I DIDN’T WANNA DO IT.
Yesterday was tempo day on my training calendar. One-mile warmup, followed by five miles at a medium-hard effort, ending with a one-mile cooldown. Simple and straightforward.
And a bitch.
Cuz I don’t like it, even at medium-hard effort. What’s that? Depends on how I feel at the time. Last week it was about 7:30 per mile, a pace that shouldn’t be overly challenging for me. But I was struggling and breathing hard. What’s wrong with me? I thought. The next morning I ended up running about the same pace, and it was much easier. Go figure.
Speedwork – intervals, hill repeats, progressions, and tempo runs – is an important part of my goal to improve short race performance. Problem is, that stuff is uncomfortable, and is supposed to be. When it gets easier, you step it up.
And I don’t like being uncomfortable.
For now, getting out the door for speedwork means overcoming a certain inertia. It requires an active decision and deliberate action instead of a habit.
So yesterday evening featured a classic bout-with-self about the tempo run. Who would prevail – my brain, who wants the body to get faster? Or my body, which was feeling creaky from a recent race and gym workout, and really wanted to put it off? It went along these lines:
- Brain: Tempo run time. Body: But I’m TIIIII-RED.
- Come on, let’s get it over with. Let’s do it tomorrow, okay? We’ll feel better tomorrow.
- It’s a beautiful, cool day! I’m your body. Listen to me. Coach says!
And so on…until the pivotal moment. My wife called to tell me she’d be home in an hour. “Okay,” I said. “I’m preparing dinner, and then I’ll probably go for a short run.”
There! One way to overcome inertia is to make a public commitment. Having said I was going to run, now I had to do it. So I prepped dinner and then out the door I went.
I also made a compromise with myself. Because I really was feeling creaky and tired, I limited the tempo portion to three miles. Same intensity, lower volume. That self-promise sealed the deal, and I ran hard and with purpose.
But inertia isn’t always an opponent. When an activity becomes a habit, inertia becomes an ally (for good habits, anyway) and will work for you. Every Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. I go on an easy six-mile run with some of my run club. Was I going to show up today, even after a tough tempo and not being a morning person? Yep!
It’s automatic now, after a couple years of doing it. I laid everything out the night before, and this morning I just tossed on the clothes and went to the run. (Coffee and a treat afterward is a bonus.)
And speaking of bonuses, I’m going to hop into my hot tub. Both parts of me think it’s a pretty good idea.