Types of Run Paces
Your body can adapt to doing the same thing repeatedly—like running a particular distance on a particular course. In order to improve, you need a variety of paces. Each pace engages a different energy system, which in turn provides benefits ranging from improved efficiency and running mechanics to better cardiovascular conditioning.
Varying training paces also mimics road running conditions, because changes in running surface and elevation require you to adapt your running pace. Our training plan includes the following paces:
Speed work: Here’s where you practice running at your speed pace (90+% of HRmax) for an interval, followed by a walk or easy jog. Then you repeat this sequence until you reach the total speed-pace time for that day.
Be creative in reaching a day’s speed time. Your speed interval can be from 30 seconds to 4 minutes. Your jogging (recovery) interval can be the same as the speed interval or twice as long.
Example 1: 10 minutes of speed work could be 10 1-minute intervals at speed pace with a 1-minute jog after each speed interval (10 minutes of speed time; 20 minutes total training time).
Example 2: 7.5 minutes of speed work could be 5 1.5-minute intervals at speed pace with a 3-minute jog after each speed interval (7.5 minutes of speed time; 22.5 minutes total training time).
If your event course is hilly, then you can do some or all of your speed work on hills. Run uphill during your high-intensity intervals; to recover, jog downhill or uphill farther. Speed work improves cardiovascular conditioning and heart/lung strength. Your body learns to run at a fast pace more easily, making you a more efficient runner.
Threshold work: You do this type of training at your threshold pace (85–88% of HRmax) for a prescribed amount of time, followed by a walk or easy jog. Then you repeat this sequence until you reach the total threshold-pace time for that day.
Be creative in reaching a day’s threshold time. Your threshold interval can be from 1 to 5 minutes. Your jogging (recovery) interval can be half as long as the speed interval or the same.
Example 1: A 30 minutes of threshold work could be 10 3-minute intervals at threshold pace with a 1.5-minute jog after each threshold interval (30 minutes of threshold time; 45 minutes total training time).
Example 2: 20 minutes of threshold work could be 5 4-minute intervals at threshold pace with a 4-minute jog after each threshold interval (20 minutes of threshold time; 40 minutes total training time).
Threshold work improves metabolic efficiency, making it easier to run at this pace for longer periods of time before muscles fatigue.
Easy run: The goal of an easy run is to stay active as you build cardiovascular base miles; you do this run continuously for your day’s training time at pace of 60–65% of HRmax. Easy runs are the foundation of any training program. Slip in a run between your other responsibilities. Make it social to help you stay motivated.
Long run: This type of run stretches the limits of your base miles and develops your aerobic endurance. Plan to do this run continuously for your day’s training time at a pace of 70–80% of HRmax. Get out and explore new trails and focus on honing your running mechanics rather than racing.
Cross-training: The purpose is to increase the fitness and strength of muscles that support the primary running muscles. Plus, you get a break from running’s repetitive motion. Include a core workout, plus resistance and strength training.
Active rest: Do any nonstrenuous activity that keeps body and muscles moving: activities like light walking, passive yoga poses or a stretching/foam-rolling session. Active rest days help prevent soreness and reduce the likelihood of injury.
Rest: The goal on these days is to give your body a break. Rest days are critical to avoid overuse injuries.
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