Fast or Slow? Just Go!
“One of the beautiful things about running is that it is direct and elegant. The formula is simple: put one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t take much to figure out that if you want to improve sprint speed, you run faster. If you want to improve distance-running performance, you run farther.”
― Bernd Heinrich, Why We Run: A Natural History
As a young mom, I remember waiting so impatiently for my daughter to start walking. As a preemie, we expected her to start walking a bit later than all of the books said to expect it, so you can imagine our surprise when she finally got up on her two feet and started moving forward. Only she wasn’t walking, she was running! One foot in front of the other, faster and faster, until she got a little ahead of herself and went down in a tumble of giggles and smiles.
You see as kids, we ran without even thinking about it. It’s as natural, maybe even more natural, than walking! We ran from one end of the soccer field to the other, and from base to base during softball games. We jumped off the swings at the park and took off as fast as we could to beat our friend to the slide. We ran down the street to knock on our friends door to see if they could play. We ran from the bus stop to our house after school (if you were like me, you ran fast because you knew a snack was waiting!). Our bodies are made for movement! For most people, barring extenuating circumstances, running is natural and instinctual movement. At what point in our lives does running become less natural?
For those of us who start running later in life, like yours truly, it’s almost like we have to relearn the movement of running. The rhythm. The process. The coordination. And honestly, for quite some time, that’s enough! It takes some time to get used to the feeling of it all. New runners have one goal-keep putting one foot in front of the other, gradually increasing the distance and duration of their runs. New runners don’t worry about pace, because we are reteaching our bodies the movement and feeling of running again after a potentially long hiatus. But at some point, I believe most runners want to become faster, stronger, and to be able to to run longer and with more endurance. We may pick a race and a training plan and have a goal in mind, beyond just crossing the finish line. This requires that we switch things up a bit.
This, my running friends, is what I want to talk to you about. We become faster and can run with endurance when we engage in different types of runs. Long runs, short runs, fartleks (say what!?!), tempo runs, hills, intervals….it’s all so overwhelming! But don’t worry, I’m going to explain them all...in my next blog post! Before we talk about different types of runs, I want to back things up a bit and talk about different paces, because each type of run has a particular pace to accompany it.
Here are six paces for your consideration:
Conversation Pace (CP): This one isn’t too hard to figure out. Can you carry on a conversation while running without gasping for breath? If so, you’re running at conversation pace. This pace is for when you want to keep things slow and steady, like on a long run. My RRCA instructor also called this the “Brady Bunch Pace”....as in, can you sing the Brady Bunch theme song while running? :)
Goal Race Pace (GP): This is the pace you want to run on race day, based on your own desires and dreams.
Date Race Pace (DP): This is your current race pace, based on recent all-out performance. That last 5K that you kicked butt? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Or that last half marathon that you set a new PR...yup!
Lactate Threshold Pace: This is the pace you can run all out for approximately 20-30 minutes, close to your 10k-10 mile race pace. You’re going to be pushing your limits here, but not to the point of breaking! Breathing will be labored (i.e. you won’t be able to have a leisurely conversation or sing the Brady Bunch theme song!) and heart rate will be elevated (moderately).
Interval Pace: This is going to be faster than your current race pace (DP) and current goal pace (GP). It will be demanding and push you to your limits--but for a shorter duration than lactate threshold pace--anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
And then there is...
Rest Pace (easy pace, recovery pace): this is even slower than conversational pace, by about 45 seconds-2 min per mile. This is typically used as a warm up pace or cool down pace and may feel EXCRUCIATINGLY slow but runs at this pace are just as important as any other run.
For a typical road race training plan, you’re looking at approximately 75-80% of your training runs being SLOWER than your goal place. This seems so counterintuitive! But I can tell you from experience-it’s ok! It works! About 10% of your training runs will be AT goal pace, and about 10% should be FASTER than goal place.
Of course this is all dependent on how far the race is (an ultra will require even more training runs even slower than CP!), your own fitness level, running experience, racing experience, weather, general health, etc.)
So think on those for a bit, and I’ll be back in a few days to talk about the different types of runs, the paces that they should be run at, and why each of them are so important to training!
Happy Running, friends!