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WEEK 7: TRAIN THROUGH THE HEAT
Words by Lou Serafini
This heat and humidity that’s taken over the East Coast is a telltale sign that August is here. I've always used this time of the year to take a step back from workouts since I know, with the heat, they'll be harder than usual. But in these times, I'm finding myself bored of not working out - which leaves me to deal with the heat. Many of you are probably struggling with this too, so I'm kicking off this week's newsletter with four things you can do to beat the heat and stick to your training schedule:
Temper your expectations. I never say this as a coach, but "set the bar low" or as I said in a previous newsletter "set yourself up to succeed." If you can be realistic about the distance or pace you want to run and take the weather into account, you'll walk away happier than if you fell short of your goal.
Bring water. You know those silly handheld bottles and hydration packs? Get one. Given the current health situation, it's even harder to find water when you're out on a run, so make sure you have some reserves. A few other things you can do are: stash a water bottle on your route, run with a credit card or cash just in case, and above all else, make sure you're hydrated before your run.
Know where you can cool off. Is there a place where you can dunk your head or even jump in the water nearby? Or maybe even a friend you know that has a hose on the side of their house? Running while wet has a naturally cooling effect that will make you feel a lot more comfortable out there. Sprinklers are your friend.
Finally, and this is the one I struggle with the most...
Run early or run late. If you run before the sun is up or after it comes down, you'll feel a lot more comfortable out there. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed or to run after a long day. Try listening to podcasts or a new album that you've never heard. If you can find a reason to get out the door at those times, your run will be far more enjoyable.
The Workout: Breezy 1K Repeats
From Lou Serafini
This may sound crazy, but I like working out on the track when it’s really hot outside. Why? Because I can take rest and bring water. If you’re doing a tempo run or a fartlek, you don’t get as many breaks. But on the track, you get a break between every interval. So with that, here’s a workout that I love for the summer. When you do it, remember to pack water and drink some in between every rep.
How To Do It:
Start with a short warm-up of 10-20 minutes of easy running, followed by leg drills and a few strides.
3-4 x 1K at 10K pace, 90 seconds rest, 1K at 5K pace, 3 minutes rest.
Remember to set realistic goals for your paces. You should run the reps at your current 5K/10K pace, not your goal 5K/10K pace. Also remember to keep your slower reps controlled. It’s better to increase your pace on the faster ones if you’re feeling good.
In the Heat of the Moment
Words by Izzy Seidel
Blistering July heat doesn’t make for the most opportune conditions to run a track 10K, but race opportunities these days are a commodity that are few and far between. On a sweltering Saturday not-quite-afternoon, not-quite-yet-evening, eight women stood on the waterfall start-line on a track in western Massachusetts in 90 degree heat with 25 laps ahead of them. Although the surroundings were underwhelming and the weather, quite frankly, was miserable, this was an opportunity that’s hard to come across in the new normal of competitive distance running.
The MVMNT Race Series 10K was one of the first official USATF sanctioned races to go off in over five months, and one of the first chances since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed runners to attempt to secure their spot at the track Olympic Trials, now scheduled for 2021.
Keira D’Amato hadn't raced since February 29th, when she placed 15th at the Olympic Marathon Trials, at least not in a technical sense, with official starters, hip numbers, and most importantly, company. The field of eight women seeded in the MVMNT 10K contained names backed by accolades and professional contracts, with Keira and me, a former collegiate athlete still chasing personal bests, the rare exceptions. Keira balances her training alongside a full-time career in real estate, all while raising her young daughter and son. But even with daily commitments that would seem to pull her in directions, she’s been running times that make the pros sweat, including a blazing 15:04 5K time trial in June.
On the Journal, read more about how Keira tackled a tough track 10K and outran the pros.
WEEK 6: RUNNING OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Under the Stars
By Nick Willis
I have always loved getting away for “training camps.” But real camping - in tents - hasn’t always appealed to me in the midst of heavy training. A nice cabin in the woods sounds amazing, but sleeping on an air mattress - that just sounds exhausting. Not the ideal way to recharge between hard workouts, right?
I know the science behind recovery. But my personal approach to training has always been governed by a healthy marriage between science and experience. This is my experience: less than two months before my best two Olympics I went on week-long camping trips with my wife’s extended family. The Olympics where I declined the camping invitation, I happened to race poorly. Coincidence, or not?
How does being away from the comforts of home - think air conditioning, couches, refrigerators, carpet, pillow top mattresses (I could go on) - help my training? At first, I really wasn’t so sure it did. I thought I ran well at the 2008 and 2016 Olympics despite those camping trips, but now having to plan for my fifth games, I’ve thought a little harder about the family trip to Northern Michigan. Now I’m starting to think there is something to the whole living-temporarily-in-nature thing that might actually make it an ideal training camp.
