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February 18, 2014

Vary pace to get run results up to speed

The finest souls are those that have the most variety and suppleness.”  Michel de Montaigne

One of the most common running mistakes is to train at a similar pace for all of your runs.

It’s certainly easy to do. We often train with the same running partners, and run the same loops over and over. We get comfortable with our routine and end up running the same pace all the time. And this isn’t just a problem with runners. I see it with cyclists, triathletes and even some of the weightlifters I treat.

When training, we tend to gravitate to a “comfortably-hard” pace. If graded on a scale of 1 to 10, most of us would rate the majority of our runs a 6 to 7 — fast enough to feel like we’re working out, but not quite so fast as to really hurt. We finish our run sweating and out of breath and feel like we’ve accomplished something. We “earned” our dessert and glass of wine after dinner.

So, mile after mile we plug along at our kind-of-hard pace, and wonder why we aren’t improving. We ask why our finishing times are the same as when we started running years earlier.

The trouble with always running at this moderately hard pace is that it is too easy to make any significant physiological changes to your body, yet too fast to allow any kind of recovery. You are basically just treading water with your running fitness. Most runners make their fast runs too easy, and their easy runs too fast.

The good news is that the fix is simple. Not easy, but simple.

Add some variety to training sessions. Start “polarizing” your runs. Get out of the habit of always running in the comfortably hard no-man’s land, and start pushing yourself a bit.

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