3 Treadmill Workouts I’m Loving

In the fall my boyfriend and I splurged and bought a treadmill for our apartment. It was the perfect addition to our at-home gym in our basement, which we now refer fondly to as “the thunder dungeon” (I did not come up with the name, obvi).

Neither of us are particularly in love with running on the treadmill – and given the option, I’d say we’d both prefer to run outdoors any day – but when the mornings are really dark, and temps drop below zero, it’s pretty sweet having the treadmill conveniently located in our own home. Also, I can run in just a sports bra and booty shorts and binge on as much terrible TV as I want, which I don’t mind!

Lately, as part of training for 5Ks, I’ve been doing a lot of speed workouts on the treadmill. I would much prefer to do most of these on the track but unfortunately the one public track we have access to doesn’t have lights and I can’t get there during the day. Womp, womp.

However, I have discovered some pretty good workouts to do on the treadmill that aren’t completely boring or borderline terrifying (I haven’t fallen off yet!). I usually start each workout with a solid 15 minutes of easy running to warm up – also, my basement is cold.

3×1-mile repeats

  • I know some people will scoff at this and say “How could you possibly do mile repeats on the dreadmill?!” Well, my mile repeats aren’t super fast paced so I don’t think I’m going to absolutely eat it.
  • To do the workout: Start off with 15 minutes of easy running for a warmup and then do your first mile. I’ve been running them at 5K pace + 30 seconds, so for me that’s a 7:30/pace. In between each repeat I recover for 800m (or a half mile) at a super easy pace before beginning the next repeat. I’ve been trying to do each mile slightly faster, but I really only increase the speed by one. Finish with a 10-minute cool down jog.

Fartlek – 5-6 x 3:00 at 5K pace

  • Fartleks are a great workout to do on the treadmill because they’re based off of time rather than distance.
  • To do the workout: Start with a 15-minute warmup then jack the speed up to 5K pace for 3:00. Follow each interval with 2:00 of recovery jogging. Repeat this 5-6 times (or more if you’re up for it!). Finish with a 10-minute cool down.

Progression Run 

  • If you do a progression run based on time rather than distance, they aren’t so bad on the treadmill (especially if you have sometime good to watch!).
  • To do the workout: Start with 30 minutes of easy running followed by 15 minutes at steady state and finish up with 5 minutes at 5K pace. My progression looked like this: 30 minutes at 8:49/mile, 15 minutes at 8:06/mile, 5 minutes at 7:14/mile. I finished with a 10-minute cool down.

Remember, these workouts work really well for me, but they might not be the best for you. If you want to try them go ahead, I think they’re fun! But be careful not to push too hard. You don’t want to end up like this:

(Source: giphy.com)

(Source: giphy.com)

Training During the Holidays

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 4.53.27 PM

I once read on this cool, little website called runnersworld.com (cough, my employer, cough) that to maintain fitness when you’re not in training you just need to run 30 minutes 2-3 times a week.

I kept telling myself this last week as I watched days go by during the holidays and I barely ran more than 5 miles at a time. I ran exactly one speed workout (6 miles with 3×1-mile at goal 5K pace, so nothing to scoff at!) and managed to fit in three other measly runs between the presents, the family time, the cookies, and the wine… all of the wine.

Instead of feeling guilty about missing a long run and consuming about a billion calories, I reminded myself of that nifty running tip from RW. Fitness doesn’t disappear after a week of reveling and enjoying yourself with your family during the holidays. In fact, sometimes breaks like I had last week help to restore your determination in training, whatever your goal might be.

Last week I made sure to check off my most important workout and I planned it so I’d run that workout before heading back to Massachusetts to see my family. Why did I do this? Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drag myself away from a delicious breakfast with my family in our cozy New England home on Christmas Day to run 3×1-mile. I knew I would be up late, drinking wine, eating delicious foods, and enjoying the company of those I love. Missing out on moments like that to run a workout is not worth worrying about my fitness.

Your fitness will be fine during the holidays. Enjoy time with your family, friends, and loved ones, and worry about your training after New Years and the holidays are just really lovely recent memories. You can hit the roads as hard as all the other New Year’s resolution-ers do every year.