Let’s unpack some ideas:
Sleep. You’re outside all day (exposed to natural blue light), and there are no artificial lights at night. If you’re out of cell phone range too, this is the perfect cocktail of natural light exposure and darkness to help you have a really deep sleep. Sure you might get woken early by the birds, or your air mattress deflating 50% overnight, but the benefits of the heavy REM sleep earlier in the night are locked in. At home, I might start feeling tired by 7.30 p.m., but watching a couple of shows on Netflix, the artificial blue light exposure suddenly gives me a second wind, and I end up staying up until closer to 11 p.m. When I’m camping, I crash hard at 9:30 or 10 p.m. That extra cycle of REM sleep banked is huge for recovery.
Water. Our family’s camping trips are always right next to the lake. I run straight into the water at the completion of every run to cool off. The compression and buoyancy of the water also helps my legs recover much better than my usual routine of finishing a run and going straight to the couch. I’m able to handle a second run in the afternoon with far more ease than when I am running in the city.
Trails. Choose a campground at a state park where trails abound, and you can run soft surfaces right as you step out of your tent. I love running with my dog, but rarely do it at home because I have to keep him on leash. When we go camping, he can run freely and scout for bears without us seeing another soul for the whole run.
Food. You can eat really healthy. Plan your meals for the whole week, and buy all your groceries in advance. You only have to commit to a healthy approach once, and then you are left with no other choice but to eat healthy once you are away from the city. There are always activities going on, so I’m never tempted to binge on less nutritious food when I’m camping. Something about being out in nature makes me want to eat more natural foods compared to when I’m at home.
Time with family and friends. This might be the most important of all. Sure I love to get out and explore the trails, but once training is done, running is the last thing on my mind when I’m hanging out with my family and friends at the campsite or the lake. All pressures and stresses are distant thoughts, and you just savor being in the present. Running is just part of the day, but not the focus.
In 2008 and 2016, I said “yes” to the family camping trip with some trepidation, happy to spend time with my family, but concerned it could adversely impact my training. Looking back, it’s clear that by mixing things up, I might have stumbled on a perfect training setup. So my encouragement to you this summer: find a campsite near a lake and some trails, talk some family and friends into a week away from the stresses of city life, and set up camp together to run, swim and eat (and repeat). Your legs will thank you.
The Workout: Effort-Based Intervals
From Mary Cain
Word of warning before this workout. This summer heat is tough. The best way to stay motivated and push through these training conditions is to always remember the importance of running by effort. Rather than go off of target race-pace, remember to gauge your workout by race-effort. The difference between the two is that the former focuses on numbers, while the latter takes into account the tough conditions.
Effort-based running acknowledges that your heart rate is beating faster from the start to keep you cool, so instead focus on trying to match the intensity of breath and burn. If you feel as though you’re pushing your body at an equivalent effort, don’t get too concerned if your times are slower than your normal pace comparisons. Your body doesn’t improve through numbers; it improves through hard work.
How To Do It:
Start with an easy warm-up of 15-20 minutes followed by stretching, drills, and strides.
6 x 1000m at 10k race-effort, one minute recovery (these should feel controlled, but strong).
Take five minutes of recovery.
2 x 800m at 5k race-effort, 90 sec recovery (lungs are burning, but form holding strong).
Finish with a nice, slow cool-down jog of 10-15 minutes.
Add 3-4 short, fast 30m - 80m strides if your body feels strong and you want to get a little extra form and speed in.
By Drew Hartman
For the city dweller, the woods and dirt roads are seen as an escape. Fleeing from the concrete and steel feels Emersonian - an opportunity to become one with nature. More recently, fleeing the concrete and steel of the city also feels like an escape from proximity and an opportunity to run without crowds. We sought both.
An early Saturday morning seeps humidity from the prior week like tea as we pile into a car bound for [Redacted] Road, an old logging path from the 1800s in New Hampshire that a friend heard about through the grapevine. In the age of GPS, technology and precision, there was a sense of adventure knowing little about our destination. We knew the following: (i) it was approximately 2 hours away; (ii) it was a seasonally maintained road with no winter maintenance; (iii) it was approximately 10 miles of dirt and gravel; and (iv) there was one disgruntled local on TripAdvisor complaining about how this road should be kept a secret.
A few wrong turns and a hurried mobility session on the side of the road, we stared at a painted wooden sign worthy of hanging in the Von Trapp Family home; it was slightly chipped on the bottom corner like it had been there for years. The charm was only slightly ruined by a metal “No Trucks” sign riveted into a post. We shuffled up the gradual incline and tried to peer around the corner of winding dirt and gravel while trees sheltered us from the sun. What could be waiting for us around this turn?
