Tag Archives: Speedwork

Tips For Getting Started With A Morning Run Routine

Getting started with a morning running routine can seem like an impossible hurdle.   I remember how it felt when I first started out.  I have learned a lot during these past 3 years of my journey as a runner, so here are three steps to follow to make sure you get up,  get out the door and do the run you have been dreaming about!

Make all decisions the day before you plan to run!

1) Outfit:  Decide what you will wear. Lay out your entire outfit before you go to bed.  This means everything from socks to headband.  Don’t just decide in your mind what you’ll wear and think you’ll go fumbling through the drawers the morning of your first run.  Pull the clothes out of the drawer and lay them over a chair or somewhere visible when you open your eyes in the morning.  Have your sneakers at the edge of your bed too so you practically trip over them as you wake up.  If you plan to have any electronics (watch, iPod, heart rate monitor), charge them and keep them near your clothes as well.

You want everything sorted ahead of time so that when you wake-up there is no silly excuse that can delay you from getting out the door.  You know your mind will look for any excuse possible.  Don’t give it a chance to beat you down!

2) Decide where and how long you will run.  Don’t feel you need to run 3 miles your first time running.  Even if you’ve done it before.  Start off with something attainable like 15 or 20 minutes. But make sure you decide before you go to sleep exactly where you will run (on the treadmill? around the block 3 times?) and for how long (15 minutes? 30 minutes? 10 minute walk and 10 minute run?).  If you don’t decide before you go to sleep, it means there is a good chance you won’t do it in the a.m.!  By settling your brain on what you plan to do the next day, it sort of stamps the notion in your head throughout your sleep cycle making it harder to not do it the next day.

3) a. Decide the wake-up time to set your alarm

b. When you’re tempted to settle for a snooze-fest, PAUSE!  Before you smack that snooze button decide the night before that you will take 5 seconds to allow your ‘positive self’ to tell your nagging ‘negative self’  “The snooze will not take me to my goal.  I will feel better once I’m up and out.  Nothing about this snooze is going to make me feel better in five minutes like I will after my run.”  I have never come home from a run (even the tough ones) and thought I should have just stayed in bed and snoozed away.  This is the moment where you need to break that bad habit.

Breaking habits are hard and uncomfortable.  You have to promise yourself to be consistent and disciplined.  After a few weeks, the changed behavior starts to feel more acceptable and eventually it becomes a new, healthy habit.  And you can’t imagine life any other way.


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Speedwork: always heard about it from other runners but never considered applying it to my own training.  For the past year I have been content with simply running. Mainly focused on running for as long as I possibly can and then very slowly creeping up my pace to a 10:20ish range for half marathons.  I’ve been stuck in this range for the past year.

Since I ran the More/Fitness Magazine Half Marathon about 4 weeks ago (average pace of 10:36) I decided it was about damn time I focused on speedwork and basically hauled some ass.  The pace group I kept finding myself in included Interval Pacers, a person that speed walks for a minute or two and then runs for a minute or two and then walks, then runs, for an entire race.  I find running near Interval Pacers to be very distracting and confusing on the mind.  One minute you’re passing someone, two minutes later they are jogging along side you and then they drop back again and then there they are at your side.  I find it motivating to have runners around me bouncing their heads and pumping their elbows in sync with me.  Toss a handful of Interval Pacers into the flow and my mind loses focus.

I became curious to experience the race world from another level of speed  – the 9 minute pacers! For the past 3 weeks I’ve been focused on speed not distance. I looked to the treadmill, a machine I typically loathe, as though it was a fun game.  Interval Speed Training became my new best friend at the gym.  Here is the training plan:

* Run a quarter-mile at a very fast pace (around 8:20)

* Recover for about a minute or two running at 10:15 pace (this is a fairly comfortable level for me).

I did this routine 4x times, on Tuesday morning, over the past 3 weeks.

Felt like so little but in actuality it was quite significant.  The impact of the training lied in the quality of the work, not the quantity.

Other days I ran 3-6 miles at a faster pace. I had to keep reminding myself it’s not about the distance.  It’s the quality of the short run.  During those runs my average pace was approximately 9:40.

Another technique I introduced into my training was improving the rate of my cadence.  In other words, how often my feet touched the ground within a minute.  Repeat after me: CADENCE.  It’s like the secret sauce to cooking up a great runner.

By necessity from morning runs with my slow-paced Dad, who is recovering from foot surgery, I’ve focused on increasing the rate at which my feet touch the ground to be around the recommended 85 -90 steps per minute (180 BPMs Beats per Minute). This doesn’t mean I have a wide stride. Just means I tap the ground with my feet quicker even if it’s in small, quick steps.  It kind of feels like I’m running fast in one place. This quick-step motion has given me improved elasticity in my muscles and trained my legs to be comfortable at moving them quickly.  (I like to imagine I’m moving like Jennifer Beals’ character in the movie Flashdance when she runs in place really, really fast dances to “She’s A Maniac”.  Check it out here for those that don’t know this 1980’s movie reference or want a refresher and a good chuckle:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NjbGr2nk2c

Flashdance moves aside, this link gives a good video demonstration for the cadence technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVM6vy83Vy4&feature=related

The true test on whether the training was having any impact was when I ran the  NYRR Race As One (4mile) on Sunday, April 28.  Travelling into Manhattan from Staten Island for a 4 mile race is not appealing to me.  I would have preferred to stay home and enjoy a long run with my comfortable technique of pitter-pattering all around my neighborhood, occasionally throwing in a sprint but for the most part lumbering along for miles.  With my new attitude about speedwork and some encouragement from my husband, I decided a 4 mile race would be a great way to push my training and check-in with my progress.

As it turns out, I PR’d (Personal Record) with an average pace of 9:07! And most exciting was to see  my splits.

Mile 1: 9:12

Mile 2: 8:51

Mile 3: 9:36 (damn hills)

Mile 4: 8:53

What a great sense of satisfaction and motivation to see and feel the benefits of my training after what felt like such a minimal amount of time and effort.  Remember: Quality over quantity pays off in the end.

Being in this new race group of 9 minute pacers I noticed some changes to my environment and overall energy.  There were way more runners around me.   I felt like I was being carried by a wave. Even if I started to slow down a little it was still at a faster pace than my previous races.  As we came out of the Harlem Hills around mile 3 I felt everyone digging in hard and picking up that pace.  Few were complaining, more were pounding the pavement and grunting.  Few were stopping to walk, more were picking up the speed.  And I was right there, able to keep up.  Perhaps the biggest difference I noticed being in this faster race group was that everyone was breathing a lot louder and harder.

As we came down the west side heading towards the last mile of the race everyone around me was charging hard for that finish line.  I did the same.  I bolted across that finish line feeling my legs were flying, not just pitter-pattering down the trail.  Onwards and upwards I go, with a focus on achieving a solid 180 bpm cadence!


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