As much as I love doing sprint work at the track or running a steep set of bleachers, there is truly something special about good old fashioned road work. Going for a run on the open road accomplishes many things outside of fitness. You can allow your mind to wander as you explore your neighborhood or the new surroundings of a different town. Besides the added perks of being outside (fresh air, etc.), an outdoor run also helps you get thru the workout mentally. As opposed to plodding along on a treadmill or even running around the track, it almost seems easier to run further when you are actually going somewhere. When doing long runs outside I will add some random intervals into the mix at different landmarks - “ok, time to pick up the pace until the next pace” or “sprint a mail box, jog to the next mailbox”. The ever changing terrain of slight bends and gradual hills make road work not only enjoyable but also a challenging alternative to in-gym cardio.
While most of the road work I put in would fall generally under middle distance max effort (1-2 miles at a hard pace) or longer aerobic work (4-5 miles at a relatively steady pace), that doesn’t mean you can’t do a structured sprint work on the street. With the advent of running apps (I use Map My Run) you can turn your phone into a precise course marker and even track your distance and pace in real time. My street is a circle roughly .4 miles with a natural grade built into the backside, perfect for some challenging repeats. Here is a great one I did this past weekend:
.4 mile circle x 4
I start the circle jogging for about the first .25 mile, stride out the hill (just over 100m) at about 80% then hit the final 100m at a full out sprint. Rest 1 minute then begin the next circle.
100m x 4
Following the last .4 mile circle, I walked back down the street 100m from my mailbox. This part of the road is relatively flat so I could do a true max effort sprint, walking back to the start point in between each for recovery.
This is just an example of how you can get creative with road work and do a measurable and structured workout while still getting the benefits of grinding outdoors. Map out a similar course today in your neighborhood and get after it!
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