Happy holidays!

What Should My 5K Goal Be?

Photo from Shalane Flanagan's Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

Photo from Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

The other day I went on a lunch run. I didn’t have an agenda. I thought I’d go out for a 5-ish-mile easy run.

During the first mile I settled in to an 8:30/mile pace. Lately, this has been my natural “easy” pace. (In truth, it’s probably a little faster than I should be running on easy days but it feels comfortable.) The route I decided to run was an out-and-back and was rather uneventful until mile four clicked off and I looked down at my watch and saw 7:57/mile.

I don’t typically run 7:xx/mile during an easy run and I most definitely don’t run it comfortably. At least that’s been the case until this lunch run. I felt totally comfortable and didn’t notice a change in effort or breathing. Then my fifth mile clicked off and my watch read 7:47.

So what’s the deal?

About a month ago I posted about how I wanted to focus on speed for the winter. I decided to hone in on training for 5Ks because I think it’s a manageable goal, especially once the weather gets really bad. To work on this I’ve been incorporating more speed work into my training week. I’ve been running at least one tempo and one interval run each week and now I’m starting to see the impact.

My only problem is I have no idea how to actually “train” for a fast 5K. Sure, when I started running I did a couch-to-5K program. I ran my first 5K in 28:07 in September of 2012 but then I immediately began climbing the race distance ladder instead of working on speed.

I had never really raced a 5K until a month ago when I decided to test my fitness to see where I should start. I ran a 23:02, a nearly 2-minute PR since my previous 5K. After that I decided my first goal should be to break 23:00 but then my next goal should be… I don’t know?

If I’m running high 7:xx/mile pace at the end of an easy run, I don’t know what a more realistic 5K goal should be. Maybe a 21:xx? All I know is I like this newfound speed and I like the challenge running fast presents to me. Sure running long is fun too but right now, at the risk of sounding super corny, I’ve got the need for speed.

I’m welcome to any suggestions about what you might think would be a good 5K time goal. Share your thoughts in the comments! :)

Running Through a Winter Wonderland

Snowy Run2Sometimes, there’s nothing more peaceful than a winter run in the snow. Last weekend my boyfriend and I went up to Jacobsburg State Park, a reservation with miles of trails – technical and easy – just north of the Lehigh Valley. We knew it might be risky because a snowstorm was coming into the region but when we got there, the snow falling lightly around us, we couldn’t wait to head out on the trails.

We hadn’t really planned our route too much ahead of time. We looked at a map and thought we’d try out one of the longer routes, even though it went through some of the hunting land. I think we made it about a tenth of a mile onto the trail before spotting our first hunter, who luckily spotted us as well, and told us it would be best for us to run on the non-hunting land. We took his word for it, turned around and headed for the shorter loops.

The trail we picked had about a mile of some pretty technical, narrow paths. We took it very slow, due to the difficulty and the snow, but I think I had a smile on my face the entire time.

As we kept climbing up the trail, I was careful to keep my eyes on the path in front of me, instead of the pretty snow falling around us. But the second I took my eyes off I felt my legs come out from under me and I was on the ground. I had hit a patch of ice on the downhill but recovered almost gracefully. I had thought I’d be fine running on the trail because I was wearing my new trail shoes but turns out you can’t be saved from snow covered ice sometimes. I brushed off the snow that had covered my legs and we kept running along.

We only did just over 4 miles on the trails before the snow really started coming down and we decided we should head home. This was the first time I had run trails in the snow and I learned a lot. Some of the tips I gathered are:

  1. Check the hunting laws in the area- We checked before we left, and knew it was the last day of rifle season, but thought we’d be fine to run through anyway. When conditions are a little dicey though, be on the safe side and run in non-hunting areas. Here’s a great article from Runner’s World about how to run safely through hunting season.
  2. Wear trail shoes- Although I did wipe out once, I probably would have fallen a lot more had it not been for my trail shoes. I have a pair of Nike Zoom Kigers that I wear not only on trails but on snowy/icy roads. Trail shoes are a great alternative to Yaktrax for winter running.

