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Friday, December 28, 2012
The need for the right speed

By Summer Sanders

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summe Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.


It's no secret that speed workouts are my weakness. "One-speed Summer" has always been my nickname. It started in swimming. If I was doing the first 100 meters of an IM in practice, I'd do that first lap of butterfly as fast as I could if I was only sprinting one lap. I still have dreams about it. If someone tells me to go hard, I go all out.

It's no surprise that finding different paces for my runs has also been difficult. I know speed workouts are important, so I'm looking back at what I did for the Chicago Marathon and reminding myself how to approach speed again.

Just like the night before a speed workout in the pool, I get nervous about a speed workout on the track. That's why tempo runs and fartleks are good for me -- I can incorporate speed without making it such a big ordeal. I still get nervous, but I know I will sleep like a baby that night after such a tough workout.

Both of my former swimming coaches, Mike Hastings (club level) and Richard Quick (collegiate level) had to adjust what they told me when we did hard workouts. Most athletes were told to go hard and they did, but I needed them to tell me how hard --what percentage I needed to swim. They'd tell me 80 percent or 90 percent; otherwise, I'd go as hard as I could every time. This is something I'm still working on, frankly. I am also learning to give my body time to recover after a hard workout. I find that rest is an important way to avoid injury.

Learning to understand your sport is key. You don't want to learn from the injury. Instead, it pays to be knowledgeable before an injury happens so you can work through it. It's fun to connect to your sport and find out how you fit best within it.

My husband Erik will still use my "one-speed" nickname when we occasionally go for a run together. What has really helped me is incorporating our kids into my training. My kids are big talkers, so they'll tell me they are ready to go for a run. They'll talk about it all morning. But on my most recent run with Spider, he wanted to sprint to the nearest stop sign. After that, he thought he was done. I convinced him we could do one steady pace for the half-mile loop around our block.

Then, he and Skye jumped on their bikes while I continued running. It wasn't what I was planning for my run, but I still managed to get in my workout. Perhaps once your kids are eight or 10, it works better? It might. As a mom, you really have to decide what you want. Your ultimate goal, if you're like me, is to be a fulfilled mom and happy wife. Sometimes that trumps a perfect run. If I get half a run and some family time, that's enough. There's always tomorrow, no guilt about it!

Summer's super food is eggs. Her go-to meal is a scramble that incorporates any protein and veggies you have in the fridge, with butter ("Yes, you deserve the butter," she says!) Her son, Spider, told her eggs are for breakfast, and she countered: It's not just my 4-year-old who needs to be reminded that eggs can create a good meal any time of day. This staple food has saved Summer after a long run, as well as over a holiday weekend.

Running a full marathon? Rachel Cooperman has three tips on how to fit training into your holiday schedule.