Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Less Is More

At the height of marathon training, I averaged around 25-30 running miles a week. On good weeks, I was also able to add in some cycling miles.

After the marathon, I started fresh with a brand-new tracking chart - the old-fashioned paper kind that I fill in with a pen, opting (for once) to forgo the fancy online options. Having it staring me square in the face when I walk by my fridge is a good reminder to get out there and run. (Plus, doing the calculations is good for my math skills.)

It's been one month since I crossed the Finish Line and started over. As expected, in that month my average weekly mileage has dipped a bit. Last week, for example, I got in a mere 17 miles of running and another 18 or so on the bike.

But I'm not worried.

I'm finding a new-found focus on the kinds of runs I'm doing and have been sure to add some speed workouts on the Dreadmill - if I have to be on the Dreadmill, I might as well make the most of it.

The other evening I put in five miles in the gym. Normally, a five-miler wouldn't be much effort. Perhaps I should say, I wouldn't have put in much effort.

During the summer months, I would have plodded along easily, taking in the sights, letting my mind wander and relax. (I realize that isn't always a bad thing, and I'll be sure to have runs like that from time to time.)

The same was true for longer runs. People think I'm crazy when I casually said I'd be running 13 or 15 miles. Sure, it's a great accomplishment and takes a lot of work to get to that point - but once you've conditioned your body to get there, putting in those miles is the easy part.

I remember countless times that Shawnna and I would meet up for double-digit runs, chatting and laughing every step of the way. The movement, our legs moving in that running motion we've come accustomed to, was almost natural and unnoticed. It didn't even seem to be about running sometimes.

The marathon is behind me. I've proven to myself that I can do it. I realize now that I need to step up the effort to bring me to the next level - whatever that may be.

It's been a complete mental shift for me, from just trying to rack up mileage and build endurance to focusing on quality workouts.

My treadmill workout now consists of five or six miles - but instead of trucking along at a constant speed, I've been sure to include some intervals. I've been sure to bring the speed up to a level that makes me work.

I force in a few quarter-mile intervals at speeds that I never thought I'd be able to do. At times, most times, those quarter-miles feel harder than any 13-miler I've done.

It feels good - like it always does when you do something you didn't think you'd be able to.

Sometimes it's not about the number of miles you've run. It's about what you've done with those miles. Sometimes less is more.


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