Pacing for long runs.
Perhaps one reason why people despise long distance running, is that they do all of their runs at one pace: medium hard. It’s not sprinting, but its definitely not easy either. This is not how it should be. There should be significant differences in your effort level based on the prescribed workout.
Fact: not all runs have to be hard to improve fitness. In fact, the goal of coaching is to provide to most aerobic benefit for the least amount of muscular-skeletal stress. Really? Yes, really. Hard running places a lot of stress on bones and soft tissue increasing the potential for injury, (Case and point: Mundy) So if you can run slower, and achieve the same aerobic benefit, why not?! (In fact, I tell my athletes that the only time they should run as hard as they can is during races…) Over the next couple of weeks I am going to talk a bit about pacing for various workouts, starting with the long run.
The Long Run
The long run is the foundation to running almost any distance – for two main reasons:
1) It physiologically changes your body. Capallaries grow. Mitochondria grow in both size and number. Aerobic enzymes increase along with skeletal myoglobin. All of these changes improve your ability to process oxygen.
2) It improves your body’s efficiency. Lungs become more efficient. Your heart becomes stronger yielding higher stroke volume. Leg muscles strengthen. Your ability to metabolize fat increases. Stride length shortens. Wasted arm motion tends to go away. All these efficiencies add up to a decrease in oxygen consumption. Which is what distance running is all about: using the least amount of oxygen while still going fast.
So let’s meet Huck Chargrove, a hypothetical runner who is in his mid-40’s. Huck used to run at a local high school, (just for fun, let’s call it Billwood), went on to run at college (let’s call is Helmont) and is now experiencing a renewed passion for running. He works as a male model and enjoys long walks on the beach, Michelob Ultra, puppies and honesty.
A couple of weeks ago, Huck ran a 5k race as hard as he could, and finished with a time of 19:52. This equates to 6:24 pace per mile.
Long Runs: Long runs should be run at a pace between 1.5 – 2.5 minutes slower per mile than your current 5k ability. So Huck never runs faster than 7:54 per mile. His effort level could be described as conversational; meaning that he can hold on a conversation during the run. His heart rate is between 70-75%of his maximum heart rate.
Huck’s long runs start way slower than 9:00 per mile, and he gradually speeds up only when his body tells him that it’s okay. (Remember, the benefits of long runs come from duration, not from the intensity.)
So for your Sunday long runs, what can you learn from Huck?
1) Start slower than you think. The first mile of a long run should be by far the slowest of the day.
2) Only speed up when you feel like you can. Do not be held hostage by your watch or the group of folks that you are running with. Listen to your body.
3) Focus on a short, quick stride rate, rather than long, slow strides. Distance running is about efficiency, and short quick strides are more effective than long slow ones.
4) Have a conversation with your running partner, and if you are struggling to catch your breath, slow down.
Sunday January 10th – Shelby Park
Novice: 40 minutes
Intermediate: 60 minutes
Advanced: 70 minutes
Bundle up and I’ll see you on Sunday morning!