Back to Basics: Rocky Balboa Style

I have mentioned before, that Steve and I see ourselves as like the Rocky and Mickey of the running world.

We do not go to altitude, we do not work out on Alter G (or underwater) Treadmill, we do not use all kinds of fancy machines in the gym.

And I like it that way.

Honestly, I think that’s why I struggled last season a little, because things felt a little too manicured, a little too perfect, and I like coming up against things to feel like I am the rocky of the running world.

I pride myself on being tough, being gritty, and getting out there, doing it in the worst of conditions.

Granted, I have not yet run a marathon in bad conditions, so one day I will find out what I am really made of, and for now, I give serious kudos to any of you who complete races in bad weather, as marathons are absolutely exhausting as they are, without adding another element….literally!


For this season, as we are still not 100% sure which race I am doing (although should know within the next week), but Steve said that even though the races are months apart, it doesn’t really change how we are approaching these next few weeks.

We are going back to basics.

Much the same as last season, we are building the long run up, and we are still in the building stage with my mileage.

We believe that it is really important to not just jump up to high mileage after time off, or at least we can’t get away with that for me…..actually, we have never tried, but I just don’t want to take that risk 🙂

My first week back, I did somewhat of a pickup towards the end of the first week. I had done every run at easy pace, and was feeling back to normal after a rough first few days. I picked it up for about 6 miles, and ended up averaging around 6:25 for those 6 miles, not bad after time off 🙂

The following week we did a fartlek, to really shake the rust off, and see how recovered I actually was.

But this wasn’t a fartlek with distances or paces, this was just a run with 5 (minutes), 4, 3, 2, 1 of hard running with 1 minute in between. I did not stop my watch, and therefore had no idea what pace I was going, and I like it that way.

This week, we really went back to the start, and I literally ran up a mountain for 35 minutes in Morehead.

We realized we had not done this in two years, in favor of doing flat, fast workouts (which are of course, easy to compare….which does not work well for me anyway!!).

What did we do?

Morehead has a one lane road called Tower Road, which is 2 miles, straight uphill, on dirt/gravel.

Halfway up, there is a gate, and it is the furthest cars can go.

I started at the bottom, and Steve somewhat tracks me (taking a few pictures along the way). Once I got to the gate, I jumped in the car, and he drove down as fast as we could (safely!), which was about 3 minutes (which gave me a minute to jog around and get the jelly feeling out of my legs).

Up I went again.

And again.

But the third time, I didn’t stop at the gate, I went all the way to the top.

It was tough, and afterwards, I discovered I was averaging around 7:25 per mile (keep in mind my marathon race pace is under 6:00, and my half marathon pace is around 5:35!), so it was a killer hill, and I was breathing very very hard.

All I was focusing on was just putting one foot in front of the other, just keeping going to the next tree…and the next.

It was what we needed.

We have forgotten about hills these past few years. Putting them in here and there, but once upon a time, hills were my biggest strength, they were what gave me power and it was sad to me that we had just neglected them so much.

But not this time.

This time we are going back to basics, and if that mountain had been 5 miles instead of two, I probably would have just run straight up it all the way (with some kind of a break halfway I am sure).

We are building some hurting bombs, and we like it that way.

I get that I am not a boxer….and I am not 60 years old………but you get the idea.

If you are struggling within your running, and just feeling a bit too controlled by the numbers, maybe this is something you can try too. You can even take a look at my Mental Training Podcast Series that includes 5+ hours of great content from experts about the mental aspect of running. Also, there is a mental training guide for runners from all of the interviews.

Find a hill, the biggest one you can find, and run up it.

No watch (okay, maybe a watch for overall time, but that’s it), no paces, no pressure.

If you can do what I did, and get a loved one to meet you at the top and drive you down, great. If not, then just run down the hill for random sections, and then run up. Change the amount of time you run uphill and down for however long you decide to go.

The shorter your hill is, the longer you probably should go for, because you will have more time to recover as you run down.

This will stop you looking at quantifiable results, it will stop you obsessing over how fit you are (or not), and instead, just have you focus on giving your best for that hill. As you have no idea what is coming next (or shouldn’t), you are just running, not thinking, but just doing it.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think 🙂

Build some hurtin’ bombs with me!

What workouts do you like to go back to over and over?

hills, tempo

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  • Lol! I referenced Rocky today in my post too. Basics are good. Fancy makes it complicated. I ran hill repeats yesterday. They are humbling but they work!

  • When are you going to chase chickens?? LOL!! I love that you are a “basic” kind of runner because, when it comes down to it, that is all you really need – the basics. You have enough grit and talent to get you up that hill every time!! As for me, I HAVE to run up a steep hill after each and every run I do since I live on it and need to get home 🙂

  • I love the word “grit”. People that are gritty are the ones that make it further. Not the smartest, not the strongest, the grittiest. I bet you’d do absolutely fine in a bad weather marathon. xoxo!!

  • Love love love this and especially since the first time I met you was in Philly, where Rocky is from. You are the most relatable elite runner because you don’t use all the fancy stuff and altitude. Very excited to see what you do this year. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • This Philly girl loves this post. Just what I needed to motivate me to get out and do my threshhold run – first since the fall season.

  • Runningwithallergies
    January 11, 2017 8:43 am

    Basics are the best. Keeping it real – no frills – and discussing the tough days and good days is just one more reason I admire your approach to training and life, Tina! I confess that I love hills and I am in need of a good hill workout. In about a week I will be traveling back to the mountains of Maryland (weather permitting) and that will be fun.

  • Watching those guys in teh Nike speed lab, I always think that it is like using computer generated graphics in movies. It isn’t cheating, but there is just something to be said for going about it the old fashioned way!

  • You know as a Philly local, I love my Rocky! I think it’s so smart to stay true to yourself as well as what makes you most comfortable. I like keepings things simple. I find it works best for me too.

  • Grits is what leads to the best success – not fancy training tools! Hills are one of nature’s best training tools – and so are the elements.

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