The return to the interval workout

As I drove to the gym, I tried to remember the last time I ran on the treadmill. Then I tried to remember the last time I did an interval workout.  A real interval workout, not the interval workout where I need to entertain myself for the last mile and so I sprint one light post, jog one light post. But today was the day I was back on the horse, er, treadmill. Back to regularly scheduled training and workouts and an accountability partner.

Thank goodness. Because I am ready.

I took the last two months off from formal training. That is, I wasn’t following any training plan. My goal to have no zero days, meaning I did something to purposefully move my body every day. And with only two exceptions in 60 days, I did just that. It wasn’t so much my body that needed a rest but my mind and my soul. I needed time to relax, to regroup, to refresh. I needed to be back to the place where I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next in training. Last week, I started to get itchy for a real plan. And that, to me was a good sign.

My friend Sue, who has some coaching background, is helping me plan out my next training block in preparation for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon (a.k.a. a half marathon). It’s one of my bucket-list races and I believe I have successfully talked my friend Linda into doing the race with me. I’m not looking to PR. Hell, I may even go a bit off course in order to do a full lap of Churchill Downs with the marathoners. But my entire person — body, mind and spirit — is ready to get back to regularly scheduled workouts designed to get me through the half marathon feeling good.

And so today, I went back to treadmill for intervals. The workout didn’t sound so daunting. After all, I had done much worse. But after a few minutes of warmup, I realized that indeed this was going to be harder than it looked to me on paper. I had six intervals to do with a 90-second rest between. After a mile warmup, I bumped up the speed to the appropriate level and began my 2 minutes and 21 seconds of hard running. True story: The first interval nearly broke me.

“This is not good,” I thought. “I have five more to go. Oh. My.”

But then the 90 second rest was up (time moves fastest when it’s on a rest interval) and I was off on No. 2. To my surprise the second, third and fourth intervals weren’t all that bad. On No. 5, my core was on fire and my legs felt like jello. But, come on, I only had two more to do. By the time I got to the final one, I told myself I can do anything for 2 minutes and 21 seconds. And so it went that I completed all six intervals at the prescribed pace for the day. And only once did I seriously think that puking was a possibility.

It wasn’t the prettiest workout ever, but neither was it the worst.

Potential can be a dangerous word. It is often used to hedge our bets on possibility. But if instead of trying to frantically fill that space of possibility, we held the space open, we can see the opportunities this day holds for us.

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