Our clean trainers began to soil as we saw two mountain bikers mashing their pedals up a 241-foot wall of dirt for the next mile. Our steps became more choppy to match the labored breathing of four runners all trying to hide the fact that they wanted to stop and walk less than a mile in. We reached the apex of the hill with wide eyes to each other, quietly noting to ourselves who was the most fit out of the crew today. The hill was not done. Two hundred and fifty-nine more feet of elevation in the second mile carried the anticipation of more suffering. We weren’t running on our neighborhood streets anymore.
Each time the road ascended to the horizon and dove behind the constant cover of trees, the uncertainty set in; incline or decline; mud or gravel; solitude or company; sun or shade; safety or danger. The constant mental warfare of the unknown in the woods made you look over your shoulder when you hear a noise in the trees; it makes you sneak over to the shaded side of the road when the sun bears down; it makes you shout profanity at a mound of dirt climbing toward the heavens; it makes you wonder how fit you would be if you ran this road every day for a year.
While the uncertainty of the woods has the power to expose your fitness and your mental weakness, it provides the reassurance of why you elected to suffer. Another 200 feet of climbing in mile four took us from a clearing of power lines extending as far as the eye can see back into the woods for our last ascent on [Redacted] Road. A gentle curve and the constant incline had me looking at my feet more than my surroundings until the sun kissed my shoulders again. A meadow of yellow wildflowers speckled a lush green field under the White Mountains. Fitness can wait for a view like this.
Our descent propelled us with physical momentum, but also with the waning feeling of the unknown. I know how bad that hill felt or how muddy that section was or how exposed the power lines notch was. It was less anxiety-inducing and the mystique of the woods took over. We playfully bounded down the mounds of mud that ruled over us minutes ago. The mystique brought us off of our unplanned out-and-back route for a two-mile jaunt on nearby trails. Carefully double-dutching between tree roots and rocks, we pulverized pine needles under our feet until we had to stop.
We had to stop as a rock face sloping down stared at us with water spilling into a small pond below. The water was so clear that you could see the bottom and the temperature was the perfect ice bath we needed after our miles. The mystique of the woods gave us our post run reprieve in a way to thank us for our effort and welcome us back for another challenge someday.
While some may say that the woods are somewhere to run from your troubles or from your daily routine, I see it now as a place in which to run. I run to the woods to wrestle the uncertainty. I run to the woods to embrace the mystique.
Prospecting For Ideas
The Relation Between Running and Writing
"The other evening I’d been out for a run and I was heading to bed when I felt the urge to reverse back downstairs and flip open my laptop. It was one of those rare moments where I just had to write. Often this is an exciting feeling, full of crazy ideas and inspiration, but this time it was different. It wasn’t just a creative urge, but a pressing need to put down my thoughts, which had been churning and bouncing around in my head for days."
We first published Adharanand Finn's piece Prospecting For Ideas in our Spring 2020 edition of METER Magazine, and his message continues to resonate amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Finn explains how running and writing exist in a symbiotic relationship - the escape of running ultimately can stimulate and inspire us to put pen to paper.
If you missed the original print of the story in METER, you can read the full story on the Journal to look deeper into how running fuels Finn's writing process.
Introducing the Fellowship Program
Mentorship for Emerging Creatives
Our sport is rich with stories waiting to be told - stories that have the power to both inspire the next generation and grow the sport. And yet, despite this wealth, it’s often hard for new voices and creators to break out. That’s why we’re introducing the Tracksmith Fellowship: grants for emerging creatives in running, offering both the funds and mentorship needed to pursue a project that will elevate the sport, drive conversation and empower new perspectives.
On our website, find out more about the new Fellowship Program and how to apply.
WEEK 5: TRAINING HARD WHILE STAYING SMART
Words by Mary Cain
Like many dedicated runners, one of the hardest things for me to do is take unplanned time off. Celebrating the end of a season with structured time off is one thing, but those days where my body is telling me to take some down time are hard to listen to.
As runners, we can get caught in the quantitative side of training: checking splits, mileage and heart rate. In overly obsessing about these metrics, we start to ignore our body’s cues of effort and no longer appreciate gauging runs from our breathing and soreness levels.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been dealing with some lingering tightness in my hip. After months of no hands-on massage work, I finally was able to schedule treatment and realized my body had gotten way too tight. Nothing serious - just an incredibly tight hip/glute region.
How did I respond? I kept running on it, hoping it’d one day just go away. Generally, the issue is trending towards feeling better, but it has lingered and made me feel a little off in my stride at times.
Why am I sharing this? Because I realize how easy it is to get caught in a cycle of pushing through. I hated the idea of losing the fitness I had gained or in missing my mileage targets. For the last few weeks, though, my body was trying to tell me it needs some time down. Maybe only a few days, but enough time for my overly tight areas to loosen and my body to get out of the pattern it’s in.
