Strength Training – of the mental variety

As we all learned at a young age, cheetahs are the fastest animal in the world. Their top speed hits 75 mph – I mean, come on, I barely hit that driving! The animal is built for some serious speed. Let’s discuss their major advantages:

  • larger heart and lungs than other mammals to pump blood more efficiently
  • large nostrils for increased oxygen intake
  • strong legs that stretch out so the length of their entire body covers the ground beneath them
  • a tail that provides them balance

There are many lessons to be learned from the cheetah’s physique. To become a faster runner, you have to cultivate the same advantages the cheetah was born with. Through consistent cardio – both longer runs and short intervals – you will build your heart and lung strength. While I don’t suggest plastic surgery to enlarge your nostrils, effective breathing methods can help you get more oxygen pumping. Resistance training (using your body weight, or machines if you must) will build a strong muscle base to power you through each step. And finally, building your core with planks, yoga and stretching will give you the balance you need to run with proper form. You’ll be a machine!

So, ready to hit 75 mph??! How about a more realistic goal? When I started running 5k races, I would clock around 9:30 miles. Not fast, not slow – but always steady. I was the kind of runner who liked to finish a race feeling good, content to finish with an okay time. It took my more recent half-marathon training to get into the mental state that looked forward to being exhausted at the end of a run.

When I first started, I alternated short, steady runs (of around 3 miles) with even shorter runs with fast intervals (fartleks, yes it is a real running term). When I used to run on a treadmill, intervals were the only thing that could keep my attention. For the entire half-marathon training program this time around, I’ve only run outside and I have LOVED it. Yea, the rain has delayed or derailed a run or two, but my first snowflake run was energizing and DC’s mild winter has treated me to plenty of short sleeves runs through December and January.

All of this is a side-note to say that through my training program, I’ve decreased my 5k time by about 45 seconds a mile. Through consistent practice, my body built up the capabilities necessary to move faster – more muscle, better balance, stronger core, and increased heart/lung functionality. But more than that even was building the mental strength that pushed me harder, every run, to be better. Faster. Reach exhaustion.

Now, will this translate to an 8:45 mile average for my 13.1? Heck no! Don’t forget a cheetah can only maintain 75 mph for about 90 seconds. My furry little friend won’t be running any marathons any time soon.

So, in a few weeks I’ll be cruising at my mid-9 pace and will be equally exhausted when I reach the finish. Stamina takes the same physical and mental strength as a sprint. You just have to do it longer! 🙂

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