The Run Less Run Faster Experiment – Week 1

Tonkotsu (Pork Broth) Ramen Noodles
Mmmm…Ramen Noodles. Just don’t forget the water! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up on Spaghetti-Os and Doritos. Occasionally, my mom, sister, and I would delight in a home cooked meal by Grandma but canned goods and snacks were the staple of our working single parent household. As I got older and began running, I upgraded to pre-washed bags of iceburg lettuce and cooked noodles out of the box instead of the can.

Without a solid foundation in cooking, I grew up to be a timid adult in the kitchen. I longed to cook delicious recipes I’d seen in all of the magazines but I lacked the courage. Maybe my insecurity stemmed from the time I tried cooking Ramen Noodles in the microwave and forgot to fill the cup with water. Maybe this why they no longer recommend microwaving the Styrofoam cups and not because of its cancer-causing substances. Nonetheless, I waited decades to try and take my time with a recipe, to just follow the directions as they were given.

What does this have to do with my run less/run faster experiment?

Week 1 of my SmartCoach Training is in the books and the prescribed paces felt pretty slow for me. While jogging, I concluded that I feared following training plans to a “T” because I had negative associations with pain and failure. After all, I didn’t even pass the mile test in 9th grade gym, much like how I burned the Ramen Noodles. Such negative associations with paces and ingredients caused me to engage in these activities with fear, constantly questioning myself and my skills.

Whether I was questioning myself or my coaches, I lacked the courage to just run, even if it was at a prescribed pace. The same things continued to happen in the kitchen as an adult. I remember trying to bake a cake in my mid-twenties and just like the Ramen Noodles (Third mention! I think I shall go make some), I burnt it out of fear that it wasn’t baked long enough. If I just would’ve trusted the recipe.

After much therapy, I have learned how to slow down a little bit. Exploring basic recipes in the kitchen provided the perfect environment for slowing down and taking my time with directions, even if that included Googling pictures of fennel bulbs so I knew what they looked like before going to the store. Since January, Sundays are no longer just reserved for long runs. They are cooking days, too.

In cooking, I learned the key to a great recipe is following the directions, slowly and carefully until it becomes second nature. In running, I want to finally try to do the same. Sure, the difficulty level right now is quite low. However, being able to hit all of my paces has restored a new sense of confidence in myself as a runner just like making some simple recipes (mmm kale chips…) has given me confidence as a (gasp!) cook.

But enough with the analogies, here’s how the week looked:

Monday: 66 minute bike ride. First warm and sunny day of the year, finally! I pedaled on a tougher gear and incorporated some hills to feel a burn. It worked. I also lifted afterward.

Tuesday: 2 miles @ 9:20 pace. My prescribed pace on easy runs this week was 9:25. While it would be quite a feat to hit it right each time, I’m allowing myself +/- 10 seconds. Going this pace felt forcefully slow and quite comical at the track with Salty and friends. However, it allowed me to slow down and focus on my breathing.

Wednesday: 30 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the stair climber. Yes, the stair climber, because why not? The schedule called for an off day or cross training. I figured I’d get adventurous and try something new. I also did a short lifting routine.

I've become one of those people, the stair climber at the gym.
I’ve become one of those people.

Thursday: Workout day! Called for a 1 mile warm up and 2 x 1 mile at 7:28 pace with 800 jogs after each repeat. I completed the workout on the treadmill because I didn’t feel like running in the rain. To my surprise, I hit the paces and felt good doing so. I’ll admit I was teetering on some lactic toward the end but that is to be expected as I haven’t run this pace in months.

Friday: 2 miles @ 9:24, ooh so close to prescribed pace! It was a nice, quick afternoon run in the rain.

Saturday: 30 minutes on the elliptical after a long day on my feet. This helped to ease some stiffness. The pace was casual.

Sunday: 8 miles @ 9:24 pace. I hit the prescribed pace for 3 of the 8 miles (9:25). This whole using a GPS thing is kind of fun! I haven’t run this far since the beginning of the year. However, I would’ve never guessed that. Very enjoyable run.

Total: 16 miles of running, 2 hours 21 minutes of cross training

Preview of next week: 3 days of cross training, 4 days of running which includes 800 meter repeats and a 9 mile long run.

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. I think you’re really going to like this method of running. I used RLRF (from the Runner’s World Book) for my entire marathon training, and I didn’t feel injured or burnt out once, and I made a decent time for my first marathon. I met up with a running group who couldn’t believe how little I was actually running, and my super low mileage is usually about half (or less!) of what I see on Salty Running training logs. Best of luck, and I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiment!

    1. Thanks, Mo! Very encouraged by your results. I didn’t think I would like the cross training but so far, my body seems to respond well to it. I notice I’ve been fresh for every run!