Tag Archives: speedwork

Inertia – Friend or Foe? Both!


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.

So – why???? I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself.

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!

I’m not going to tell you this again…

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.

I Want it ALL!

“I need to pick a different day for my speedwork,” I told my coach Wednesday night.

My current training consists of a Saturday morning long run, the PR Fitness Wednesday night run, and one day of ‘speedwork’ – tempo run, intervals, hill work, progressions, or similar torture, which has usually been Tuesday. All well and good.

I hear an "Except" coming...

I hear an “Except” coming…

Except that with my cutback in Aikido due to my hurt shoulder, I’d added a Tuesday session of strength training at Body Specs. So I’d put off the tempo run until Wednesday afternoon, and here I was that evening, putting in my second set of six miles. (And they’d thoughtfully started without me, resulting in more, unassigned, speedwork.)

“So,” Coach said, “what do you want? To get stronger at the gym, or get faster on the road?”

Well, that was a no-brainer. “Both, of course. I want it all!”

She ought to have expected that response. When I first hired her, right about this time three years ago, I’d outlined my goals; a marathon in 2011, then in 2012 a 500-mile bike ride and 50K ultra. Oh, and I wanted to get faster, too, and win at least one age group award. (I can’t remember if I mentioned my Aikido training, too.) “So what do you think?” I’d asked her. “I think you have a lot of goals,” she’d replied. Yet I accomplished them all, and more.

Good SignI know there will come a day when I stop getting faster. But as the sign says, today is not that day. I don’t think I’ve peaked yet, so why not give it a try? Coach has no problem with that, but points out that by trying for too much I could get injured. And in just over a week I will turn 52 – by no means a barrier to improving, but I shouldn’t expect my body to respond the way it would have at 22.

See, they promised! Click here to view the commercial.

See, they promised! Click here to view the commercial.

So is it realistic to want to have it all? I’m a baby boomer – isn’t that what we were about? Readers of sufficient years may recall the 1980s Michelob Light commercials that said we could. They reflected that age pretty well, I think. We were free of the 1970s “national malaise” and the economy and Wall Street were booming. Today, in the 20/20 vision of hindsight, this former Yuppie can look back and see the developing attitude of entitlement which, I believe, has led to some pretty reprehensible conduct in today’s corporations and our government.

Excuse me - when did this become a political blog?

Excuse me – when did this become a political blog?

Sorry. Back to running and exercise. I do them to keep my body and mind fit, and for self improvement. Is it unrealistic, or even unhealthy, for me to want or expect improvements in both strength and speed at the same time? I don’t think so, not yet at least. I explained this to Coach Marie, after stopping to tie a shoelace and catching up yet again.

“Everyone says that,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s the trouble I have with all my clients. Sometimes I think I just need to create an extra day in the week.”

“Good idea,” I said. “Get to work on that.”