Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stop Cancer 5k and Some Fun Running Tips!

I ran the Stop Cancer 5k this morning at this golf course/lake area nearby.  I love 5ks, because I can really push my speed when I'm not running distance.  The past 6 months I have been doing a lot of interval work on the treadmill, like sprinting for a few minutes then slowing down, etc., a lot of it on the highest incline which is a bitch, but really helps with improving my speed overall.

I've never been a natural fast runner, and just a short 2 years ago, it was hard for me to finish a mile within 12 minutes.  Now I can run a mile in about 7 minutes so that's big improvement for me.  I really try to aim high though.  Because I used to run next to this woman at the gym a couple mornings a week, and she would always finish 13 miles in that hour! That's like a half marathon!  I mean an hour is a fantastic time for a half marathon race, but to just do it casually on the treadmill... I can't even imagine what her time is during an actual race.  So she's kind of been my inspiration to strive for.  Though she's kind of a super lean and tall amazon woman, and I'll probably never be able to achieve that kind of speed.  But I can try!

Today I finished 3rd or 4th in my age group (official time has not come out yet) but I'm kind of annoyed with myself because the 1st place person was only 30 seconds in front of me!  First place won lots of stuff including a free month membership at Krav Maga.  Grrr.... I should've pushed harder!  If I sprinted the last minute, I would've been #1 for sure.  But of course I didn't know that at the time otherwise I'd probably be sprinting the last mile!  Hehe.  But I guess I should always push hard no matter what.  We knew the lady that finished #1 in her age group though so she gave her free month to us.  I guess I will be trying out Krav Maga soon!  So excited!  I've always been wanting to do it.  Israeli street fighting just sounds like fun for some reason.

My other friend actually finished in 2nd place but only 3 seconds behind the 1st place person.  We should've sweeped it!  Hehehe.  It's kind of funny too that this other friend in our group pushed his son in his stroller and still finished only minutes behind me.  He's a really fast runner, so without his son I'm sure he would have been #1.  I was pretty impressed though, I mean it's hard work pushing a stroller because you don't get to use your arms to help you, and he said he walked the first 5 minutes, so he put up a great time.

He also hooked us up with a couple masseuses to help stretch and massage us after the race.  I know, total overkill for a 5k.  But it was great!  My thighs are so tight and sore from a hard kettlebell class I did on Thursday, and sitting through the test all day yesterday didn't help either.  So that was much needed.  I think I might have to roll with a masseuse every time now.  I got spoiled!

So anyway, I've had the pleasure to work with a great running coach named David Siik through the Lululemon run club.  He is one of their ambassadors, and also a teacher at Equinox.  In typical LA fashion, he also models and appears regularly on the cover of Runner's World.  He gave me a great tip once that has really helped me.  It's so simple too - basically, he said that if you can master the hills, that's where you can pass a lot of people during a race.  And to do that, you just have to lean forward, take smaller but more frequent strides, and pump your arms harder at the same time.  Your arms will propel your legs to keep going even when you are tired because it's a natural bodily reaction.  As simple as it sounds, it really really works.  I've been doing it for my hill training and it makes it much easier.  Today I tested out the theory in a real race and I was able to pass so many people just during the 3 little uphills we had to get through.  It was like people just slowed down so much and I passed them without even really trying.  So I have to credit him for that.

Other than that, I think the speed training is definitely key.  I was running at a steady pace for distance for a long time and was not able to improve my speed nearly as much as I have in the past 6 months of regular interval training.  I think it helps breaking up the monotonous of the treadmill for sure.  I just get so bored running on the treadmill even if I'm watching TV at the same time.  The time just drags.  But if I'm timing myself of a minute sprint, followed by a minute of rest, for 30 minutes or whatever, then it goes by much quicker.

I used to absolutely HATE running on the treadmill, but since my training with some amazing trainers, I have grown to love it.  I thought I'd share some sample interval work on the treadmill that I love:

Hill & Speed Combined - this one is tough - it takes less than 5 minutes total but it will kill you if you try for the best speed you can:
1.  Take the treadmill to the highest incline which is normally 15
2.  Start with a run/jog/power walk for 45 seconds (I normally do it around a speed of 5 or 5.5)
3.  Take the incline down to 12.5 and increasing speed by about 0.5 for another 45 seconds
4.  Take the incline down to 10 and increase speed by another 0.5 for 45 seconds
5.  Take the incline down to 7 and increase speed to the point where you are at a fast run for 45 seconds
6.  Take the incline down to 4 and increase speed to a sprint for 45 seconds
7.  Take the incline down to 0 and increase speed to the fastest sprint you can manage for the last 45 seconds
8.  The end, walk it out
*Note:  You can do the entire thing backwards if you want.  i.e. start at 0 incline and sprinting, and work your way up to 15 incline.

