It's a good mantra for life but also for training. Learning to pace appropriately during training will lead to better training benefits and help keep you healthy and running strong.
What do we mean by pace?
When we talk about pace we want you to learn to feel the difference between a recovery pace, an easy pace, a moderate pace, a top moderate pace and a hard pace. One of the biggest issues we see as coaches is runners who run all of their runs at a moderate pace often without realizing it is moderate. Everyone has a natural pace they run. Stop and think about it, when you step out the door to go for a run and are not aiming to do anything specific, is there a natural pace you always seem to go? More often than not there is and it is moderate. If you couple that with a progressive training program, it's a great way to do too much, too soon with too much intensity and you can get injured. Over time you can also get slower!
Why? 70 -80% of your miles per week should be run at a recovery or easy pace. This easy pace teaches your body a lot of nifty tricks.
But what if i'm feeling great one day and want to go faster? The faster you run on your easy days, the more stress you place on your tendons, muscles and ligaments. This can impact your training negatively in several ways. One, when when you have a workout where you are deliberately running with more intensity, you may be stressing your system too much especially over repeated up tempo workouts. And secondly, you most likely are watering down these harder runs. If you are running harder than proscribed on your easy days it is often then more challenging to hit target paces or effort of your quality runs as there is an underlying fatigue. Plus we mentioned that you are developing your aerobic system, right? Hammering a workout more than likely is not aerobic and does not help develop that aerobic system which we want you to develop.
Here are the paces we will reference during the training cycle:
Recovery Pace: This is the pace that you can run at and chat with someone telling an involved story. Some days if you are extra tired this can be very slow and that is ok. Over time if your hard workouts are hard and easy are easy you will start to look forward to these days. These are good days to run with friends or to leave your watch at home (unless it is to slow you down).
Easy Pace: This is also a run and chat pace but you probably can only talk in a few sentences at a time. You should finish your run feeling refreshed and like you could go out and do it again but also like you did something.
Moderate Pace: This is a pace where you can talk in short sentences. This pace corresponds somewhere between your half marathon and marathon pace. it's not an easy pace and one that you have to think a little more about.
Top Moderate Pace: This is a pace where you can talk a few words at a time. The longer your run at this pace, the harder that will get. This is typically called tempo pace. Our goal with training is to have you run at this pace or just a bit slower to develop a particular system (lactate threshold).
Hard Pace: You might be able to say a word when running this pace but most likely you won't want to unless it is an unprintable curse word because you are working very hard! It's the pace you'd run a 5k at or what it will feel like at the end of any longer race. Really, we won't be having you train this pace. Save it for race day!