Monday, October 9, 2023

Weekly Progression Runs: A Game Changer?

Kind of by accident, it seems I may have upped my training game.

My Never-Miss-a-Monday runs are something I hold pretty sacred in my routine. I can't even remember when they became a constant, but it's been awhile. They happen every week. Sometimes before the sunrise, sometimes after work. They have even happened following a Sunday marathon. 

No excuses, they just happen.

A brief history: 
I'd been doing them for a few years when I had to break the Monday streak, in June of 2017, following emergency surgery (remember my staph-infected knee?). Well, I kept the Monday streak alive, via walking, but my running game took a sabbatical while the 6-inch suture healed. 

Nonetheless, the Monday runs were resurrected mid-September of that year after my surgeon granted me clearance. The Monday runs were halted again, in August of 2020, when I fell victim to my first-ever stress fracture on my right foot. Following that recovery (two months later), the runs have been steadfast every Monday since.

It was on one of these routine Monday runs (a 3-miler on August 28th, to be exact) when I noticed the second mile's 9:33 split was substantially faster than the first mile's 10:09. I usually keep these Monday runs easy-paced, but for a split-second I felt a wave of competitiveness wash over me. Why not try to run the third mile even faster? I seldom look at my Garmin as I'm running (other than at the mile splits), so I just ran that third mile (almost blindly, LOL) with no definite idea if I was going any faster or not. When my watch buzzed at the 3-mile mark, I glanced down and saw that I'd barely bested the previous mile (9:30, a mere three seconds faster), but I couldn't help feeling victorious.

average pace 9:44

And, my friends, that's where it all started. Little did I know, at that very moment, my easy-paced Never-Miss-a-Monday runs would be morphing into weekly progression runs for the next five weeks. I did have the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon happening on October 15th, so why not?

First off, what is a progression run?

A progression run involves starting at a relatively slow or easy pace and getting progressively faster throughout the run. It’s a pretty broad term, says Jess Heiss, certified run coach and personal trainer in Portland, Oregon, so you have lots of options for how to make it work for you. (source)

Though I do enjoy an occasional session of hill sprints, I'm not very disciplined with speed-training. After all, I do have access to the Grinnell College track close by, but I shun it (I know, #MyBad). Still, the thought of doing progression runs had some would allow me some speed-training without a 120% all-out effort. I'd call that a win-win! Besides, I rationalized moderate speedwork was better than no speedwork. 

So, how did that work for me? 

Labor Day, Sept 4th, was the next so-called progression run attempt. Being it was a holiday, I didn't have to work. I allowed myself a slight sleep-in, and headed out after I had daylight.

average pace 9:02 (72F, with 91% humidity)

The next week, on Sept 11th, had me running after work. The first mile was on a county road, battling 9mph wind, with some hills (you know, for good measure). 

average pace 9:03

Next, on September 18th, I found myself running in the low-50F temps, right out of bed. No, it wasn't freezing cold, but it was chilly in comparison to the previous weeks' antics.

average pace 9:09

The following week, on September 25th, I kept the run short (just a 2-miler). The day prior was the Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Run, a 5.5-mile endeavor on a very hilly route, so this Monday run was all about recovery (well, sort of).

average pace 10:14

The grand finale was on a hot day, October 2nd, after work. It's no secret I love the heat! Thankfully, the warm weather conditions (usually) don't affect me much, and this run felt really, really great. It also gave me a huge boost of confidence going into taper for the IMT DSM 13.1.

average pace 9:16 (88F temps)

A few things to note:
***As much as I looked forward to these each week, I also felt some apprehension. Since I'd already set the precedent of doing these runs with negative splits, there was the (self-imposed) pressure to keep doing them with continued success. This mattered more to me than anyone else, I realize, but still. Putting it out there for everyone to see (and possibly scrutinize) can make one vulnerable, but also accountable.  

***While I was able to pull-off negative splits on all of these Monday runs, my finish times were all over the map. As mentioned, I seldom let the Garmin dictate my pace. I've always been a "run-by-feel" runner, rather than a "hit-XYZ-pace" kind of gal. That rings true for training runs and on race day.

***Looking back, I noticed that none of these runs were on the exact same route. The weather conditions varied each week as well. Some were run in the morning, some were after work. One of them was only two miles in distance. Truthfully, I think they would have been boring (for me) had I done them all in the exact same manner. Also, there's no telling what Momma N will serve-up for race day conditions, so I think keeping the routes varied is beneficial.

An interesting tidbit, just last week I noticed the "predictions" feature on Garmin Connect. My trusty  Garmin seems to think I have the potential to PR my half marathon finish time. Hmmm, we shall see.


A couple of related posts, regarding speed-training:
Remember in 2020, when I did 12 weeks of 5K time trials? That recap is here.
Let's not forget the weekly 1-mile time trials of May of 2021. That recap is here.

Your thoughts...Speed-training: yay or nay? Do you have a favorite method of incorporating speedwork into your training? Have you ever done a series of weekly time trials?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

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  1. Well done, Kim! I love little games like that, they add spice to our runs and make it more interesting.
    I'm sure these sessions are extremely effective and will help you to hit a new PR on Sunday! I'm looking forward to hearing all about it!

    1. Thank you, Catrina! I have noticed my "easy" pace seems to be getting slightly faster, so I'm hoping that's a good sign (and that it won't kick my buttocks on Sunday).

  2. Definitely NAY! for me... I don't wear a watch. And I don't care if I get faster. I know I'm strange but running is a fun thing.

    As I age, I want to keep running instead of trying for PRs and possibly have nagging injuries.

    But good luck to you... it seems to be working. And you enjoy trying.

    1. Oh, I agree that running is a fun thing! And, I want to keep it that way, which is why I don't do much speed-training or pay much attention to my watch either. Sunday should be an interesting race...

  3. You are the best example that I know of knowing your own body and knowing what training is right for you. Hence the season of progression runs! Bravo, and yes I have a good feeling about this weekend.

  4. I have a feeling that race prediction is very much an attainable goal! Fingers crossed for some great race day weather so you can give it a go! I do like progressive runs. Mostly because it takes me 4 miles to warm up. LOL!

    1. The neat thing about the progressions runs, at least for me, is that the first mile can be a warm-up mile, LOL.

  5. Well done!
    Speedworks are not anymore in my schedule, I cannot risk injures due to the age.
    When I was younger, and member of the Navy Running Team, I went weekly to the local stadium to run on the track following a complete program written for me by an experienced trainer. I began with fartlek on the road but very soon the most innovative training programs became the routine.

    1. Fartleks are fun, too! It's been awhile since I've done a true Fartlek workout, but I may sprinkle some back in after this race on Sunday. I'll have my "off-season," with stress-free running, so a few sporadic speed drills will keep it interesting ;-)

  6. Without knowing it, I discovered earlier this year that I was a fan of progression runs, lol. I have no doubt these runs will help you meet your race day goal!

    1. Well. I don't have any solid race day goals, other than finishing injury-free and with a smile. A sub-2 would be oh-so-sweet, though! It's been a few years, just saying.....

  7. I liked the progression runs when we did them for the Wilper’s training plan. They are not so easy to execute! Nice work I hope they serve you well in your racing and training

    1. Fingers crossed race day goes well. I've been a pretty "good girl" with tapering these two weeks, so we shall see if these progression runs (as well as all the other stuff) rewards me with a great race ;-)

  8. I also like progression runs! I laugh and then ignore my Garmin race predictions. But at the same time it gives me hope.