Friday, June 15, 2012

Some workouts should be a bit scary

Several times a month, I have workouts on the schedule that I find a bit scary. GOOD scary. They often involve defined goals for time, pace, intensity, or number of repeats. But sometimes the pressure comes primarily from me.

Yesterday I had a run that included a 20 minute segment at threshold. It was scary because I had an aggressive pace in mind that I hadn't yet produced in training. I did it, just barely, and not without some sustained suffering. This post-run picture doesn't do justice, but the sweat was pouring off my red face and dripping down my legs!

These "scary" workouts are an opportunity to build confidence and toughness as we come face-to-face with suffering. Then on race day, we get to hang out with "suffering" as an old friend rather than as a distant acquaintance.

Here are some of my favorite "scary" workouts:
  • Double brick ride-run-ride-run that includes time in the second run spent below 5K pace. You have the whole workout to wonder what you will have left to cash out!
  • 30 x 50y swim on a very tight interval that may have you leaving the wall just as you get there.
  • Speedwork on the track with time goals to meet/beat
  • Threshold runs
  • Hill repeats - the scary part is not slowing down or losing steam as the repeats mount.
  • Any time trial -  there's a lot of pressure to "win" when going up against your previous self!
  • Long marathon prep runs with late intervals below marathon pace
  • Negative split runs that call for meeting/exceeding a specific differential between the two halves (I go out too fast)
One of the major pluses of having a good coach is getting appropriately scary workouts that work well with the way we are individually motivated.  Frankly, I would be way too soft on myself. Some of the things he puts out there I think are crazy until I discover I can do them, and then what an awesome feeling!

If you want to arm yourself to tackle race-day demons and doubts, be sure to have some "scary" workouts planned. Ratchet down your time goals, add something hard at the end of a workout, or reduce a rest interval. Prove to yourself how tough you are before you get to race day!