So today I am remembering to practice what I preach, or to listen to my body. I’ll let go of my numbers-obsessed outlook and take the next few days off from running.
How will I spend these next few days? By rededicating myself to enjoying the recovery routine. I will prioritize the stretching I have to do, mobility work, yoga, aqua jogging and whatever piques my interest. Rather than second guess or go through the should’ve/could’ve/would’ve thoughts, I will enjoy and appreciate letting my body fully heal so I can get back to doing what I love.
Little aches and pains happen to everyone - they are a part of training, but learning to listen to them and learn from them is how we grow as runners. For anyone out there who is also debating the benefits of a few days down versus keeping their streak going - letting your body get back to full steam and feel strong are what will help your training long-term. So don’t be scared to take some days, too.
The Workout From Lou Serafini
Feel It Out Fartlek
Are you struggling to hit your paces or finish your workouts? Trust me, you’re not alone. Here's a workout that you’ll walk away from feeling good, no matter what. Before we get into specifics, there are three things you'll need to focus on throughout the session:
1. Don’t look at the pace. You need to run this workout conservatively and off of feel.
2. Do the whole thing. Don’t give yourself any outs. Commit to every set before the workout even starts.
3. Run the last rep hard. Save up a little in the tank if you need to, but no matter what, make the last rep your best rep.
How To Do It:
30 minute fartlek with 6 sets of 3 minutes on (at 10k to half marathon effort), 2 minutes float (at one minute per mile slower than your "on" pace).
If you’re patient and follow those three rules, you’ll walk away from this workout feeling great about the 30 minutes of solid aerobic work you put in.
Reflections on Traversing Arcadia National Park
Words by Pat Gregory
When Louis first texted me to ask if I had any interest in attempting the Acadia Traverse with him and his girlfriend Gabi, I didn’t even have to think before I answered that I would love to give it a shot. Having virtually no trail running experience and lacking even a basic understanding of what the terrain at Acadia is like, I committed myself to the endeavor because it sounded physically demanding and because it was something that during a normal summer of track and road races, I’d never seriously consider trying. However, the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 have produced a world that is far from capable of hosting normal track meets and road races.
Questions & Answers
NDO for 100 Days of Summer
Over the past few weeks, we've heard from many of you about how you're training during this unusual time. One runner, Kassie, shared her story on how the 100 Days of Summer newsletter inspired her to turn a streak of solid mileage into a "No Days Off" challenge:
1) In your own words, how would you describe your No Days Off challenge?
Like most of my running goals, my challenge has been incremental. When the pandemic started, running was my only time to go outside. I live in Greenwich Village, NYC, and cherished my daily run, even wearing a mask. I didn’t start out to do a formal NDO challenge, but after a month without a day off, I wondered how much I might do. I didn’t want a day off from seeing the outside world. My Garmin said “congrats” on day 50, and then I saw Tracksmith’s newsletter titled ‘100 Days of Summer.’ So I thought of trying to make it to 100 days, averaging 10 miles a day. It had a nice symmetry to it.
2) What inspired you to start a No Days Off challenge?
When NYC went under lockdown, my family was pretty vigilant about quarantining. I didn’t want to miss getting some outside time every day and running was my only way to get it. Another inspiration was my new running friendship with the Chief Running Officer of Greatruns.com, Mark Lowenstein, who is into his sixth YEAR of taking no days off. His streak both baffles and inspires me.
3) How many days into the challenge are you and how is it going?
I am 81 days in, and it’s going well. I’ve done over 300 miles each of the last two months, with no injuries or problems. I run between 7-7:30 splits per mile, so it’s between 1-1.5 hours out of my day, maybe two hours on long run days. Totally doable. I have started doing a lot more self care and stretching, especially since I don’t cross train much beyond some “movement” classes online with my kids. I have recovery shoes I wear during the day, and I use a lot of Tiger Balm and CBD cream on my legs and feet. I don’t know if I’ll stop at 100 days now - maybe I’ll lower the daily mileage. I am interested in your advice and wisdom about this. I was signed up for both the NYC Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon this year and was thinking I’d cut back for a bit and scale back up for training later in the summer. I also thought about doing the ultramarathon version of the MCM, but now I’m not sure of my plan. Virtual races don’t excite me. It’s all very day by day, as is the reopening plan for schools, work, everything, right? In hindsight, I didn’t think I would be doing 100 days of No Days Off, but I also didn’t think the country would still be under quarantine right now.
4) Before this challenge, what was your highest mileage/training set-up?
