love/hate relationship with it. I fit into the love/hate category.
As you probably already know if you have been around this blog for awhile I am a pretty Type A person. When I get a speed workout plan I follow it from start to finish. If you tell me to run 7:30 min/mile pace for 5 minutes I will run that as close to pace as possible for 5 minutes not a second more or a second less. I am a coach’s dream and worst nightmare. They don’t have to worry about my accountability but they do have to worry about my sanity. The fact that I don’t budge can often make those work outs pretty hard and I can dread them before I even get started. However, when they are done and I have finally caught my breath, I feel incredible and am flying high on endorphins.
When I talked about dieting or eating honestly I mentioned that sometimes I overindulge and then get on the scale the following day and shrug my shoulders and say, “I just don’t know why I gained,” or “I don’t understand why the scale isn’t budging.” I realized over time that there isn’t some real mystery to weight gain for me. It was all about being honest with myself. Typically I eat really well but I have a hard time putting the fork down when something tastes delicious. Being honest with portion size is key for me.
As a runner I know that sticking to a training plan and doing my speed work are the key components to getting my speed back to where I want it to be. I really want to try and qualify for Boston again but until my body is fully healed and I am ready to tackle those workouts I will have to stick to just getting back to 100% and enjoying my long runs.
So what can you do if you are not my crazy Type A personality? There are a lot of options to help you train honestly.
The first option is to work with a running coach. Although this option is likely the most expensive, there are affordable ways to make this work for you. You will get the benefits of having a personalized plan made just for you as opposed to group training that may be more of a cookie cutter fit. Keep in mind that working one on one with a running coach is great for a person who can hold themselves accountable to sticking with the plan and prefers to do most of the training on their own.
There are also a lot of groups to run with. These can range from free groups at local running stores to running clubs and teams that you will have to pay for. Here in the Chicago area there are several running clubs that you can sign up for a fee and train with. These clubs offer coaching and training plans as well as pacing options. If you are looking for some coaching assistance but also want the group experience this is a great option.
Chicago also has several running stores that offer group runs on a weekly basis. Fleet Feet does an incredible job of offering runs and clinics to the community. They have several locations throughout the city and have runs almost every night of the week at various stores as well as weekend runs too. During the summer and fall months they also have aid stations along the Lakefront Path for athletes in training. Almost all of their runs are free and they even do a pint night once a month where they buy you a beer if you come along on the run. I have been to their Wednesday night Chick’s Night and had a really great time running with some really awesome women. Note that they also let you keep track of your miles at Chick’s Night and you can earn free running swag. Bonus!
Whatever it takes to help you stick to a plan and be honest with your training is going to make you a stronger runner in the long run. There are so many options available to most athletes through both local and virtual assistance. Finding a way to make yourself accountable and honest with your training is key to enjoying continued improvement.