Want to Run Faster? Run LESS.

Do you remember when you were a kid and all the adults around you just loved to tell you what to do? Brush your teeth! Wear that bike helmet! Stop diving headfirst off the couch!

fresh-princeYa movin’ with ya Auntie & Uncle in Bel Air!

However, now that we’re older, hindsight has proven that they were really just looking out for us. When you think about it, those shrill commands ultimately prevented our teeth from rotting out of our heads, saved us from high speed bike accidents, and kept us from breaking our necks on the living room floor.

But isn’t it funny how even as adults we sometimes tend to ignore similar good advice, even though deep down we know that it’ll ultimately help us in the long run? Take, for example, cross training.

Back when I first started my fitness journey in 2004, I did a little bit of everything to avoid the workout rut. Whenever I stopped seeing results I’d move on to yoga, strength training, kickboxing, cardio dance, step classes, spinning, everything! Thanks to the gym we lived around the corner from, I did it all, and coupled with running, these activities saw my average mile time go from 13:00 to around 10:30.

Fast Forward to 2012: my husband and I moved to a different town (and away from the gym where all these wonderful activities could be found). Slowly my routine morphed into doing the occasional workout DVD in the living room with lots and lots of running. Then I tore my ACL and things really went downhill.

Picture 859That creepy ice bath machine in physical therapy was the first sign of trouble.

Once I was well enough to run again in 2013, that’s all I did. Mile after mile I clocked, stuck in the 13-12 minute range. For almost 2 years I plodded along, wondering if I hit my peak pre-surgery and if I was destined to stay slow. I couldn’t understand: Sure, I wasn’t doing much (ahem, ANY) of those other cross training activities anymore, but I was running sooo much! Don’t they say “Run More to Run Better”? All that running made me so tired and achy! “Those magazines are nuts anyway,” I’d think. “Who has time to do ALL THE THINGS while ALSO running too? They don’t know my life, they don’t know what’s best for me. But why am I not getting faster??”

lightbulb.jpg

The answer was right in front of me the whole time: I was ONLY running. I was in a classic workout rut, stuck on a plateau and unable to move the fitness needle because running wasn’t challenging anymore.

So I slowly began integrating all of that “other stuff” back into the rotation in early 2015. A zumba class. Biking once a week. Strength training – even a little bit! – each day. Yoga & stretching. Swimming. It took a lot of time, believe me. But after 3-4 solid months of adding these things heavily into the rotation – and yes, cutting back from the super long hours of running – I can say without a doubt that I’m finally starting to see results.

IMG_6675Example A: last night’s 9:37 mile (!!!)

This did not happen overnight, and rest assured that I still have those 12 and 13 minute miles here and there. But I’ve seen consistently lower times in the past month or two, and the only reason I can find for it is that I’m simply running LESS.

coffee-minion-whaaaat

I know, I know. I sound insane. But hear me out. I’m not saying don’t run. What I’m saying here is to focus not just on the running, but on your whole body. Now you see what I was getting at with all that “nagging parent” stuff in the beginning of this post.

Remember all that advice you’ve heard about the importance of cross training? Yeah, it’s true! You really do need to work out your whole body to improve. But it takes sacrifice and prioritization. Those hour+ long runs I’d do every other day are now a half hour, and I kind of hate that. But ultimately I love it because that other half hour+ is spent on cross training which will improve my next run!

This is not news, I know. But once you start seeing results you realize the truth. Whether you hate brushing your teeth or biking for an hour instead of running, you can’t deny the awesome feeling you get from clean teeth or a faster mile time.

What do you think? Have you ever had a lightbulb moment like mine? What’s your favorite kind of cross training? What kind of improvement have you seen in your fitness? Share in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Want to Run Faster? Run LESS.

  1. This is such a good reminder! You’re doing an excellent job!!! I like to say I know the importance of cross training and stretching and working other things into training, but I know I can do better. Thanks for the extra little motivation 🙂

  2. Well said, Jess! I think I’m just coming to this realization myself. When I train for marathons I up my mileage alot and I feel like I just get slower over the training period – probably from overdoing it. I’m toying with the idea of doing less in my next training cycle and I think there’s a lot to be said about swapping out some running with other cross-training. You’re so smart! I think you have me convinced to add more strength training to my routine 🙂

  3. I absolutely loved your use of these images to makes your point LOL I enjoy doing Les Mills Body Pump as my strength training and yoga for stretching (when I make time for it).

  4. I need to get a plan. I did my first 5k a month ago and want to increase my distance and overall fitness but walk in the gym and don’t know where to begin. Everyone is using machines and the stuff in the magazines aren’t that!

    • Hmm, have you checked out Women’s Running Magazine? They’ve got a nice section of workout tips and strengthening moves to help build your muscles and help you run faster! Give them a look and see what you can find! 🙂

  5. First off, the Despicable Me memes rock. =)

    Second, I can not stress cross-training enough! I usually run just three days a week, but I spend a good chunk of time on cross-training as well. I usually lift two days a week (Power classes rock!), spin twice a week, and one day of mind-body work. It keeps me from getting bored and helps me to get stronger overall. I have actually become a stronger (although still slow…hehe) runner as a result. Plus, I avoid the dreaded plateau I would probably get if I was only running.

    Keep up the awesome work! =D

  6. Pingback: Triathlon Training Week 2 | Jess Runs Happy

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