Love Thy Neighbor-hood

There are some runners whose training runs are always enjoyable, always fun.  Other runners are often stressed (mentally) during their training runs, and this can happen for a myriad of reasons.  This is not a blog about proper goal setting, although covering that topic would explain how to alleviate mental stress caused by training.  The point of this blog is to offer a simpler tip in how to mellow out and relax mentally, regardless of whether it's a speed workout or a distance run.  The track and popular trails can force us into "speed mode" and "training mode" because everyone around us is visibly training for something, which I think is generally wonderful and can help motivate us.  However, consider how often you run through your neighborhood.  A jog around the block usually mean just that, just go run around your neighborhood and enjoy the weather, waive to people, and mentally let go a bit. 

You can't think about race-day during all of your training runs; I don't encourage it.  Even though our training generally builds throughout the year and we should shift focus as we approach peak season, we need to know how to separate the two—that is—separating peak training from simply enjoying physical activity.  When I tell someone a run was enjoyable for me because I found a new neighborhood, or a new street in the neighborhood, I'm being very literal.  I'm talking about an actual neighborhood housing development where there's a 99% chance I'll be the only one out there running.  That's much different feeling than the other crowded training spots in the DC Metro area.  It's the reason I love my occasional midnight runs, I'm the only one in the whole city running around, the city belongs to me at that moment and it's much easier to focus on my own pace, etc.  You can get that same feeling running around your neighborhood and its surrounding streets.

If you live in a residential neighborhood, try doing a speed workout there.  What's the difference?  Well, if your neighborhood runs are typically short and easy, then perhaps that same mental approach will carry over to your speed workout and you'll work your butt off, hit the high-intensity pace, and yet not have it feel like a workout because "it's just a run around the block".  Similarly, this is the reason I sometimes decide not to get all decked out in my training gear for a run, I just go run, like the guy next door would do for his 15-min run around the block to "exercise". 

I'm always exploring new routes in/around DC, discovering many pockets of this area that are physically challenging and mental monotony-breakers.  But to stay on the main point, a run through a neighborhood should be relaxing, even if it's a blistering 5k-pace workout.  I love 5k's that go through residential streets, they always make me feel like I'm a kid again, and mentally they are good races.  It's part of the reason the Bulldog 5k is my favorite race.  If you haven't run your own neighborhood for a long and/or hard workout then give it a shot, you may like the results.  And if you're like me and live in an apartment complex without an actual neighborhood of your own, go find a 'hood that belongs to someone else and make it your own for a day :)

Train hard (and wave to the folks doing yard work)!


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