This article originally appeared in our September 2011 issue.
The Buffet Menu
One of Everything Please
The idea of treating your hard day like you’re ordering dinner from a tapas restaurant or better yet the Old Country Buffet might not be such a bad idea.
Last issue I wrote about the medium run. In that article I also speculated that not enough of us do our hard days hard enough. I am now proposing a way to make our hard days what they should be: incredibly and painfully arduous.
One of the reasons we don’t run hard enough on our hard days is because we are doing multiple repetitions of the same thing. Our speed sessions consist of 8 x 800 or 5 x 1600. These workouts are conducive to psychological sandbagging. We end up going easy on repeats 4, 5, and 6 in hopes of having something left for 7 and 8. You know it’s true. If you do your first 800 in 2:28, you sure as hell want to do your last one in that same split or under. So, you run comfortably hard and within yourself for the next 6 reps. That’s good…but not great. You may be losing some of the physiological benefits of really giving an all-out effort. Sure, you can maintain your current fitness level with comfortable hard days. I’m just not sure you’re getting better. To me, the problem with 12 x 400 (or any workout that is repetition x a constant) is that you spend too much time worrying about blowing up and not enough time concentrating on the current rep. Let’s face it, if I am doing 5 x 1600 and hit 5:10 for the first 3 and then blow up on the last 2, I don’t leave the track with a warm feeling in my belly. I feel defeated. I question my fitness. I worry for the rest of the evening. It is in our evaluative nature to fixate on the bad and not relish the 3 awesome repeats that preceded the bonk. We want so bad to avoid that feeling of defeat that we never truly, madly, deeply lay our legs on the line. I am guilty of this and it pisses me off. Let’s fix it.
Do one of everything. That’s my solution. Instead of 10 x 1000 @ lactate threshold pace, complete 5K, 3K, mile at the same pace. The accumulated distance is the same; the only thing that differs is the distance of each rep. Added bonus: you’re only doing 3 repeats instead of 10. You can stay sharp for each one. Granted, this is a totally different (looking) workout than 10 x anything, but it may be a better one because it evokes a full throttle effort on every single repeat. We are less likely to keep some fuel in reserve if we are only doing one of something. Knowing that I have to do something once makes me do that one thing as best I can. That same response isn’t elicited when I’m doing something ten times. I take it easy on at least a couple of them. The whole point of a hard day is to make it hard. Not close to hard. Not somewhat difficult. Fire in my legs hard. I contend that picking one of each of the distances you normally run on the track will allow you to kick your own ass (kinda like Fight Club). It’s a mind v. body thing. Your mind must be able to tell your body it can throw caution to the wind because, hey, I’m just doing this thing once.
More benefits that surface in a buffet menu workout:
- You can’t compare the current split with the previous. Again, this prevents sandbagging.
- The workout gets easier with every passing repeat (if you start at the top of the ladder, each succeeding rep is shorter than the previous. Note: masochists can start at the bottom of the ladder).
- Knowing that the workout gets easier/shorter with every repeat makes you run the current repeat faster.
- If you run it hard enough, you will see spotted dragons and other fun hallucinations on your cool down.
- Doing one of everything will force you to run reps of unfamiliar distances. I know what a good 800 split is but am less sure of a 700 or 500. Splits become less of an issue and you run on perceived effort, which better damn well be HARD.
I think the ultimate buffet menu workout is The Michigan. Chris Lear made this Ron Warhurst specialty famous in his book Sub 4:00 (it chronicles Alan Webb’s frosh year at Michigan). Here it is: 1 x mile, 1200, 800, 400, with a 1200 “recovery” at lactate threshold pace. This workout sounds easy (Chinese Menu effect) but it is a KILLER. It’s awesome. Just writing about it makes me want to put on my short shorts and get after it. I am. I’m going. I’m gone. Seeya.
Official article song: “This Aint No Picnic” by The Minutemen
To read more from our Sept 2011 issue (#2), click here.
If you have a killer workout that you would like to share with The Legion, email it to kevbalance[at]levelrenner[dot]com.