If you are not dead by the end, add 2 sets of Half Moons - these will kills your thighs:

1.  Set the incline at around 5 and speed at between 3 to 4 (lower if you've never gone side ways or backwards on the treadmill)
2.  Take a half step to the right side so that you are sideways on the treadmill, and side shuffle your feet for 45 seconds
3.  Take a half step to the right again so that you are backwards on the treadmill, and run for 45 seconds staying up on your toes
4.  Take a half step to the right so that you are now sideways facing the left and side shuffle for 45 seconds
5.  Take the last half step to the right so that you are facing forward to walk it out for a 30 second recovery
6.  Repeat steps 1-5

Non-Incline, All Speed Work (I usually do this on a 2 incline, but 0 is fine):
1.  Start with 60 second sprint (the appropriate speed is when you should be breathless by the end)
2.  60 second recovery (walk at approximately half of the sprinting speed)
3.  Repeat the top 2 steps for 4 more times
4.  90 second run/sprint where you increase the speed every 30 seconds so choose the speed accordingly
5.  Walk it out

Variable Sprint Times - adjust speed based on each interval's required time (I do this whole set on a 2 incline as well because I never run on 0 incline):
1.  60 second sprint
2.  45 second recovery
3.  90 second sprint
4.  45 second recovery
5.  2 minutes run
6.  60 second recovery
7.  30 second "someone's chasing me in a dark alley" sprint - the fastest you can without falling off the treadmill
8.  90 seconds - 2 minute recovery

Here's a unconventional fun exercise you can do with the treadmill as well:  Plank Walks:
1.  Set the speed to 1 or 1.5
2.  Step off the treadmill
3.  Put your hands on each side of the moving treadmill belt in a full arm plank position (feet on the ground)
4.  When you are ready, move your hands onto the moving treadmill and "walk" with it.  Keep the feet still on the ground, maintaining plank position the whole time
5.  If you think you are going too fast, take longer "strides" with your arms
6.  Do the above for 3 sets of 45 seconds

See, the treadmill isn't always boring!  Just short bursts of high intensity with matching recovery times will improve your performance along with heart health.  Most importantly, I think the trick is really to push your speed within those short amount of times to a point where you might not think you can do.  Because think about it, you really can do anything in 30 or 45 seconds.  I can usually get my speed up to a 10 or so when it's for only 30 seconds.  It's easier mentally as well. 

The above sets have really helped me so I hope that it will help someone else out there as well!  Or at least add more fun to spice up the normal routine!


  1. Congrats on your race this morning!
    Running sideways or backwards on a treadmill... I can just see myself falling flat on my face! I agree speedwork is important, even in improving your speed for longer distance runs.

    My fall half marathon time really suffered (I think) because I had to skip out on some of my speedwork due to heat this summer. I still ran all the miles I was supposed to -- but it's tough to do intervals when it's 85+.

  2. Congrats on your race!

    I'm going to guess that the gym treadmill lady was running 13 kilometers in an hour and not 13 miles, considering that the women's world record for the 1/2 marathon is something like 66 minutes and most treadmills don't even go faster than 12mph. Still impressive, but not quite *that* impressive!

  3. @RunningOnCoffee: It's weird to do sideways and backwards on the treadmill your first time but you get used to it really quickly and it works different muscles! Try it! =)

    @Julie: Hmmm... I guess she could have changed it to show km instead of miles. I didn't even know you could do that. But I just always saw "13" and thought she was amazing! Hehe. I've also never tried putting the treadmill on the fastest speed so I have no idea! Haha. But now that I think about it more, it does make sense...

  4. OOOh, maybe it was 13 laps. that's 4 miles and a cooldown lap. A lot more realistic for treadmillin ;)

    I'm excited to try some of these interval training workouts. They really help you make the most of your time at the gym.

    I used to do jillian micheals' 30-day ripped workout from her book called "the 30 day shred" which required me to run on a treadmill for 60 seconds at speed 6.5 and an incline of 6. Sounds easier than it really is!

    that workout was awesome. I did the whole 30 day series back to back to back three times making it a total of 90 days. I didn't look any different (because i still ate mexican food all the time;) but I was able to do 100lb lat pulls and over 50 pushups in a row by the end of it! My fitness level went through the roof and I was able to run a 10k in 46 minutes!

  5. Wow that sounds awesome Lisa! I love Jillian Michaels!

    Let me know how these work out for you if you do end up trying them! I think the first one I listed that starts on the highest incline is a killer. I always have a hard time keeping up because I get too over-confident in the beginning and run too fast on level 15 incline. And then I get breathless after like 30 seconds. Lol.


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