I didn’t increase my mileage much for this - I am averaging about 70-75 miles a week these days. I have run pretty consistently over the past few years, usually between 50-60 miles a week. So while the last two months of 320 miles have been my highest months ever, it’s not that big of an increase. I credit my lack of injury to the fact that I had a pretty high base that I’ve maintained for a while. The only difference was the NDO. With my job, I typically traveled every week, with a lot of international travel. The scheduling, time zones and client demands made me miss a day of running at least once every couple of weeks. Now that I am working at home under quarantine, I have more freedom to run at some point every day. If I miss the morning, I can go in the afternoon. I don’t tire of this. My body is made for long distance running. I should probably start doing ultras. The only thing holding me back is my work schedule, which is usually pretty demanding, unpredictable and hard to integrate with a regimented training plan. So I tend to run when I can and leave it at that. The pandemic has let me run every day.
5) What have you learned over the course of the challenge, and do you have any advice for other runners that also want to try something similar?
I’ve learned that you don’t have to commit to a huge undertaking in order to do a huge undertaking. I have always been the type of person who doesn’t like to plan everything in advance, including running. I have run several marathons but never followed a whole 16 week training plan per se. So much of my life is scheduled, that running is my “free time.” I just go out and run. I remember hearing from an ultra runner that she plans five hour runs every weekend. I could never do that. I have a vague plan to do a long run, or some tempo running, but I would never do a 20-miler if I started out thinking I had 20 miles to run. I am ridiculously noncommittal. I start out doing 10 and then just keep going. I do enough of those and then look for a marathon to do when I know I’m in good enough shape to do it. I ran a three hour marathon (my PB) on three weeks “notice,” even though I had been building up a base ad hoc for months prior.
My NDO challenge has been like that. I started out thinking I’d do around 10 miles a day for a while, and see how it goes. Sometimes I do nine, sometimes I do 15. It has been a heck of a lot easier to run everyday at indeterminate durations during the pandemic. I get to one goalpost and keep going. For runners who want to try something like this, my advice is to take it in baby steps. And then keep going as long as it feels good and is still working for you. Of course, some days feel like a slog, but pushing yourself is different then plodding for the sake of plodding. End message: start something and don’t focus on when it will end. Just get started and see where it goes. You might look back and be shocked at how far you have gone.
WEEK 4: STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Words by Mary Cain
On one of my first Tracksmith team calls, a conversation started about whether people would be willing to run a half marathon on the track. The group was split pretty evenly down the middle, with the preference leaning towards a hard no. I chimed in passionately for running a long effort on a short course, seeing as many of daily, easy runs over the years have occurred on the infields of tracks, or around 300 meter fields.
Personally, I am happy running anywhere and my years of competitive swimming at a young age probably taught me to feel comfortable repetitively covering the same course. Most of these runs are solo, with just my thoughts or a podcast keeping me company.
Although I realize there is immense value in being able to enjoy runs such as these, as I’ve gotten older, I also see how important it is to get outside of your comfort zone with running. Rather than staying in the same routine - or covering the same courses every week - I am trying to step out of my constant routine and find new routes to explore and expand my circle of running buddies.
Why shake up the routine? Trying new runs helps us grow both mentally and physically. A new trail might take you over surfaces you're not used to running on, unique elevation changes, or expose you to a whole new scenery. Physically, your body will be challenged by these changes, but mentally, you’ll also snap out of your usual rhythm and have to adapt to your new surroundings as you run.
Many people assume there's an exhaustive list of places to run in NYC, but there are so many places and routes I have yet to try. This summer, I’m challenging myself to find these new trails, running buddies and shake up my routine.
The Workout From Brian Moore
Rest What You Run
This week's workout for 100 Days of Summer comes from our Head of Product Brian Moore, who also is a former collegiate sprinter and two-time Cape Ann League Coach of the Year. He currently is the Head Coach for Eliot TC Masters Club and Beverly High School.
How To Do It:
Easy warm up of 15-20 minutes
1-2 sets of:
Hard 2 minutes/2 minute recovery
Hard 1:45, 1:45 recovery
Hard 90 sec, 90 sec recovery
Hard 75 sec, 75 sec recovery
Hard 60 sec, 60 sec recovery
Hard 45 sec, 45 sec recovery
Hard 30 sec, 30 sec recovery
Hard 15 sec, 15 sec recovery
Pace and the effort depends on what you are training for.
If a 10k, start at 5k pace; if a 5k, start at 1500m pace; etc.
15-20 minute cool down
A note from Brian:
This workout starts off fairly straightforward but gets a lot more challenging as the recovery gets shorter, and particularly if doing two sets - that 15 second gap before the second two minute pick up is a tough turnaround.
It’s also a really good workout to work on form, as the shorter recoveries can make things sloppy, but the decreasing distances make it a little easier to hold good mechanics. Doing one set hard can be a challenging speed workout - doing two sets can be a good way to work on pace when fatigued.
