How do you keep yourself entertained, energised, or focused during a hard session? Some people listen to music. Others just manage to easily remain focused on the task in order to just get it done, and others like to hammer it out with other company. This post describes some ideas I’ve used to help get me through my long hill sessions in particular. I don’t absolutely need it, but it has helped keep my mind focused on some sessions and helped me finish them.
Training schedules sometimes include runs that make your stomach feel like it’s full of butterflies before hand. Runs that you want to try and forget. Some of these include tempo runs, intervals, hills or other types, but in the end they are generally never really as bad as they are built up to be. Running these on your own can make it hard to want to get out. Making it to the change room and getting out is half of the battle but I developed this particular method to keep myself mildly entertained (if you can call it that!). But first, let me describe the routine and its place in my schedule.
I have a hill repetition routine that I started in 2017 while training for a lumpy race. It’s usually a weekly run I do when I want to start building some hill strength in my legs, from scratch. By ‘from scratch’ I mean after a prolonged period of just general running/racing. If I have an event coming up that includes some big climbs, I will start with this hill sessions plan, before moving off onto something a little steeper and longer, like Butser Hill in QECP. The sessions last four to five weeks (4 to 5 runs in total – one a week), and I’ll do them usually on a Thursday as this fits in with everything else I’m doing too. The particular hill I use is about half a mile in length and quite steep for a road. To set the scene, it is covered by overhanging trees on each side. There is little traffic flowing up and down which is great because there are no pavements. Each repetition gives me about 180ft of elevation which on its own isn’t a lot. If you were running it as part of a race, you’d remember it though. The road is quite out in the country, near Winchester.
Running up and down the same half mile long hill is very, very tedious but I think it’s a fantastic form of mind training. To make things easier I started a game out of it. I spend a few seconds gathering a number of rocks, usually the same number of reps that I plan to do. I line them up at the bottom of the hill, to the side so that they don’t get moved by cars, and they become a kind of counter. I then begin the first repetition to the top, and back down. Once at the bottom I remove a rock using a kick if I’m feeling like it, or quickly pushing it to one side as so not to stop the flow of running. I repeat this and use it to focus on just getting through the session and not stopping prematurely. It’s so easy to stop once you hit so many reps, however with the counter it almost helps ease the mind a bit by knowing that it is the goal line. By week four or five, I am doing 16 to 20 repetitions and it’s incredibly easy to lose count, let alone lose motivation to continue. Seeing the counter shrink each time gives hope in my mind that the session is slowly drawing to an end and progress is being made. Simple, but effective. In IT terms – it would be your progress bar. I could just as well use my watch, measure the distance, count via laps, but this is just a different technique and I find it effective.
You can make it slightly more interesting too. You lay your counter down and pretend your a kind of transport vessel, taking rocks/passengers (bare with me here!) to the top. Your aim is to relocate the counter at the top of the hill in the same configuration as below. Ok so you don’t have to imagine them as passengers, but you get the idea. One at a time only you get each one configured at the top until they are all moved. Then your session is done! It’s amazing how something like that can just help the time pass more easily.
In a similar fashion, for my first really long run in 2017, the South Downs Way 100 Miler, I remember picking up a small rock on my very first training run earlier that year. I drew it a face with some permanent pen, and made it my mission to keep him in my vest through all my long training runs in order to get him home to the finish line in Eastbourne on race day. It’s amazing how many times that stone entered my mind during the run.
After all of that though, I forgot to drop it off in Eastbourne, so I’m heading back to run it again this year in hope to complete my mission, properly! Just to close off this post, I don’t have a weird rock fetish or anything, and nothing against those who may do either. I actually started the hill rep game using flattened bits of rubbish which were the first items on the road that I found at the time. If anyone has any strange ways or habits they use to help run, I’d be keen to hear! Does anyone use any other ways to make their interval or hill rep sessions more fun and easier on the mind? Keep up the running all!