Friday, January 12, 2007

Play While You Run - Five workouts that will keep you coming back for more

A nonrunner once told me, "Yeah, I'll start running as soon as I see someone running and smiling at the same time." She had a point. If we don't have fun during our workouts, we'll never stay motivated for a lifetime of running.

To keep running interesting, I propose balancing your workouts with playouts. Here are five playouts for you to try.

With Company

If you're running with a group of friends, try the following:

Chase: Start runners from slowest to fastest on a track or a designated course. The faster runners chase and try to pass the slower runners (who refuse to let them) before the finish. Ideally everyone finishes the race at the same time. Stagger the start as fairly as possible by handicapping runners based on their current 5K PRs. For instance, someone with a 25-minute 5K time would start seven minutes ahead of someone with an 18-minute best.

Scavenger Hunt: If you have a running group of four or more, play in teams. Each team first jogs along a running route and hides various items. The teams then meet at the designated start and exchange lists that offer clues about the location of each of the items. Everyone sprints off. The first team to find all the items and return to the starting point wins.

I've run many versions of these scavenger hunts, and each one has produced hilarious moments. Best of all, you gain a quality speed session without feeling as if you've worked too hard.

On Your Own

If you're by yourself, try these runs:

Fantasy Race: Watch a world-class track meet or race, or even an inspiring running movie. Then the next time you run, pretend you're one of the elite runners in the race you watched. I don't think I've seen any sporting event more exciting than the come-from-behind victory of Billy Mills in the 1964 Olympic 10,000 meters. When I run, I often recreate the race in my head. I'm Billy Mills getting bumped and tripped by competitors on the last lap, falling behind but then mounting an awesome kick to pass two runners and claim the gold medal.

Prediction Run: Predict how long it will take you to run a particular course. Then leave your watch at home (or at least cover up the face with masking tape) and see how close you can come to your predicted time. Record your results in your training log.

Purposeful Run: Instead of running simply for the sake of exercise, run to accomplish a goal. Slip your bank card in your shorts pocket and run to the ATM to get cash. Run to a friend's house to drop off that CD you borrowed three months ago (make sure to wipe your sweat off the plastic case). Run to the convenience store for those smoke-alarm batteries. Such short stops do more than break up your run. They allow you to accomplish otherwise mundane tasks.
From Runner's World, October 1999, p. 38