I feel like I could write about 234,908 posts about all of the things I learned, tried, tweaked, etc. during my journey to BQ. So I’ll just do that until you or I get bored, whichever comes first… So far I’ve covered nutrition and pacing and my race tunes. Today’s topic is Orangetheory.
As my loyal readers know, I first started doing Orangetheory way back in 2015 as I was prepping for my wedding. I really wanted to look extra svelte and toned, of course, and when a friend described the class, I thought it sounded like a good final push before my walk down the aisle. I signed up for my first free class and haven’t looked back. I quickly realized that Orangetheory offered something my training had been missing: speedwork. (If you want to understand the basic format of the class, check out my first post about Orangetheory.)
Historically, I thought speedwork was for goody-goodies. People that follow training plans. People that use the features of their Garmins other than the start and stop button. People that foam roll on a regular basis. People that read books about running. People that know how many miles they averaged this week and think that number is important. This wasn’t me. I was a rebel. No, I wasn’t no goody-goody, and I didn’t do no speedwork.
Except that, like, speedwork is actually pretty fun. At least, it is at Orangetheory. What always turned me off from speedwork (besides wanting to be a badass) was the idea that I needed to run on a track and do math and have a piece of paper with my “workout” written on it and then stare at my watch the whole time. That sounded miserable. At Orangetheory, I do what I love: I don’t think. I just run.
Sometimes I run fast.
Before Orangetheory, I usually ran around 10 minutes/mile. I’d occasionally throw in a faster 5k race or a even a quick mile for a gym challenge, but mostly I was about the easy, slow, steady running. I never thought of myself as a fast runner, even when my fitness improved and my marathon times started decreasing. I was never the kid that ran a 6 or 7 or 8 minute mile in school. Running fast felt awkward for me, like my body wasn’t made for it. I was a shuffler, not a gazelle.
Then, I started doing Orangetheory. The heart rate monitors kept me honest. No, a 10 minute mile was not going to get me in the orange zone. I’d have to pick up the pace. Starting out, the speed on my Pushes was about 7.5 mph and then 8 mph as I adapted. Now, after about a year and a half, 7.5 mph is my Base pace and 9 mph is my Push. Many days, I can do All Outs at 12 mph. When I run fast, I feel like a runner. My chest is proud. My gaze is steady. I look strong, completely not awkward. I am rhythmic and I am powerful. My ribcage expands with each forceful breath. My arms drive like blades. My legs churn beneath me, and I fly.
OK, so clearly I now like running fast for short distances… what does this have to do with marathons? Well, in addition to all the other benefits of speedwork (improved lactate threshold, feeling like an animal, etc.), it just so happens that getting comfortable running at 7.5 mph translates pretty goshdarn well to a BQ time. Like, almost perfectly. So physically and mentally, when I could say “ok, body, let’s just settle in at Base pace,” it new exactly what to do and didn’t get freaked out. It’s not even a Push! This especially came in handy when my Strava was accidentally set to bike mode for the Phoenix Marathon, meaning that, for the entire race, I could see the mph but not my minutes/mile on my watch. Luckily, I knew from Orangetheory that I needed to be about 7.5 mph, and I knew that was a comfortable place for me to be. Home sweet base pace.
Here are a few other benefits I’ve found from Orangetheory:
- Improved running form: During my treadmill workouts and sprints, in particular, I really worked on honing my running form — driving with my knees, leaning a bit forward from the ankles, keeping my upper body and torso stable, and using my glutes. I could practice at Orangetheory and then channel that same feeling during my race.
- More comfort out of my comfort zone: If we never run faster than we feel comfortable during training, it is hard to deal with those scary, uncomfortable moments during a race. Pushing your heart rate and your speed beyond the slow, steady pace of a long run can help keep your brain and your body from freaking out when a race presents new challenges.
- Power moves: In addition to powerful Push and All Out intervals, Orangetheory incorporates other power-building moves that complement my running workouts. This includes rowing (the kind where you really emphasize pushing with your legs, not just pulling with your arms/back), jump squats, thrusters, etc. These moves make me strong and ensure that I get at least some kind of lifting workouts in — otherwise I can be inconsistent.
- More miles: Orangetheory also has helped my training by keeping running interesting. Maybe a 10 mile run doesn’t sound super fun on a Thursday morning, especially if I have more miles planned for the weekend, but if I run just a few miles to the studio, I can be at an Orangetheory class getting quality workout time in mid-week. By adding in Orangetheory, I actually ended up running more than I would have otherwise.
Do you do speedwork, or are you too cool for school? Have you tried Orangetheory or a similar running-based workout to your training routine?