My new favorite free training tools are: hills, wind, and fast running buddies.
On my long training run yesterday (to prepare for a 15K in 2 weeks), all three of these “tools” felt like they were working against me until I realized that these things, in isolation or in any combination, were going to make me stronger.
1. Hills: In all my research, it’s proven that running on incline (both uphill and downhill) strengthens the core and the leg muscles, improves stamina, and subsequently speed due to improved strength and endurance. No equipment needed!
2. Wind: Running into the wind can really make you second guess the decision to ever step outside (even thought it was a sunny spring day with clear skies and upper 50 degree temperatures). It’ll chap your lips and cheeks, make you feel like less of a runner, and really test you mentally like it did with us yesterday. Half of our run was head on into the wind. It felt like we were working so hard and a brick wall was pushing us backwards. That is really frustrating! But we couldn’t stop, we had to finish strong, so we had no choice but to mentally toughen up and push back.
Picture found on http://www.runwithjess.com
3. Run with a faster partner: In efforts to improve our speed, Mama C and I enlisted the help of two speedy Mamas to run with for the past two weeks (thank you Mama G for last week!). Yesterday, Mama D was our pace setter, even though we all know that our speeds are so different. Mama C and I have a very similar pace that fluctuates; we ebb and flow with the hills and the elements. We stop to walk, we stop to stretch, we stop to catch our breath. When Mama D starts running, flips her switch to “on” and she just goes at her 9:15/mile pace (give or take a few seconds) no matter what the course is, no matter what the weather is like, no matter what is happening around her! Running with Mama D is a great training tool, but it can be a little overwhelming because when you’re running uphill and she says “keep going to the next telephone pole” at least 3 times in a row, you start to wonder if you’ll make it one more step. Luckily she held back for us, but we had to step up to keep up. And by keep up, I mean we didn’t lose sight of her up ahead of us.
All of this said, I ran my fastest overall pace for the longest distance; 10:13/mile was my average for 7 miles, even with a few walking (holy cow the wind is blowing me away) breaks. My time was 1:12:35. Sure I had angry quads by mile 5.5, but progress is all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, right? Mama D then pushed me to run 1.7 more miles home from the YMCA with her which made my quads even angrier! Our goal for the 15K is “9 in the 90’s”. Mama C and I want to be able to finish our 9.3 mile race strong and in under 1:40:00. I think we can do it!