Week 3: The Present is a Gift
Words by Mary Cain
Looking back on my high school senior yearbook quotes, my favorite will always be from Winnie the Pooh: “The past is history, the future is a mystery, and the present is a gift – that's why they call it the present." Like many type-A runners, it’s easy for me to get stuck in my own head. We look back at the past: our races, workouts and times. We also try to perfectly sculpt our futures: designing our next training blocks, specifically crafting out sessions, and timing fitness to peek for an exact race.
Life doesn’t work like that. Our memories are not designed to perfectly remember our history. So that workout you always compare yourself to? You probably hit a wall at points, questioned yourself, and had should’ve/could’ve/would’ve thoughts afterwards too. As for your future self? They do not exist - they are an idea, a projection, a hope. So when that “perfect” plan doesn’t go as smoothly as you liked, that’s ok. Take a deep breath and remember that in reality, bumps in a road are also a part of the highway we’re all riding along.
Why do I fill this space with the reminder that the here and now is where we should devote the majority of our energy? Because this week has been hard for our running community and global community. As I write, the world continues to struggle to contain a pandemic and we must address the racial inequalities of our society. Turning on the news, it feels as though we are living through one of the most polarizing times, where something as simple as wearing a mask to keep others safe is seen as a political act. Rather than use our normally scheduled training as an opportunity to decompress and organize our thoughts, many of us are finding it challenging to stay motivated, since we also are experiencing the disappointments of more race cancellation news - including the 2020 NYC Marathon.
As a New Yorker and employee of NYRR, I can honestly say that I was filled with sadness when I heard the news. But I did what I hope many others did upon hearing about the cancellation; I laced up my shoes and went for a run. Rather than lament another lost opportunity for runners to compete and show their fitness, I appreciated my present-self, who has the gift of health and freedom to run. I realized rather than letting a lack of racing deflate my excitement, I had to appreciate the physical, mental, and emotional release running gives me more than ever. I faced my run with excitement, since it was an opportunity for me to be a better version of myself on that day.
I know it’s hard to stay motivated and to train hard without upcoming races, but for me, the best motivator is reminding myself that running and training are things I will love when I’m long past my PRing days. It’s something I love solo, with friends, in the trail, on the streets, in the freezing cold and in the heat. Yesterday, tomorrow, and more importantly, today, the ability to run is something I never want to take for granted. So rather than lose hope while there are no races currently on the horizon, I gain confidence knowing that today I’m making strides to learn, grow, and be better no matter the obstacles.
The Workout From Lou Serafini
400s for the 4th
Workout: 3 sets of 4 x 400
Four hundred meter repeats are great because they’re long enough to settle into a rhythm but short enough that you always feel like you can do one more. This workout is a fun one because it gets you locked onto 10k pace, and then forces you to surge the final rep of each set. Just when you’re getting comfortable, it makes you uncomfortable.
The key to this workout - like many of my prescribed workouts - is patience. I always say this workout can be very sneaky. It feels like a cinch early on, but then as you get deeper into it, 10k pace feels harder, and the recovery jogs feel a lot shorter. My favorite thing about this workout is that it flies by. Just take it one rep and one set at a time and it will be over before you know it.
How To Do It:
Start with an easy 15-20 minute warm-up with lots of drills and strides.
3 sets of 4x400 with the first 3 at 10k pace and the 4th of each set surging at mile-3k pace.
Take a 100 meter jog between each 400 (very slow to ensure recovery) and then a 400 meter jog after each set (again, very slow to ensure recovery).
Week 2: Holding Your Own Stopwatch
Words by Lou Serafini
You might think working out alone is a drag, but I would argue that it actually will make you a more confident racer and a better runner. Why? Well to put it simply, if you can hit your goal paces on a lonely track or road in your trainers with nobody around, you can hit them in a pack of runners, wearing your race day shoes, with the adrenaline pumping. When you get on the starting line, you’ll be able to tell yourself that the hard part is over - now all you have to do is go for a ride.
Working out alone is something that you never really choose to do. All your workout buddies are busy, or you have a conflicting work meeting, or you’re on a different training schedule that week. We jump through hoops just to get at least one other person to show up to the track and suffer with us. Likely because shared suffering is more tolerable than suffering alone.
To me, there’s one main reason why people like working out with each other as opposed to alone: it’s easier. You run faster times, for what feels like less effort.
From 2013 to 2019, since graduating from Boston College, I was a lone wolf on the track. I’ve had some running buddies come through that would occasionally hop in for workouts here and there, but by and large, it was just me and my coach, Randy (RT). And most often, just me.
I left BC with PRs of 14:39 in the 5k and 4:09 in the mile. I spent the next four years working out alone, logging solo miles, and learning about myself as a runner. With help from RT I was able to turn myself into a 13:47 5k guy and 3:59 miler. Looking back, I believe the number one differentiator was what I learned through all those solo sessions.
