My husband and I are both athletic people. Before kids we used to train for endurance events, between us we have 13 marathons and dozens of triathlons under our belts. Now with twin toddlers, endurance events are sidelined and we use our workouts to maintain our health and sanity. During the winter months we tag-team our weekend workouts. Once morning temperatures clear 45 degrees, we go out on family runs to economize our time. With our current arrangement, my husband pushes the boys in our double Bob Revolution and I do my best to keep up with him!
Recently, I’ve come to love/hate our Sunday morning family runs. By choice, I use these runs for my speed-training workouts. I’m literally running to keep up with my husband and kids. Yesterday’s workout was very challenging, but it was the best run I’ve had since the beginning of summer. My legs felt light and quick, and my pulled hamstring is 95% healed.
Our run was approximately a 6-mile trek running east to the lakefront, then south from the Barry Street underpass to North Ave bridge, north through the zoo, then west on Belden. Our finally destination was John Barleycorn’s patio for brunch!
I typically don’t count the run to or from the lakefront as part of my speed work, but rather its a very brisk warm-up and cool-down. I knew the hard work was coming once we hit the gravel path at Diversey Drive and Stockton. And once we did, away we went. As we crossed under the Barry Street underpass and turned south on the path, it felt like my husband put his jets on. My goal – to keep him and the big orange stroller in sight.
The key tips to running with efficiency are running tall, with hips tucked under, quick and short foot strikes, and deep breaths. Breathing deep breaths through a labored run (or any workout) can be challenging. It’s easy to pant and take shallow chest breaths, but shallow breaths will wear you out quickly. (I hear this feedback often when clients are doing interval training with me, “its not my legs, I feel like I can’t catch my breath”.) Deep belly breathing allows for maximum oxygen uptake. Better breathing means more oxygen for your muscles, and therefore more endurance for a challenging run/workout .
My typical non-stroller run pace is about 8:20 or 8:30 minute mile. Within minutes of running my husband’s quicker pace, I am already hurting. My guess is that we were running a sub 8-minute mile pace and he’s already 10 yards ahead of me. I try to distract myself of the pain as I gaze at the beautiful city skyline and think how much I love the city in the summer! We’re now coming upon the Fullerton intersection along the path. If I were running alone or with the boys, I would definitely stop to get a drink. Nope, my husband ran right past the fountains…I got to keep going.
I’m hurting more, hot, and now thirsty. This pace is very challenging but I had to hang on. I knew I’d get a walking break to cross over the North Avenue bridge, which makes me run even faster to get there. I decide to make a little game out of the run to further distract and encourage me. I’m counting the number of runners I can pass before I make it to the bridge: eight!
Finally, I made it to the bridge. My husband and the boys are just going over the top. I knew that stretch was going to be tough and was mighty glad to be walking for a brief 45 seconds. I hollered out to my husband to run south around the North Avenue fields rather than our typical route on the sidewalk through the fields. This detour adds a few tenths of a mile to our run. (And yes, I did regret this added mileage later.) My husband walked for a brief moment once we got off the bridge. I wanted desperately to stop for a sip of water but he started running…and I followed my rabbit.
As we ran around the fields, I wasn’t sure what our exact route would be to get to our final destination. I’m struggling to keep up, we’ve been running for at least 30 minutes at an uncomfortable pace. I thought to myself, “this sucks”, and if you’re one of my clients, you are familiar with “this sucks” level of exertion. At that same moment I realized the route my husband is taking would lead us up the Grant statue hill next to the lagoon. (Most non-Chicago runners would find this incline ridiculous, but to a regular Chicago runner it’s substantial). “Ugh, this really sucks!” I tried to catch the 85-pound orange stroller up the incline, close, but there’s not enough steam in my engine.
I continue to follow my team through the zoo, and across Belden Street. I desperately wanted this run to be over. The best way for me to finish a challenging workout is to visualize myself approaching the finish line of a race. Try it – visualization is a powerful tool! I visualized I was finishing my first Chicago Triathlon (2003). I thought it was fitting given the day. It worked! It gave me the last ounce of energy needed to keep my pace as we ran the last few blocks. I heard my little guy in the stroller shout out “Maa Maa!”, and I shouted back. When I finished I gave my husband a pat on the butt and gave my boys high-fives. They love to be out there as much as we do. I then guzzled 12 ounces of water and walked in circles to recovery my heart rate. DONE!
I love the sense of accomplishment after finishing a challenging workout. Yes, even the trainer gets pushed to her “this sucks” limits!
What do you love most about your workouts? Do you have someone to push you to your limit?