Training Effectively: Part 1 (Vary your paces.)

The beauty of running is that it is so simple. Put on a good pair of trainers (running shoes) and off you go. For the brand new runner, getting out the door and putting in time on the feet is a great achievement. But after a while, some of us want more. We want to run faster. Or further. We want to run a certain time in the Bolder Boulder 10k. We want to qualify for the Boston marathon. For this group of runners, an effective training strategy is needed in order to accomplish goals.
This article is the first in a series which will focus on effective training strategies. Phrased negatively, we could say: “Mistakes runners often make in training and how to avoid them.” We’ll frame these articles positively, however, and will focus on topics such as: the importance of speed training, even for long distance athletes; training and racing at the correct pace; the vital importance of rest; sticking to prescribed paces in a workout; being willing to adjust training sessions when necessary; sticking with a plan across time; being willing to assimilate new information into training protocol; preventing injury; racing well; training with a group; running on soft surfaces, etc.
This first article in the series will address the importance of running at varied paces throughout the training cycle. Specifically, we want to avoid a common mistake among many runners which is to make all runs “medium effort”. In other words, many runners do not run easily enough on their recovery days nor hard enough on their intense days. They fall into a pattern of always running at a “working”, medium effort pace which never allows them to truly regenerate in order to prepare for the next hard effort.
The most effective training involves running at varied paces each day. It is critical to remember that every workout has a specific purpose. Good coaches delineate the purpose of every single workout and want their athletes to adhere to exactly what is prescribed for a particular day. Achieving the purpose of a workout requires a very specific blend of duration (volume) and intensity (effort). No more and no less. Moving away from the optimal pace for a specific training session means that you are now training for a different purpose as well as sabotaging both the workouts before and after.
Pete Magill, runner and Running Times author states: “To ditch the ‘medium run’ mentality, recalibrate your ‘daily’ run pace to a conversational pace. If it isn’t a workout day (intervals, fartlek, tempo), don’t test your fitness, try to sneak in some quality, or judge your self-worth by your minutes per mile.” Learn to back off and run at a very relaxed pace when the training plan calls for that. In this way, you allow your body to regenerate in order to prepare for the next hard session. Great fitness gains are made by engaging in hard running followed by the body’s ability to recover from those efforts. This is the principle of super-compensation whereby the body slowly adjusts itself to higher and higher levels of fitness by creating a new homeostasis. You’ve seen this after you’ve been unfit, trained effectively for several months, and then find yourself posting race times that are much faster than before.
To summarize, a good training plan has athletes training at every pace from completely conversational to very, very fast. There is a continuum which begins with easy jogging, progresses to a somewhat faster aerobic zone effort (often used on long runs), to threshold pace (also known as “tempo” or lactate threshold runs), to VO2 max intervals to anaerobic intense efforts. Knowing when to utilize these varied paces is the key to an effective training program. Having the patience, wisdom, and humility to run slowly enough on easy days will enable you to get the most out of your hard efforts. Let’s all seek to be effective, efficient, and excellent in our running by adhering to this fundamental principle.
Your comments are welcome!

2 Responses to “Training Effectively: Part 1 (Vary your paces.)”

  1. Rich Says:

    Great points, this is a great blog.

  2. Bryce Says:

    Thank you for the good post!

Leave a Reply