Maybe it’s because runners are competitive, or strive to have constant improvement. Or, maybe it’s even because we’re trying to fit in with, or one-up our peers. But, one of the most common themes with runners, and probably mostly with newer runners is the obsession with their pace and mileage.
Your pace and distance clearly have a place in training, and are important training tools when training for a specific race distance, or dictating what pace to workout at for desired results. What newer runners don’t realize or think about is that the distance you cover is a byproduct of how hard you were working and for how long. Additionally, the pace you run is also a byproduct of this same work over an amount of time. The common denominator in these that you can’t change is, time. You can however change the amount of work done during this time. In addition to this, your body feels and understands how hard it’s working, it doesn’t know how fast or far you went.
Here’s What I’m Getting at
The moral of this story is this, in training, be very aware of the time you’re spending while doing a specific workload. By speeding up a threshold, tempo or easy run, you’re not only working too hard for the given exercise, but because most runners run by distance, you are essentially reducing the time you spent working, ultimately meaning you got in less work than you should have!
Because our bodies understand effort and the duration of the effort, many runs in a training cycle are intended to put your body through a specific workload, over a certain amount of time. When you focus on the distance of these runs rather than the time spent in the run, you may be cutting your workout short.
A perfect example of this (far too common with most runners) is an easy run. If you plan a 6 mile easy run and were estimating it to take 1 hour to complete, but felt good and sped up a little to where you completed it in 55 minutes, did you do the same workout? The answer is no! If both runs were in the right aerobic zone, and you were operating with good running mechanics, both runs would have given you the same workload benefit, BUT, the run you actually did robbed your body of 5 minutes worth of work. Had you gone at the right (slower) pace, you would have actually done more work and therefore gotten more out of your 6 mile run. It’s far too common for newer runners to think that the faster pace meant it was a better run, but in actuality they got less work done.
It’s completely fine to run an easy run a little faster, your easy pace is a range, not a specific number. Keep in mind that if you are running a little faster than planned, you need to adjust your distance in order to make sure you covered the amount of work you needed to do, so maybe bringing the 6 mile run to 6.15, etc.
Your body gives no extra training credit for completing a run in less time, you need a certain amount of time spent doing an activity to become proficient and efficient at it.
I’m curios to know how many of you pay attention to your time spent running, in addition or as a substitute to distance? Lemme know!