Running for Consistency Over Speed

Over the weekend, I loved reading this article about focusing on processes rather than outcomes. It made me think of what I’ve been doing with running lately.

On January 1st, I started trying to maintain a running streak. Unlike my successful streak last summer, this time, the stakes were a little higher – I had to run two miles in a day for it to count. That ended up being a lot harder than just one mile! With one mile, I could bang it out without feeling like I had even gotten a workout in – it was just a quick 7-8 minutes. But two miles was somehow the tipping point, where 14-16 minutes felt like a real workout (I got sweaty and everything).

My streak started to falter in mid-January, when I had trouble with the altitude in Vail on day 13, and the next day, I quit. It was nearly a week before I got back to running, but I decided I was going to try again rather than give up. My new goal for 2018 is to complete a two mile streak for 30 days in a row, regardless of whether it aligns to the beginning/end of a month. (I’m using Habitbull so I can always see how long I’ve kept up my streak – I still love this free app for all kinds of habit tracking.)

I was doing great on my streak for the last week of January, and ended up making it 14 days in a row this weekend. On Friday, that meant heading down to the hotel gym the second my family and I arrived from our drive to Burlington, and on Saturday, I woke up before everyone else to get my run in at the same hotel gym before we drove from there to Stowe. On Sunday, unfortunately, I broke my streak – we were staying at a B&B without a gym, and there was tons of snow outside both in Stowe (where I woke up) and Saratoga (where I went to bed). I probably could have found some kind of creative solution if I had really put my mind to it, but for now, I’m back on day 2 of the streak. Third time’s the charm?

Even if I haven’t succeeded in streaking a full month yet, though, I’m seeing the surprising results of my focus on consistency. Last week, we did a mile challenge at Orangetheory, and I managed to run a 5:44. We were only supposed to run the mile once, but I decided that I wasn’t totally happy with my first attempt, and tried it again. Although my second mile challenge was after the first mile, plus some sprints, plus 25 minutes of weights, I managed to beat my original time and run 5:36! I was really proud of that time, and also proud that it truly didn’t feel horrible – the first attempt felt totally comfortable (oops), and the second attempt wasn’t easy but also wasn’t awful. I’m definitely getting faster!

Orangetheory_Mile_Challenge

I totally went out to the hall to grab my camera both times I went sub-6 in the mile. I was so proud of myself, and wanted proof of what I had achieved!

This weekend, when I wanted to knock out my two miles a day fairly quickly, I hopped on the treadmill for some quick half mile repeats. I usually do treadmill intervals of 1-3 minutes or a quarter mile, so the half mile repeats I tried on Friday were a little bit longer. I went out at a 6:40 pace, ended up holding it the whole half mile, and then dropped down to 7:03 pace for a tenth of a mile recovery. After doing that three times, I picked the speed way up to a 6:00 sprint for the final quarter mile – and had a blast! The whole thing felt way easier than I expected.

Vermont_City_Marathon_Shirt

Quite by coincidence, I was wearing the shirt from my first marathon and staying at the same hotel I stayed at the night before that race. Back then, I never would have dreamed I’d someday be throwing down paces like this!

So for Saturday morning’s run, I upped the ante even more. I started out with a one lap (1/4 mile) warmup at 6:58, then did 3 laps at 6:40, a half lap recovery at 6:58, two and a half laps back at 6:40, and one final lap at 6:00. That beat my time for Friday by ten seconds, putting me at 13:20 for the entire two miles. I was thrilled about that!

Although I broke my streak on Sunday, I got back to it yesterday, picking up the pace even further. I started with a half mile warmup at 6:40, then did six intervals of 0.1 at 6:18 and 0.15 at 6:40 – essentially, changing my old “work” pace to be a “rest” pace while I made my “work” pace faster. This was definitely more challenging, but still doable – and I think if I repeat this workout but increase the number of intervals to ten rather than six, it will be excellent training for a 5K PR. I’m looking forward to the challenge tomorrow morning!

That cadence above will put me at 19:38 for 3 miles, and then at 20:14 if I sprint the last tenth of a mile (something today’s Orangetheory prepared me well for, as we sprinted 0.1 and 0.2 intervals on steep inclines). Once I’ve mastered that, it’s just a matter of flipping the work and rest intervals (i.e., 0.15 at the 6:18 pace and 0.1 at the 6:40 pace), and I’ll be down to a 19:58 5K – goal achieved! When I lay it out with this plan, it totally seems doable for me to get comfortable going sub-20.

But if I wake up tomorrow and I don’t feel like sticking with my plan – that’s okay too. Going back to the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post, right now my focus is on running at least two miles a day every day, and going for that consistent ritual rather than the goal-oriented speedwork. I’m liking the results of this approach so far!

Anyone else tried a running streak?

Comments

  1. Quote: “I started with a half mile warmup at 6:40, then did six intervals of 0.1 at 6:18 and 0.15 at 6:40 – essentially, changing my old “work” pace to be a “rest” pace while I made my “work” pace faster.”

    I challenge you to do the same workout but change the work pace to 5:36 (your pace for the mile) and the recovery pace to 7:20 and do it 10 times.

    Glad to hear you still have big dreams. It’s been awhile since I’ve broken 20 myself but I’m getting fit….if you’re not careful I may ‘beat’ you to the barrier!

    • Oof, that version sounds brutal! I have been leaning toward more steady-state runs when I’m on my own, since I do a lot of true intervals at Orangetheory. But maybe I’ll give this a try. On the plus side, 0.1 at 5:36 is only 33 seconds… so at least it’s short!

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