Thursday, December 6, 2012

Learning From Workouts, Not Judging

I'm really embracing this whole "process focus" thing, and I am loving it. Being process-focused means that you strive to learn from each of your runs, be it a training run or a race. The more you learn, the more confidence you have, the more you can improve, and the more rewarding and enjoyable the whole thing becomes. You have to be willing to try new things and to be looking for the learning-- not the success or the failure.

In this week alone, I've done some solid learning. If I wasn't looking for it, I might have missed it and not felt as good about my training as I do currently.

Intervals: Maybe I DO let the Garmin hold me back
On Tuesday, I ran an interval set of 1600, 1200, 800, 800, 400. On the second 800, I realized that I hadn't pressed the "lap" button on my Garmin, so it was including the recovery jog from the previous 800. This means that I had no idea of what my pace was. I told myself to just push hard and I would be good. Well, at the end of the interval, the coach called out "3:12". Wow. Don't think I have ever run an 800 that fast. Usually I aim for around 3:20.

Maybe my Garmin does hold me back. I never thought it did.

I look at my Garmin during races, but not very often, maybe 2 times per mile. And I usually just take it in as information and I don't make any changes to my effort level. And if I'm going slower than I want to be, I don't let it affect my mindset, I just do the best I can. When I ran the Memphis Half Marathon last December, the Garmin was reading slower than expected for most of the race, but that didn't stop me from putting forth my strongest effort I could muster. In other words, too-slow paces don't psych me out. But maybe too-fast paces do.

I think that with my next race, which is a 10K, I will look at my Garmin only during the first mile, to ensure I don't go out too fast, and then stop looking and focus on running! I might just surprise myself.

Tempo Run: Trust the process
This morning, I ran a 4-mile tempo. Tempo runs are my least favorite training run because you have to push hard and you don't get breaks like you do with intervals. Tempo runs are also where I have the most room for improvement. I haven't done many of them over the past two months, mainly because I have been racing instead. But partially because I wanted to regain my speed quickly and I think intervals produce faster short-term gains.

Well, now I'm focused on long term gains so more tempoing it is. Based on the VO2 max test I had in May, I know that my Lactate Threshold heart rate zone is 172-179. All I need to do is keep my heart rate steady in that zone for the run to be effective. I don't need to hit a certain pace. I just need to complete the planned distance while keeping my heart rate in that range. For longer tempo runs, my heart rate would be at the lower end. For shorter tempos, my heart rate would be at the higher end.

Going into the tempo run this morning, I didn't have a pace goal. My only goal was to keep my heart rate in my LT zone. And hooray for me, I didn't even speculate on what that pace would be. I did my warmup and then started the run. Knowing that I wasn't trying to hit a certain pace took so much pressure off of me. This wasn't a test of my fitness level. This was just part of the "process" that will get me to where I need to be. As a result, I felt more relaxed on this run-- less stressed than when I used to run tempos.

I've always known that workouts aren't "tests" but I would still use them to gauge my fitness level, and be either disappointed or satisfied based on the average pace. Now I know that judging should play no part here. This isn't a test of my fitness level-- it's a workout.

When coming back from mono, I ran in the 10's and even the 11's for the first six weeks. That's where I was fitness-wise and I accepted it. I knew that if I just kept doing it, I would get faster. I didn't push too hard because I was impatient or frustrated. I just did my workouts at a level appropriate for my current fitness level and had faith it would work if I kept at it. Process.

I don't think I trusted the process as much before, or maybe I just wasn't as patient. I ran my tempos by heart rate previously, but there was also a pace that I really wanted to hit. When I did hit it, I would feel awesome all day long. When I didn't hit it, I would get frustrated and question myself. Wondering if I could have run it faster, or maybe I just wasn't in as good of shape as I thought.

The most important thing about a tempo run simply doing it. Greg has always thought that and now I am really embracing it myself. Yes, I knew that doing it was the important thing, but there was also a lot of judgement, speculation, etc. along with it. And now, it's just part of the process. I trust the process. I have proof that running 10-minute miles can lead to 9's which lead to 8's. Even though my tempo run wasn't as fast as where it's been previously, I know that I am getting there-- I'm on the right path.  And that is extremely satisfying.


  1. Great post!! I'm signing up for the 10k this week! :)

  2. I would seriously encourage you to try a 5k or 10k without your Garmin for an experiment.
    I did a duathlon without mine, and ended up running my fastest splits ever. Ever.
    I don't know how the Garmin toys with our minds, but it does!