    Nike Zoom Kiger

    Nike Zoom Kiger

  3. Keep you strides short- Running on trails is different than running on the road. You’ll want to keep your stride shorter to avoid falling.
  4. Watch where you’re going- It’s fun to look around but when the trail gets technical keep your eyes on the path you’re running on to avoid any roots or dips you might miss.
  5. Don’t worry about pace- On some of the technical parts of the trail we went as slow as 11:00/mile but that’s because we were climbing and dodging trees. Trail running in the snow will also feel a lot harder so focus more on effort than pace.
  6. Have fun!- Running through snowy woods is peaceful and exciting. It’s an adventure. You’ll feel like a kid again so enjoy it!

Do you have any other tips for running on trails in the winter? Share them below!

Funning

Funning in the snow!

Funning in the snow!

Lately my training routine has consisted of a little something I like to call “funning.” Yup, that’s fun + running = funning.

After almost an entire year of seemingly non-stop training for my first two marathons (Big Sur and Marine Corps), which included a 26-minute PR, I was ready to take a break immediately after crossing the finish line. While some marathoners cross the finish line already scheming their next race, I thought to myself, nah, I’m good… for now.

As I posted a few weeks ago, my focus post-Marine Corps has been on getting faster – #operationgetspeedy. Part of getting faster (for me, at least) is letting myself shy away from a rigid training plan. I need to start to become familiar with my comfort zone and the feeling of jumping right out of it. Going to intervals on a Wednesday just because I feel like it. Running up the side of a mountain in Bethlehem and then doing a long run the next day. Running some miles with my speedy boyfriend. Taking it slow sometimes because I feel like it. While all of this might not seem fun to your average person, I’ve been having a blast.

The only race I have on my schedule in the near future is the Disney World Half Marathon in January. Originally my goal was to shoot for under 2 hours, my previous half PR but following a recent training run where I averaged 8:20/mile or faster, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Type-A Hannah would typically take this, make a structured training plan, and shoot for a new goal of something ridiculous like a 1:45. But I’m tired of all that and I just want to run whatever I want to run. Moreover, I want to just have fun.

So I’m just going to keep running whatever I want to run whenever I want to run it and see what happens at Disney. Disney will be a test and I’ll re-evaluate my half marathon goals for the Spring to see what a reasonable time goal would be. Until then, I’m just going to keep on funning along.

Happy running, all!

A Blissful Run Was What I Needed

My view of the harbor for most of my run. (Source: visitmaine.net)

My view of the harbor for most of my run. (Source: visitmaine.net)

Last Friday I went for a 6-mile run. My plan told me to go at an easy pace (10:40/mile) but lately my easy paces have been sub-9:00/mile. I decided to set out and do what I could to enjoy the run.

I was on vacation with my family in southern Maine, a place we’ve gone every summer since I can remember. Before I became a runner in March 2012, I cherished walking along the beach, through the harbor, up by the lighthouse, and around a secluded island connected to the harbor by what us locals call “the Wiggly Bridge.”

Walking to all of these locations in a single walk would take light-years but now, by running, I can string together all of my favorite routes in Maine to weave a perfect run, which is exactly what I did last Friday.

I left my family’s beach house before they woke up and headed toward the harbor. There’s a pretty tough half-mile-long hill before getting to the harbor but I climbed it knowing the view I was going to get at the top would be worth it. And it so was. The harbor was beautiful and the park that sits overlooking the inlet is even better.

I then ran down the back end of the hill to a gravel path that runs along the docks for about a mile. All of the fishermen had already left port but some boats, the beautiful sailboats, were left anchored.

I came across one other runner on the path and some very friendly dogs before I came to the Wiggly Bridge. The suspension bridge is awkward enough to walk on because its rot iron rusted supports literally wiggle, causing the whole bridge to shake. But with almost no one around me, except a man fishing off the coast, I loved how much noise my pounding feet made as I crossed the bridge.

Photo of the Wiggly Bridge from last winter.