When you are working out in a group, the inclination is to turn your brain off and just focus on staying with the pack. In a lot of instances you’re not even thinking about the pace or how you’re feeling. You’re playing follow-the-leader. But when you’re clicking off splits on your own, you’re focused every single step.
“Is this too fast or slow?” “How many laps are left?” “My legs feel a little clunky today.” “How fast do I need to run the next three laps?” The list of internal questions and debate topics goes on…
As a coach, I preach keeping an active mind as a runner and I believe that in some ways, you are forced to do so when you’re working out alone. You are the coach inside your own head. Willing yourself to another rep, or a fast final lap.
The best runners in the world know exactly how much they can get out of themselves at all times. They know when to push and when to conserve. All of that knowledge comes from experience.
Sure, we hear stories of the great runners who “don’t feel pain” and are just “wired differently.” But to me, it’s a controllable mentality. It’s about confidence. And like all other sports, it starts with what you’re doing in practice.
I’ve always been competitive, but in college I developed a great deal of self-doubt. A few bad races or workouts and you start to question yourself. In a race, this is detrimental. The second you doubt yourself, the race is over. You start to spiral, the body shuts down, and before you know it you’re waving goodbye to that PR after months of training and hardwork. Sound familiar?
When I was working out alone, I was able to start telling myself that if I could do it on my own, I could do it on race day. It was that simple for me, and was the edge that I needed to take things to the next level.
You start showing up to the starting line with a chip on your shoulder.
I think it’s significantly harder to work out alone. Even motivating yourself to get out the door is a challenge, not to mention hitting your splits and executing your session, whatever it may be.
So here’s how you can start working out on your own:
- - Start small. Run easy workouts that you know are well within your ability.
- - Quality over quantity, especially at first. Doing one minute on, one minute off is going to be a lot easier to do alone than say a 35 minute tempo run.
- - Don’t skip the small things just because you’re alone. Make sure you do a proper warm-up jog with a full set of stretching, drills and a few strides before you start.
- - Be consistent in your day and time of workout. It will help you hold yourself accountable.
- - Don’t get discouraged. Working out alone is hard and it’s okay to use that as an excuse. If you’re having a tough day, hey, you had no help out there. The key is sticking with it and getting back on the horse for your next workout.
- - Don’t do every run alone. If you’re able to run with friends on recovery days (or even talk on the phone) it will help you manage your week and keep the focus on your harder days.
I’d encourage anyone who is having a hard time with training or working out alone right now to give this a try. I promise that even if it’s difficult, you will learn a lot about yourself as a runner. We are students of the sport and I believe that you can never stop learning things about your own running.
If you’re in a workout group that you love, here are some ways you can still take advantage of these “solo gains.”
- - Lead a few more reps. When you lead, you control the pace, and that takes practice.
- - Keep an active mind. Try not to turn your brain off when things get hard. Pay attention to the small things like your breathing, your stride length, your upper body and your arm carriage.
- - Squash the self-doubt. Working out alone will help with this, but it’s important no matter what as a runner to leave the negativity at home.
Sometimes I feel like Mr. Silver Lining. Obviously we’re all struggling to get out the door right now. We’re craving consistency, racing, normalcy. The good news is that this particular silver lining will make you a smarter, more confident runner if you set reasonable expectations and are consistent and committed to the process.
The Workout From Mary Cain
Workout: 15 x 2 minutes on, 1 minute off.
This is a workout that I ran just last week! Fartleks are an amazing summer workout. Even though we are using these next few months to accumulate our base, it’s nice to get short breaks to let our bodies cool off in this summer heat. The intention of this session is to get 30 minutes of quality work in, so don’t worry about your 60 seconds of recovery. Depending on how hot it is, taking a walk to slow jog-paced break is perfectly appropriate.
How To Do It:
Start with an easy warm-up of 15 to 20 minutes followed by stretching, drills and strides.
15 x 2 minutes on, 1 minute off.
All of the “ons” of this workout should be run at around your 10k race pace, and all of the “offs” should be easy. Based on the summer temperatures and humidity, be kind of your body and let it recover during the “off” portions. Better to keep the recovery light and hit the last few reps harder than bonk out early from the heat.
Once you finish the reps, help your body recover with an easy cool-down of five to 15 minutes followed by stretching at home later.
Leave The Comfort Zone
Here is a challenge that will be particularly difficult for those married to GPS data: leave the watch at home. My college teammate, Tim Ritchie, a 2:11 marathoner, used to say, “live by the watch, die by the watch.” Leaving the watch at home can be a freeing exercise. Just focus on getting out there and enjoying yourself. Don’t worry about the pace, the distance, or your heart rate. Just run as you feel.
Questions & Answers
We had a few questions come in last week that relate to working out and running in the heat.
