A common question I get when coaching athletes is “how hard” or “how fast,” when speaking to a workout and its effort level. There are times that I plan a workout w/ specific paces and times so that it is more of a mental challenge along w/ the physical effort. Other times, I plan workouts that are based on perceived effort so they might have a day to relax mentally and just give a good effort without trying to hit specific times. I’ve seen persons respond better to one or the other. For example, I know a woman who was an elite marathoner that made multiple USA teams that only trained by effort. She never did pace workouts. She said she gave better/higher effort if she didn’t track pace. I know other athletes who will fudge a workout and their effort if they don’t have set times and paces.
You probably know which type of athlete you are. To understand how hard of an effort to give on a workout that doesn’t specify pace, here’s a quick lesson on pacing. You might use the words “moderate” “hard” or “fast” and easy for recoveries but if you track the timed efforts and the specified recovery, you’ll know how to approach each workout.
If a workout suggests longer amounts of recovery w/ short efforts… GO HARD
When taking full recoveries, the goal is to run fast and get the legs moving. That increases running economy which helps you run smoother, longer during future efforts and races.
If your workout has 1-to-1 recoveries based on time… i.e.- 60 seconds hard/60 seconds easy or 3 min. hard/3 min. easy… GO HARD BUT NEVER SLOWER. Gauging effort based on whether or not you can maintain the effort/pace is a great way to make sure you don’t go too hard, too soon and die a slow death the second half of your workout.
If a workout suggests short amounts of recovery and longer amounts of effort… PACE YOURSELF
The goal of a workout w/ short amounts of recovery is to slowly build lactic acid amounts into your system and allow your body to get better and better at clearing that lactic acid. Going too hard, too early will only build too much lactic acid that your system won’t be able to clear. You’ll slow down more and more and gain hardly anything from the workout.
Example: I’ve been getting workouts with the same interval efforts but with differing amounts of recovery. 20 seconds hard w/ 40 seconds easy is going to be run a bit easier than 20 seconds hard w/ 1:40 easy. If I have 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds easy, I’ll run them hard but not so hard I die. If I were to have 30 seconds hard w/ 2 min. easy then my effort would definitely increase as I’d have more time to recover and get ready for the next effort.
Use these rules of thumb in your training and you’ll find that the workouts pay huge dividends. Just remember,