Saturday, September 21, 2013

Racing the workout

All over the place, you see people blogging and tweeting about not over-running workouts. ...about how you should keep your eyes on the prize (goal race) and not finish your speedwork lying on the grass in exhaustion. Before any of my fitness blogger/professional friends jump all over me, I will say I agree to some extent.

If you are training for a specific race, and that specific race is coming up in the next 1-2 mos OR if you're in the midst of racing season and have aspirations of victory or qualifying for something or financial gain, you are probably right. You don't want to blow your proverbial (you know - the lesser known dirty proverbs) wad on a workout. But you already knew that.

I will also concede that you should probably reevaluate your training if you are over running your workouts EVERY WEEK. At some point that will bite you in the ass in the form of injury or overtraining. Moderation and training cycles are very important in maintaining a healthy running life (nod to fitness/health professional friends).

The point of this ranty post, though, is I won't concede that it's never okay to spontaneously run the bejeezus out of a workout because you feel good. Wait. What? I feel like there were too many negatives there.  Let me rephrase that. IT'S OKAY TO SPONTANEOUSLY RUN THE BEJEEZUS OUT OF A WORKOUT BECAUSE YOU FEEL GOOD. There. I have given you (and myself) permission.

thanks to for
this highly appropriate image
For those of us with no hope of Olympic qualifiers and whose careers are not really tied to our running prowess, running is supposed to bring us joy. And fitness. And health. And a host of other fantastic benefits. But you could get those benefits with any number of fitness programs. We choose running because we ENJOY it. We enjoy going outside and communing with nature. We enjoy the fact that in running, you get to go further and potentially see more than you would on a similarly timed walk/hike. We enjoy going fast. Given those things, why on Earth should we say to ourselves "hey - I know it's a beautiful day and you're feeling light and fast and amazing and the birds are chirping and the trees are singing to you, but the training calendar you downloaded says this is supposed to be at half marathon pace, so rein it in"? Actually, if the trees are singing to you, you should probably slow down - you're clearly suffering from some sort of hypoxia-induced hallucination. Up to that point, though, I firmly believe you should go ahead and FLY. Why would you deprive yourself of that feeling of being the fastest person on the planet and a part of some cosmic symphony of bliss? For the sake of a race 4 mos down the road that might take place in a blizzard when you have the flu and an entire squad of elite Kenyans in your age group shows up? I think perhaps not.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for a little discomfort for the sake of future rewards. ...and anyone who says winning's not fun is pretty much lying. That's why I haul myself out the door at at the crack of dawn all summer when the temperature is in the mid 70s with 99% humidity to train for a fall race (not that I'll win, but maybe an age group award or a PR or something...) I'll do the dreaded 20x400 workout because I know that as much I'd rather stab myself in the eyeball at the time, it will make me faster and stronger in the end. But all that crapitude is also why I think that I should get to extract as much pleasure as possible from that day when the stars align and the 12x(100m on, 100m off) workout feels awesome. When the 'on' segments are more like 5k pace (or faster) and the 'off' segments are still somewhere around marathon pace. When even the warmup and cooldown are probably faster than my current half marathon pace.

In case you hadn't guessed, that exact thing happened to me this week. ...and it was AWESOME. I rode that high ALL DAY. ...and you know what? No matter what happens at that race next month, I had an awesome run last week. ...and I'm not sorry.

Okay- full disclosure - this was from a race, but
the race involved an obstacle called the 'poo volcano',
so we'll count it as a training run.
...and it was also AWESOME
End endorphin-fuelled rant.