On getting properly warmed up: Your body needs time to wake up before diving right into fast running. That’s why it’s important to start each hard workout with a very easy 15-20 minute jog. This should be at an easy, conversational pace. After that, you should pause and do 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching. A dynamic stretch is designed to wake the muscles up. Focus on your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Finish your warm-up routine with 2 - 4x100 meter accelerations, starting slow and then hitting close to top speed by the last 10 meters or so. Still confused on how to do a proper warm-up? There are some great videos available for runners on Youtube. There isn’t an exact way to get warm-up - play around with a few different routines and find out what works for you.
On staying hydrated on a hot run: With the water fountains turned off, it can be hard to stay hydrated in the summer. Here are a few things you can do:
1) Run a looped course and stash a water bottle outside your house or apartment.
2) Run with a water bottle or a hydration pack. If you don’t own one, do your research before purchasing. There are a lot of options available. Personally, I prefer a handheld bottle like these.
3) Run with a credit card for emergencies. You can always stop at a convenience store or coffee shop to buy water if you’re really bonking.
4) The best thing you can do is make sure you are well hydrated going into your run. Don’t just wake up, have a cup of coffee, and go out the door. Make sure you have some water and/or something with electrolytes so that your body is ready to tackle the heat.
5) And rule number one of running in the heat: know your limits. The body loses a lot more when it’s hot. So give yourself a few exit strategies, be smart, and don’t try to be a hero.
Have questions about summer training for our Community Managers? Submit me them, here.
Week 1: A Summer Unlike Any Other
Words by Mary Cain
The summer before my first season of varsity cross country I barely ran a step. I was entering into my freshman year of high school and couldn’t imagine giving up an hour of reading, relaxing, and swimming to build up my mileage. Flash forward one year, and my transformation to a passionate runner was complete. Gone was wondering why anyone would train when nothing imminent was on the schedule. Now, lacing up my shoes in the summer heat and chasing after goals was the best part of my day.
My training plans before my sophomore and junior years of high school were simple: every five-to-seven days I’d increase the amount of time I ran by 5 minutes. I would go to grassy fields and three-quarter-mile long trails and complete loop after loop of running. I had no idea my pace or the distance I was running, but would track my progress by trying to run my loops gradually faster. Sometimes I’d find a hill to run up and down, but the summers were about building time on my feet.
To this day, I look back fondly on those summers of running. Every run was an adventure, trying to push myself to get faster each loop. I attacked my training with a beautiful naivety. Rather than compare myself to others or focus on preparing myself for the next race, I focused all of my energy on being better than the day before. The most simple idea, and yet a concept I have forgotten at so many times in my career.
This current time of pause reminds me of these perfect summers. It’s partly the fact that I’ve been logging miles on Long Island, like I did in those summers past. It’s also because of the massive race cancellations, lack of training partners, and reintroduction to training in summer heat. This perfect storm makes me reflect and try to learn from my younger self. That’s why this is my summer of going back to basics.
For the next few months, I will continue to log mileage, gradually reintroduce my body to faster paces, and not force any racing. Although I love standing on a start line, I’d rather use this unexpected period of training to give my body the same love and patience I used to give it during my base-building summers.
We can all learn from those memories of our first few seasons of running, when we were young and hopeful, but free of the constant training cycles. Let’s use these next 100 days to tap into the joys we felt during our younger summers and give ourselves the patience and grace to remember what it’s like to run for the fun of it. Lou and I are here for you if you have questions, and we’ll be sharing workouts and reflections over the coming weeks. Here’s to 100 days of summer running.
The Workout From Louis Serafini
The Moneghetti Fartlek
I was first given this workout as a freshman at Boston College and have done it a few times a year for the past 10 years. It’s great because it’s shorter than the traditional fartlek distance (20 minutes) but keeps the intensity high. I’ll do this one when I’m short on time but want to get a real quality effort in.
The workout was made famous by Australian, Steve Moneghetti. He won bronze in the marathon at the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Greece.
How To Do It
Start with an easy warm-up of 15-20 minutes followed by stretching, drills, and strides.
All of the “ons” of this workout should be run at 10k effort, and all of the “offs” should be run about 1 minute per mile (or about 45 seconds per kilometer) slower than that. So with that in mind, here’s the full 20 minute session:
2x90 seconds on, 90 seconds off - it's important to be patient and controlled.
4x60 seconds on, 60 seconds off - stay focused and try not to press yet.
4x30 seconds on, 30 seconds off - this is where it gets really hard to change pace so focus on shifting gears.
4x15 seconds on, 15 seconds off - keep the upper body relaxed, and the legs moving. This set goes by fast.
Leave The Comfort Zone
Is there a hill somewhere in your neighborhood that has a great view? Or one that you’ve never run to the top of? This week, try running to the top of a local hill or peak. When you get there, stop and take a few moments to appreciate the view and the moment. Then have fun running back down.