Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Performance and Process goals to complete workouts

In the past month I have started running with a local training group and this has represented a bit of a new beginning for me. This group has been really great for me in a lot of ways. I really like the coach, he has a lot of knowledge about distance running and he does a great job of creating a fun and positive environment for the group.
I also am really liking the group members! Running with a group I think has been beneficial for me in a number of ways: 1) working with the group has helped me see where I am at in terms of my peers. I used to run alone a fair amount, and I really wouldn't be able to tell exactly where I was until I was racing, and that seemed to add a bit more pressure to the actual race. Working out with others allows me to see where I am in a practice situation, where the pressure is low; 2) in the same vein working out with the group helps push me. There are people in the group who are the same pace as me and of course faster than me. They all help me get the most from the workouts. I think it's important to have internal motivation, but that extra little healthy competitive push from your peers is great too! 3) Working out in the group lets me practice mental skills on the regular. For instance, I practice composure and focus to maintain the pace I know I need to do in order to complete workouts--rather than get caught up in a competitive moment and go too fast--and then not be able to finish the entire set or worse--the workout! This translates into the composure and focus on pacing at races. I love that I get to practice this now!

The last, and best thing about the group is that they are all really nice people, who are all encouraging and welcoming. I've enjoyed getting to know them in the past month and am looking forward to getting to know them better as time goes on. They all have a lot of knowledge to share on topics running related and not running related and that's been great learning about them.

I also appreciate that the group members can give good ideas for how to handle tough workouts.

This morning we met for a workout that consisted of a 4 Kilometer run at half marathon pace, followed by rest, then 2x 2Kilometers at 10K pace. Admittedly I went into this workout with the mindset of "hold on to the group," and running a specific pace for each repeat. This workout felt pretty difficult and the mentality of "just hold on," was pretty strong. With this type of mentality there really isn't much of a process either. It becomes almost more of an outcome of just finishing.

We completed the first 4K and the first 2K. After the first 2K, during the rest, one of my teammates mentioned that he had set a time goal for the first 2K repeat. Oddly, I hadn't even looked at my watch for the first repeats to see what my total times were, I was completely focused on finishing and what my pace was..the coach asked what my time was and I responded with a brilliant, "huh?" I decided to set a time goal as a performance goal for the final repeat, and see how that felt. My time goal was to finish in 7:30-7:40, with a goal to push the final 500 meters to the finish. We started out, and focusing on the overarching total time as something to shoot for really seemed to help. Suddenly I had more of a purpose it seemed. As I approached the final 500 meters, I reminded myself of my process goal to kick the final 500, and I used some cue words, telling myself "speed's the thing," to push to the finish. This actually worked! I dropped my pace in the final 500, and I made the time! 7:35 for the last 2K. What I really loved was that my teammate made this offhand comment, but it was so incredibly helpful.

Sometimes, it seems easy to get caught up in one way of doing something--or even worse kind of going through the motions. This can be heightened when you work out alone. In a way it can make you a bit inflexible--and can limit you. In this case I really had only thought of MY way of doing things (going by pace) and didn't think any other way was possible. It made me start to slog through the workout. Having other people around doing the workout with me not only provided that automatic social support (it's always nice to hear someone say, "good job," or "keep going!" and return the favor), but also when someone in the group--even in the offhand mentions a different perspective of how to get through a tough workout it really can change the outcome. In this particular workout, I never would have thought about focusing on a simple, short term performance goal, coupled with another simple process goal, but I'm so glad my workout partner had that idea and shared it!

What are some of the ways you get through tough workouts?

Do you workout alone or with a group?

What do you see are the benefits of your style of working out?


  1. I've never worked out in a group before. Only this year did I start running occasionally with my husband, which can be good for distraction (having someone to talk to is a nice change from music) but I find myself getting discouraged when his pace is much faster than mine. Which can be hard for motivation.

    How did you find your running group?

  2. Hey Sarah!
    I actually found my new running group through a another blog I subscribe to--it's www.runcolo.com and they had an article about all the groups locally--and this seemed like a good fit. Running shoe stores almost always have group runs and workouts! I have been to several of those and they are always super nice :)
    Does your husband have a bike? Have him ride along beside you, while you run, then the next day you can return the favor--no really! All the cool kids do it

  3. I don't think he could ride slowly enough without falling over! Hah.

    Good idea on the running store. I need to get new shoes soon and can check that out when I go. Speaking of which, do you have any advice on how to incorporate new shoes into a training schedule? I need new ones but I'm scared about introducing something new with my big race only a month away.

  4. Hey! This is WhiteOrchid from H&F. It's nice to see that you're benefiting from group workouts. I'm a solo runner. I attempted a group run last winter, and it was miserable. I had already completed a 5 mile track workout that day, and I stopped by my local running store for their first group run. The people who showed up were all much faster than me, but we all agreed on 10 min/mile which must have been painfully slow to them. We ended up running miles closer to 8:30. I burned out at 1.5 miles and had to walk back. It was embarrassing even though they were supportive. I haven't been back and haven't done any group runs since. :( I haven't even thought about doing any group runs since, but your experience with a group has made me re-think this.

  5. Sarah: My best *experiential* advice would be to bring your shoes to the store and tell them approximately how many miles you have on them. Ask them if they think you should either toss them OR wear the old ones one day/new ones the next for a few days to help break in the newbies. If your new shoes are uncomfortable--bring them back right away!
    Wearing older shoes puts you more at risk for injury than getting newer shoes (I think--and again that has been my personal experience--I have gotten some horrid blisters from old shoes!)

  6. Hi Orchid!
    Oh my, that sounds like it was a pretty interesting first group experience! I really admire that you hooked up with the group AFTER a workout!
    I'm glad to hear the group was supportive, I hope they all understood that you had already done the bulk of your running.

    If you do decide to give it another whirl, let us know how it turns out--and what made you decide to pick the group you go and check out!