Photo of the Wiggly Bridge from last winter.

I was looking forward to the other side of the bridge because it would be a mile of trails through this tiny island. I’m slow on trails because I’m extra vigilant about my footing but this gave me an opportunity to truly appreciate where I was running. The quiet. The smell of the ocean. The absolute bliss.

By the time I made it around the small island and back to the gravel harbor path, more people were out walking and running. I’ve never seen so many happy people on my run. Everyone said good morning and gave the runner’s wave. After I came out the other end of the trail I decided to run down by the beach and take a break. I wasn’t tired, I just wanted to look out on the water for a while. Coincidentally, I came across another runner, an Ironman actually, who had decided to do the exact same thing. People were just getting to the beach but it felt like the town was beginning to wake up.

I ran up to the park again and had about a mile and a half left. This had been one of the most enjoyable runs I’d gone on in a long time. I felt no pressure for pace, I didn’t bring any music, I didn’t even have my phone. It was just me, the road, and the quiet.

With my run almost over, I was looking forward to getting home and heading to the beach for the day with my family. But I couldn’t believe how great I felt. As I rounded to corner to head back to our house, I stopped my Garmin (OK, I wasn’t completely running “naked”) and checked my splits.

So much for 10:40/mile pace:

Mile 1: 8:57/mile

Mile 2: 8:44/mile

Mile 3: 9:16/mile (I told you I was slow on trails!)

Mile 4: 9:01/mile

Mile 5: 8:29/mile

Mile 6: 8:14/mile

With the exception of the trail mile, I was completely shocked at my paces. I didn’t feel like I was working that hard, and I certainly wasn’t exhausted, but my paces were some of my fastest paces for a 6-mile training run ever.

I don’t know if it was the ocean air, the quiet, or just running in some of my favorite places but I needed this run. I had been feeling very tired lately and run down from training but this run reinvigorated me. It brought me back to the reason I love running. It was sheer bliss.

A Tale of Two Races

Pain face vs. Strong face

Pain face vs. Strong face

A couple weeks ago I ran my anniversary race at the York Beach Four on the Fourth, a 4-miler. This was my very first race ever so I knew I had to go back this year and run it again.

Since it was the week before my marathon training for Marine Corps would begin, I decided not to race it but rather to have fun. I would be running it with two of my cousins, my friend, and my uncle so I just wanted to enjoy it with them. Well, that lasted all of an hour and a half because when I got to the starting line I knew I wanted to run, and run hard.

The Race

I ran the Four on the Fourth last year in 37:16, an average pace of 9:19/mile, not too bad for a newbie runner. This year I knew I wanted to set a PR but I had a secret goal of beating my cousin. She’s been my running buddy since I started but she’s always been faster than me. I’ve finally caught up to her pace so I thought I’d make a go of it.

On race day, it was already 80 degrees when we got to the starting line with 76 percent humidity. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I knew the final 2 miles, which run along the ocean, of the race would be tough because we’d have direct sunlight.

When I turned onto the shore road the thought of DNFing crossed my mind more than once. I swear I had a stream of curse words flowing through my mind the entire time. I couldn’t cool my head down at all. People had sprinklers set up along the road but every time I ran through the icy cold water, I felt my muscle seize up. During the quarter-mile, my mom saw me said she thought I was going to pass out, which I nearly did at the finish. I had to get out of my head and focus on the goal- the finish line.

I ended up beating my cousin, by more than a minute, and setting a 2-minute PR, so all the pain of racing in the heat was worth it. Right?

4 on the Fourth

Post-race happy faces, kind of.

The Run

A week later I ran the Lehigh Valley Summer Series 5K, a free race series in one of the local parks. I wanted to run this but since it was during the first week of MCM training I knew it would be smartest to take it easy. The conditions were less than ideal for a race, 86 degrees and super humid, so that also made the decision to just run for fun easier.

I set out running with Erica (of Erica Sara Designs, check out her stuff, it’s amazing) and was feeling pretty good. My legs felt fresh and although it was extremely hot and at the time I was just thinking about the finish line and the huge pile of watermelon waiting, I really enjoyed running the 5K.

