10 Ways to Make Kicking Your Own Ass Fun: The Runner’s Edition

“You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.”
–Ken Kesey

Let’s face it. Interval training sucks; it’s hard to motivate yourself to do speed work, fartleks are just as hard to do as they are to pronounce, and track workouts haven’t gotten any less miserable since you were in high school rocking short shorts.

There is no denying that picking up the pace a bit will elevate your running. Mixing speed work and the occasional ass-kicking into your routine will improve your running form and teach your body to handle a bit of discomfort by running at faster speeds. In the end, these workouts are the ones that will improve your running more than anything else you will do this week.

While this list doesn’t eliminate 100% of the suckiness involved with getting out the door and giving yourself a dose of run-inflicted punishment, it does give you a few tips for making it more enjoyable. With the right combination of these ten tips, you might just have fun out there!

1.Begin With the End in Mind

Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is a tough thing to do. Pinpointing exactly why you have decided to wreck yourself will motivate you to get out there and do some damage!

Are you having some trouble identifying your goals? There are a wealth of awesome coaching resources to help you identify reasonable goals such as appropriate distances, times and weekly mileage. The following coaches and athletes offer some of the best resources available on the web to help you identify your end goal and stick to it.

Jeff Galloway
Kara Goucher
Dr. Jack Daniels
Greg Mcmillan

Image Credit: http://jillwillrun.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/keep-the-end-goal-in-mind.png

2.“It’s speed work, I’m supposed to run as hard as I can, right?”  Wrong.

Strive to give yourself a minor beating, not a complete stomping in your speed workouts. Don’t go all out, but try to find a level of discomfort that you can maintain. There are all kinds of really nerdy metrics that you can get into to determine the perfect level of discomfort such as VO2 max, heart rate, and other pace predictors.

I prefer to train a level that I call Awkward Encounter with an Ex. This is a level of exertion that you can tolerate for up to five minutes, but anything beyond that is sheer punishment. No one can feign happiness for an ex for more than five minutes, and you shouldn’t have to endure that level of discomfort in your speed workouts, either. So, find a pace you can tolerate for five minutes, rest for two minutes, and then get back out there and subject yourself to that level of pain repeatedly.

long distance running
Puking and passing out from running is not what we are going for, here.

3. Give Yourself Adequate Recovery Time

You can’t subject yourself to the thrashing of a speed workout without being a little forgiving to yourself. Give yourself up to five minutes of rest when running long-distance intervals, as explained in this Runner’s World article.

Poor little guy.

4.Do Your homework – Calculate predicted speeds

The speed workout requires a bit of preparation. While the Awkward Encounter with an Ex level of exertion is a good starting point, you might want to try to plan out this workout and figure out exactly how much you can endure. In the same way that all conversations with an ex aren’t equally awkward, all speed workouts aren’t equally as painful. So, plan out your workouts and calculate the size of spanking you want to give yourself.

Here are some great resources for planning out the pain doses:

Jen Mueller’s Workouts to Increase Speed
Runner’s World Pace Calculators
Runner’s Connect: Ultimate Training Plan to Crush Your PR

5.Train with Friends

You are running in circles around a track, you might as well recruit some of your faster friends to join you for some good old-fashioned punishment. You can admire their superior athleticism as they pull a bit further in front of you on every lap.

Building a community of inspirational runner friends is the secret to staying motivated, as explained in this Active Times article. Friends give you incentives to keep going, and not skip out on that last lap. There is even time to commiserate during the rest intervals as soon as you catch your breath. And, there is nothing like the cool down run with a group of friends when you can bask in the accomplishment that you all endured a solid, self-induced, ass-whooping together.

You bet. Just make sure you get in a few 800 meter intervals on the way.
You bet. Just make sure you get in a few 800 meter intervals on the way.

6. Don’t Skip Speed Workouts

Scientific fact: speed work becomes 4000 times harder to resume after a few skipped workouts. Ok, that number is slightly inflated, only because the perceived pain you feel after taking a few weeks off and then attempting a speed workout cannot be accurately measured or quantified by scientists.

If that isn’t enough fear-based motivation to get you out there, pick up the pace, and make a speed-work schooling part of your regular routine, here are a few tips to from our friends at The Active Times to keep you motivated to run all year round.

Yep. Still Practicing
Yep. Still Practicing.

7. Track your Progress and Embrace your Inner-nerd


Use excel spreadsheets, Iphone Apps, Garmin GPS watches, or whatever nerdy tool you need, but chart your workouts. After a few weeks, you will notice a difference and you could probably even chart it on a graph depending on your level of nerdiness. Speed workouts are only fun because you can quantify your improvements.

Warning: this practice is addicting and leads to annoying run achievement posts on popular social media sites.

Some of our favorite tools to really geek out with include:
Garmin Forerunner 15
Mio Fuse
Microsoft Excel

8.Make it a Game

Face it– you are more motivated by video games with vampires, emojis, and zombies than any inspirational quote anyone could ever tell you.

Here are some of the best apps out there for making your speed workout fun this week:

Zombies, Run! Go out there and spend thirty minutes getting chased by zombies and tell me you aren’t having fun.

Run your brains out.
Run your brains out.

Gym-Pact: Bet on your own success. Hold yourself accountable by giving yourself monetary incentives to work out. Sounds exciting.

9.Use Technology

The internet now is more omnipresent than air, so you should be take advantage of that technology while you are gasping for breath. We particularly like these three apps to keep you going:

Tabata Pro: Interval timers that are easy to set up and speaks to you when it’s time to rest or speed up.

Run Coach: Does all the things we’ve been discussing here, it gives you workout plans, tracks progress and even provides nutritional tips.

TempoRun: This app helps you sort your songs by tempo and then serves up songs that match the exertion level for that day’s run. Let’s categorize “Eye of the Tiger” as an 11, so make sure your play list doesn’t make you turn it up to 11 too often.

10.Remember- This is the Shortest Workout of the Week!

Speed work is short and sweet. The good news: you shouldn’t run for more than four miles at a high exertion level. Doesn’t that fact alone make you want to pick up the pace a bit?!

Parting Inspiration
Parting Inspiration

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