So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't Make Me Change My Routes!

My loving wife and I have had differences of opinion about our solo runs. I have an out-and-back (10K) from the house I enjoy. It goes through (relatively quiet) residential neighborhoods until the last block or so at the mid-point, which is near a major thoroughfare. There aren't many turns; it's a fairly straight shot there and back, which means I can kinda-sorta shut the mind off (yeah, I know, not that it's working in the first place, right?).

Suzanne, on the other hand, likes little three mile-to-five kilometer loops with the house as the beginning/end. She enjoys trees, shade & scenery. We don't agree on what to do, but every once in a while she'll humor me and go on my out/back run. In return, I'll either run one-mile pieces, then toddle back to where she is at the time (usually no more than 150 meters back). If I don't do that I better be prepared to buy dinner.
I read her Patrick McCrann's latest (day fifteen of thirty) tidbit from Marathon Nation; the issue of boredom with the "same old run loop" made perfect sense to me, but she couldn't agree with the idea of physical & mental burnout being a root cause. The post is below...see what you think.
Repeat after me: Repeat Routes Are Not Evil. Are Not Evil. Not Evil. Evil. Really they aren't. In fact, I think having a handful of key loops is actually critical to maximizing your training time and run performance. Here's why, with a bit at the end on the types of routes you should consider.

At some point in time, regardless of where you run, you won't like it. It'll feel stale, the same, boooooring! Know that this is less a function of where you are (on your run) and more a function of your physical and mental state. In other words, you are dreading your local run for reasons other than the fact that it's the same loop. Maybe you are tired, maybe you are burned out, etc. Whatever the reason, your loop is getting a bum rap and for all the wrong reasons.
Running similar routes really let's you zone out. No need to stress on distance or where to turn. You can just plug into the route and let go. Sometimes just having a run where your mind wanders is the most important thing. Sometimes not needing to pay attention to where you are going means you can focus instead on how you are getting there. My best "technique" runs are those where I have nothing else to think about.

One of the biggest issues we "average people" face is getting in a good run with the time we've got. In other words, we all start the month/week/day with intentions to execute all of our workouts, but life inevitably gets in the way. With repeat routes, you can easily pick the right option given your workout goals and allotted time.
Constant benchmarking is a plus and a minus, so take it as you see fit. I think there is some value in being able to categorize your current run against previous runs using the feedback of time: "I usually get to this corner in 27 minutes, today it took me 28 minutes." Note that I am not talking about judging the times, I am just saying it's valuable to be able to compare. I have had plenty of runs where I felt awful...but was on or ahead of schedule...and others where I could have sworn I was part Kenyan...and I was running like I had cinderblocks on my feet!

I like to have a solid variety of running routes. In my personal arsenal, I have the following routes lined up. Of course, it's possible to connect/stack any of these as need be to make a create route that's very local to me instead of running into oblivion (and back again):
5k Loop: Great for a short hard run or some really quick intervals. Can be run as a warm up for longer efforts or multiple times for TT efforts or water stops.
5-Miler: Solid mid-distance run. This is my default run. Takes me about 35 minutes.
Hill Run: Shortest distance from my house to some hills. Great to get work done and come home.
Off-Road Run: Some or all of this route is on trails or dirt or something. Great way to take care of your body and work on agility, etc.
What's your favorite repeat route like?

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