For the past several months, I’ve been running long distances. I like long distances. I understand them. I’m good at pacing myself and seeing the big picture for the run.
But when I made the switch to concentrate on lifting, I also made the switch to only do cardio as interval sessions either either as sprints on a track, stairs, or on a stationary bike. My goal is to have three cardio sessions per week- two sprints and one bike. But- as is always the case in life- sometimes I get too busy and the cardio is the first thing I skip over to make sure I get all the weight sessions in.
And despite the fact that I love to run, I’m comfortable running, I consider myself a runner and even a sprinter- I’ve found that the cardio sessions are by far the most challenging for me on many levels.
First of all, I’m highly competitive. I can’t help it. It’s in my bones. I try to turn it off, but it’s like squashing a big part of myself. I don’t always have to be the first, but I need to be impressive. And when I’m sitting on a stationary bike in the low interval portion- the part of the interval session where you have to let your body rest and recover and need to go slowly to do so, I feel like a sell out. I feel like the other people around me who have more resistance and are pedaling harder are laughing at my little pansy bike levels and think I’m a wuss. Truthfully, I bet they’re not even paying attention to me in the slightest, but in my mind they’re judging.
It’s the same way on the track where I run sprints. My sprint interval is set at 10 seconds all out and 50 second recovery. During the recovery, I should just stop or walk slowly to let my body have a break. Instead, I don’t want any of the other pansies to think I’m a wuss like them, so I keep jogging between sets. Even though it utterly exhausts me by the end of my routine and makes it harder to push during the sprints- which need to be pushed during in order to do their job! But my pride doesn’t let me rest easily! AH!
It’s also more difficult to do intervals because my mind can play new tricks on me.
When you’re running distance, you can easily talk yourself into going a little bit farther. And sometimes, you can physically get yourself so far from your starting point, that you force yourself to go back and trick yourself into a longer run that way. While you’re running, too, you can just zone out and think of other worldly problems or issues or listen to podcasts and imagine and whatnot. You can forget about the fact that you’re running and just check in with your body once in a while.
When you’re doing intervals, you don’t get the luxury of checking out. You have to stay very “on” so that you can be ready to go when it’s time to push for the next interval. Which means my mind is constantly checking in on my body, which is constantly asking to stop. I have to learn new tricks to make it keep going. It’s hard when you’ve already done 20 minutes of sprints to tell your body you absolutely need to do those last 5…because you really don’t. Except for the fact that you set a goal for yourself and need to prove to yourself that you can reach it. That’s a hard sell when you’re panting and in pain. Somehow I’ve been successful at it so far- but I’m never sure how.
And if I learned anything from yesterday’s sprint session, it’s that when I do start distance running again, it is going to take a while to get back in the shape I was a month ago. My body is…well, adjusted to lifting and angry with cardio.
p.s. I use a great app called IntervalTimer for my intervals. You can set different day workouts and goals and it plays sounds for you to let you know when you’ve stopped and started your intervals. Plus! It automatically plays music while you’re going and just overlays the interval sounds with the music. It’s a really great app that is likely the only reason I can meet my sprinting goals because I don’t have to think at all- it does all the work.