Training Tuesday: a fool’s progress…ion run

Happy April Fool’s day everybody! I was briefly tempted to do some hack-y jokester-y blog post today in honor of the first of April. The topics I  considered were: “DIY trepanation for fun and profit–all you need is a power drill and a smile,” and “Things that Ted Cruz and I agree on.” Then I realized that, as a blogger, I am responsible for my content; the LAST thing the world needs right now is people running around with holes in their heads. That’s what the house of representatives is for. 
Instead- today I am going to talk training. I started my day with an 8 mile progression run. 
Hit it
Progression runs are a great tool for building speed, especially for distance runners. However, I must be honest, they are among my LEAST favorite workouts. Even though I know they offer a ton of benefits, it was a bit of a struggle to get out the door this morning. I had to muster up quite a bit of mental tenacity and remind myself that training is a process. Finally I told myself “Sam, if you nail this workout you can put chocolate in your oatmeal this morning”.” I am not proud of stooping to bargaining, but it worked. 
Part of a balanced breakfast?
OK- now that I’ve spent some time complaining about progression runs, what are these beasts?
Simply put, a progression run is a run that finishes faster than it starts. There are a lot of ways to approach this. Shorter progression runs typically take the form of running the majority of the distance at a conversational pace and picking it up for the last mile. Mid-range progression runs generally involve an extended section of fast paced effort after a long warm up, so that he second half of the run is completed faster than the first. Finally (and this is the type of workout I performed this morning) progression runs can be truly progressive: the pace is gradually and consistently increased over the course of the run. The frequency and intensity of the increases may vary, but the point is that the run gets incrementally faster and faster. 
Here is a link to a great article on competitor.com with some example progression run workouts. Runner’s world has another good piece on this training tool. 
So why are progression runs so great? There are a few reasons. First, progression runs force you to thoroughly warm up before adding intensity. By waiting until the END of the run to up your pace (as opposed to a typical track workout where you start hammering out repeats after the most perfunctory of warm-up laps) they ensure that your muscles are completely loose and ready or the challenge. Second, progression workouts force you to up the intensity after an extended period of exertion. This offers physical benefits, as your muscles are forced to rely on energy reserves to up the pace and maintain form even when fatigued. This also offers mental benefits, as you have to talk yourself into keeping the pace up (or upping the pace) when you are tired. Finally, progression runs are lower impact than typical track workouts or long runs (due to the extended warm-up at the beginning), which allows you to incorporate “extra” speed work into your training regimen with less injury risk. 
Progression runs are great. However, the reason they are so great is exactly why I dislike doing them: progression runs get more difficult as they progress. Sometimes (oftentimes) I enjoy going out for a run, finding my flow, and just cruising along for miles and miles and miles until I finish. Progression runs force you to maintain a focus and effort (and INCREASE your effort throughout). This is a good thing. I don’t normally run with music, but I actually find it to be a pretty useful tool (crutch) to amp me up at the end of these challenging workouts. As embarrassing as it is to admit, Aqua helped me through this morning. 

The workout I did this morning was: 1 mile warm up, 6 miles progression, increasing the pace each mile, 1 mile cool down. Let’s see how I did:
Mile 1: 8’36”
Mile 2: 7’54”
Mile 3: 7’47”
Mile 4: 7’27”
Mile 5: 7’29”
Mile 6: 7’31”
Mile 7: 7′ 17″
Mile 8: 8’51”
Hmmmmm….not so much progression between mile 5 and six, but overall I sped up incrementally and finished faster than I started. I will take it. 
I will also take this sunrise

4 thoughts on “Training Tuesday: a fool’s progress…ion run

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