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August 30, 2010

Lauren Fleshman - A Pro's Perspective on Hard Workouts

Written by Dena Evans

Lauren Fleshman is a 1999 Graduate of Canyon High School in the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California.  While competing for Stanford from 1999-2003, she won five NCAA Individual titles, 15 All-American awards, and was ranked among the top 5000 meter runners in collegiate history.  As a professional competing for NIKE and the Oregon Track Club Elite, Lauren has competed for several US international teams, including the 2005 and 2007 IAAF World Championships in the 5000m and many IAAF World Cross Country squads.  She has been the US Champion in the 5000m on the track in 2006 and now in 2010, boasting a personal best of 14:58.48. 

After spending most of the previous two seasons recovering from foot surgery, Lauren is enjoying the tail end of a successful European track season, and took a few minutes to answer a few questions from us on how she preps for challenging workouts.  Like all of us, even a top pro has good days and bad days!  Hear what she has to say on the subject.....

Photo credit:  Sports Image Wire

Coach: What is the most difficult type of workout for you, both historically, and currently?  What is the easiest, or the one you most look forward to?

LF:  Fartleks with 3-5 min intervals are always the toughest mentally.  I hate them.  I have no clue how far or fast I'm going and I always worry I'm not working hard enough!  I love 8x 800m repeats.  Right when it starts to hurt, I get to stop, so its a no-stress workout.

Coach:  What is your favorite time of the year for workouts (base building, specific track workouts in the spring and summer, etc)?

LF: I love fall build up because its the time of year when I get to strip myself down as an athlete and start from scratch.

Coach: How do you approach those really challenging workouts on the day of, and has that changed since high school or college?

LF: In college, our tough sessions were in the afternoon, and two or three times per season, we knew a "big one" was coming up.  I'd anticipate it all week, getting pumped up and excited to go out and kill it.  Luckily I had classes all day to distract me or I would have over-thought it.  Now my coach schedules all our hard sessions for 10:30 in the morning.  I'm not a morning person, so this means I have to wake up at 7:00 just so I'm a half-way normal person by 10:30.  Once I'm fed and caffeinated, I'm usually full of excitement.  The only time I feel dread is when the session seems like it will be above my fitness level and I'm worried I'll fail; its tough to battle the nerves for those sessions, and I find myself having to work on relaxation techniques.

Coach:   Do you prefer to know your workouts well in advance or right as you arrive, or some combination?  Why do you think you have these preferences?

LF: I like to know the general type of workout, (tempo, long reps, short reps, etc) but I don't like to know the specifics (how far, fast, etc) until the last minute.  At Stanford, we always did this, and I think it prepared me to be ready for anything, but at the same time, relaxed.  These are the qualities you need to have for a successful race, so its good to practice that.  I've told my current coach that I prefer it that way, so that's how we roll.

Coach: Assuming you have some positive imagery or self-talk you use to get yourself through difficult work days, can you share some of these keys you either currently use or have used in the past?

LF: I try to take the pressure off, and focus on staying relaxed.  I tell myself, "Just do the best you can" and it relaxes me.  You only get tense when you think you won't be able to handle the session.  But if all you have to do is deliver your best effort, there is nothing to be worried about.  Sometimes though, I just don't feel like working hard and I want to can it.  That's when I remind myself that I'm lucky that I get to run, that I'm able bodied and have the time to do it.  I trick myself by breaking the workout down into bite-size pieces, giving myself the option to bail after a certain point.  For example, if I have 2x 4 mile tempo, I'll commit to one 4 mile tempo saying, "I'll do one four miler well, and see how I feel."  98% of the time, once I'm out there, I finish the whole thing.

Coach: What would be a piece of advice you might give to a novice runner who is a bit apprehensive about upcoming workouts that may be more difficult that they have ever done before?

LF: So often we can go through life on autopilot, but a hard session puts you right in the present moment.  You have to concentrate.  You have to engage, adjust, fight.  This is uncomfortable, but so rewarding.  Whenever you feel apprehensive, or have thoughts of doubt, change the conversation. You enjoy working hard, you enjoy doing this for yourself, you are fine tuning your machine inside and out...actions will follow your thoughts.

Coach: What rewards do you allow yourself or how do you congratulate yourself on a workout well done?
LF: A latte and a scone at my favorite bakery, preferably while in my sweaty running clothes, still euphoric from the session.

Last modified on March 31, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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