The Point?

I didn’t set a 5K PR and I didn’t cry about it. I had fun. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun at the Four on the Fourth. That was a different kind of masochistic fun. At the same time, it probably wasn’t smart to run that hard during the heat, especially when I didn’t come close to my fastest 4-mile time (done on a training run).

What I’m saying is you don’t have to PR or beat a friend or have the best race of your life to have fun at a race. Not every race is going to a PR but that doesn’t mean you didn’t learn something from it. Sometimes too, when you take the pressure off you’ll run even better. No one can complain about setting a new PR (except maybe your legs for putting them through hell) but sometimes running a race just for fun can reaffirm your reason to run.

Have you ever run a race just for fun? 

It Was Love at First 400m

Lehigh TrackI ran in my new racing flats for the first time this week and it was love. On Wednesday, I went to the Lehigh University track to tackle some 400 repeats. It was a hot, humid evening with storms looming in the distance but the minute I put on my Fastwitches I knew it was going to be a good night.

Megan came with me and our plan was to do 6-8 400m repeats, depending on how we felt. I’m still very new at speed workouts and my pacing tends to be all over the place. For 400m I usually do anywhere from 1:44-2:00- much too wide of a range. Megan told me to try to hit 1:50 even for all of the repeats.

After a 1.25-mile warm up we stretched and got to work. The first 400m I went out a little fast- 1:37. I chalked this up to excitement and trying to chase Megan and just told myself to calm down and take the next one super easy.

Well, the next three were 1:44, 1:43, 1:43. I was feeling good but usually this is the beginning of a gradual slowing down for the rest of my speed workout. We rested a bit, I took a swig of Nuun-infused ice water and we got back to it. Except now, Megan told me to try to maintain the speed I had been doing and hit the final four 400s at 1:44/1:45.

I hit the next three all at 1:40 flat. We were about to do our eighth and final 400m and Megan gave me a challenge- sub-1:40. I was still feeling great and after all, it was the last one so you might as well go balls to the wall because then you’re done.

That’s exactly what I did and ran a 1:34- three seconds faster than my first 400m repeat. Needless to say, I was absolutely pumped and praising my new racing flats for all of their hard work.

We cooled down and did some hurdle walkovers and called it a night. This was my first run in the new Saucony Fastwitch 6 racing flats and I thought there was a noticeable difference. My feet and legs felt light, I was able to maintain a faster turnover, and they seemed to grip the track better than any of my other running shoes. I know it’s still early on in their running shoe life and I’ll have to try them on different surfaces and different runs but so far so god with the Fastwitch 6s. It was love at that first 400m.

Workout summary:

1.3 mile warmup at 8:40/mile pace
8x400m
(1) 1:37
(2) 1:44
(3) 1:43.2
(4) 1:43.6
(5) 1:40.2
(6) 1:40.4
(7) 1:40.8
(8) 1:34.7 (!!!)

400m cool down

When Should You Get a Running Coach?

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting a running coach for a few weeks now. I’ve seen progress in my running over the past year but I know that’s due in part to my inexperience- every race is a PR or close to it. So I thought I’d ask, to improve, should I get a coach?
  1. To get a running coach or not get a running coach, that is the question. Thoughts?
  2. Tons of people were pro-coach…
  3. @FitHappyGirl get one! I love having one and have improved tremendously. Ex 2:03 half from oct 12 to 1:49 this April
  4. Some people said it depends on your goals and finding the right coach (but were mainly pro-coach)…
  5. @FitHappyGirl So important to find one who’s the right fit, philosophically and personality-wise. Otherwise you lose a lot of benefits, imo.
  6. @FitHappyGirl But great to have someone monitor your performance, give advice, and adjust personalized training as you progress!
  7. @FitHappyGirl Absolutely, but a running coach should help you as much with what not to do as pushing the envelope at the right time.
  8. @FitHappyGirl If you haven’t met your goals on your own, try a coach. Make sure he/she works FOR YOU. Then take a leap.
  9. @FitHappyGirl If you have the right coach you’ll love running even more!
  10. @FitHappyGirl i hired @SpeedySasquatch for speed work! so mainly on my own but needed guidance for certain aspect! #justathought
  11. Then there was this…
  12. And you can count on Jason to be the odd man out (just kidding!)…

