The irony of posting a ‘why we need bad workouts’ podcast episode was that today, I had what could have easily been a bad workout… But I turned it around.
The situation: I had a 5K hard/race effort that I had to do on the treadmill (between snow and lockdowns). I was looking at it as a bit more than just a hard workout, in my head, it was a test. I haven’t done a 5K effort in 16 months, and there are a lot of weird issues around doing a 5K on a treadmill, like the fact that you have to pick your pace and really be thinking about it, not just “going as hard as you can.” You’re confronted with the numbers, and you have to pick the pace you’re aiming for in a way that you don’t need to do on the road. But this isn’t a post about how to do a treadmill 5K. It’s about the actual effort itself.
For the first mile, things were going according to plan. The playlist was perfect, the pace was tolerable (6:20), and it felt downright good. Mile two, I realized two things: I needed some air flow, and I really needed to be able to clear my throat by spitting (gross, I know). Not possible to deal with either of them. By 2.2 miles in, I was maintaining the pace, but then the urgent need to clear my throat combined with heat won out and I suddenly felt really, really dry heave-y.
I had the safety cord strapped to my sports bra, and I was about to pull it, and quit the 5K with less than a mile to go. And it wouldn’t have been unreasonable. I thought I was done.
But I didn’t. I pushed the pace down to walking, caught my breath, swallowed hard, and in under 30 seconds, I was feeling better. I was also feeling done, and starting to talk myself into walking it in, or maybe just finishing with a slow jog. But then I realized I still could speed back up and finish the 5K at sub-20 minutes if I could get back up to speed quickly. I took a breath. I wasn’t feeling so bad.
In a way, this reminded me of people who quit workouts and call them bad after a glitch in Zwift. I was down to a slow speed, gearing back up would suck and my run effort wouldn’t be perfect. There was also the voice in my head saying that my time wasn’t going to be what I had hoped for, so why not cut my losses? I had a great excuse—nausea.
Then, everything I said in the episode earlier this week flooded back. A bad day of vacation beats a good day of work = a bad workout time still beats skipping the workout entirely, even if it would have been more comfortable. The feeling of nausea was entirely based on controllable outputs, I was back to feeling fine, and there was no physical reason to drop out (meaning I was well aware I wasn’t in any actual danger). It would have been easy to quit and pull the plug, but that wasn’t the comment I wanted to leave in my training log. It wasn’t the memory I wanted to have in my head the next time I was doing a hard run and in the pain cave.
My breathing was OK. My legs felt OK. My gut felt OK. If I pulled the plug, I’d be letting one moment dictate how my workout went.
So, I sped up. It wasn’t pretty, but it honestly wasn’t as ugly as I thought it would be either. I had Andrew WK blasting in my headphones, and my favorite sports bra on. I had less than 4 minutes to finish up. You can do a lot of things for only 4 minutes. It’s one song.
I powered through, and finished the damn thing in just shy of 20 minutes, which wasn’t a PR, but then again, I haven’t run a road 5K in 7 years, so I don’t really have much of a basis for comparison at this point anyway.
It was a bad workout, on the one hand. I almost vomited on our treadmill. I had to slow to a walk. It got pretty gross.
It was a great workout. I came back from a bad moment in the middle. I stuck to my pace. I pushed hard enough that I almost threw up. I finished the 5K and didn’t leave it hanging.
The one thing I didn’t mention in our last podcast was that: If you continually drop out of workouts because they’re going ‘bad,’ they’ll continue to get harder and harder to finish, because once you know you can call it because it’s bad, you’ll do that more frequently. Prove to yourself that a bad workout in the moment doesn’t have to be a bad workout after the fact! The pride you’ll feel knowing you pushed through far outweighs the results not being what you wanted.