Luckily I work at Runner’s World so I have plenty of resources here but it might be good to have an objective person (who I don’t work with every day) as a coach instead. I’m nervous it might be too closing to the start of MCM training to get a coach now but maybe not. I’m also wondering about in-person coaching vs. online. I know plenty of people have had success with online coaching but the main reason I want a coach is to have someone push me, especially when I tend to sell myself short. I’m going to keep doing some research into it and see what I come up with.

Tell me, have you hired a running coach? Was it in-person or online and did you see improvements?

Progress in Running Means Relentless Forward Motion

Big Sur - MarathonFotoLet’s talk about progress for a little bit. Progress, by definition means a forward or onward movement. Add the word relentless before that definition and you get progress in running- relentless forward or onward movement.

I’ve been relentlessly moving forward with my running for a little over a year now and have hit some major milestones, no pun intended (ok, just kidding, pun intended). Within a year’s time I:

–       Learned to run through a couch-to-5K program

–       Ran my first race at the Four on the Fourth 4-miler in Maine

–       Two months later ran my first half-marathon

–       Four months after that I set a 17-minute PR at my second half-marathon

–       Four months after that second half, I ran my first full marathon

Ok, so I’ve become a tad bit addicted to distance running. I went from couch-to-5K-to-half-marathon-to-marathon, in a year. But is that really progress?

I’m a firm believer that anyone can become a runner. I don’t care if you’re overweight, a couch potato, or just a stubborn person like I used to be who would always say, “I hate running.” Everyone has the potential to become a runner. But can everyone make progress and become a good runner? A fast runner? An elite? I don’t know.

I think progress takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication, and above all else patience. In the year that I’ve been running, I’ve seen progress in my paces and average finishing times.

5K- two races exactly 5 months apart (00:41/mile difference)

  • Oktoberfest 5K on October 14, 2012- 27:34 which is 8:52/mile pace
  • B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K on April 14, 2013- 25:23 which is 8:11/mile pace

4 mile run- comparing my first race (a 4-miler) with a training run during Big Sur training

  • Four on the Fourth 4-miler on July 4, 2012- 37:16
  • 4 mile training run on March 19, 2013- 33:58

Half-marathon- two races roughly four months apart (1:21/mile difference)

  • Smuttynose Rockfest Half-Marathon on September 30, 2012- 2:18:09 which is 10:32/mile pace
  • Disney Half-Marathon on January 12, 2013- 2:02:22 which is 9:11/mile pace

But I’ll be the first to admit I lack patience. I want results now. So since I completed my first marathon at Big Sur in April, I’ve been focusing on making strides with my progress (again, pun intended, sorry I can’t help it). I’ve taken to doing interval workouts every Wednesday to work on my speed. I’ve committed myself to strength training by doing circuit workouts, lifting, and really focusing on my core. I’ve also tried to maintain a 22-25 average weekly mileage, although I’m in between training cycles. I’ve continued to run five days a week.

All of this will help me to continue my relentless forward movement, a.k.a progress. But will it all work the way I’m hoping it will? Who knows. What am I even hoping to achieve? I still don’t know that either. All I know is I want running faster for longer to feel easier. I know everyone wants that but I’ve seen my progress over the past year and I’m just hoping it’ll continue.

What I do know is that it is possible to get better. I look at some of my fellow running bloggers like Ashley who ran her first marathon at a finishing time very similar to mine and is now, just a few years later, chasing down a BQ (Boston qualifying time). I look to Lora, who ran her first marathon in 2011 and has continued to PR since, despite battling through a stress fracture. Both of these runners, and countless others, inspire me and make me truly believe progress in running is possible. It may be tough but the relentless forward motion will pay off. I just need to stop being so impatient.

How do you measure progress? Let me know in the comments below!