It is common question I get each week and a common pattern of injury and re-injury. So here are a few thoughts on training intensity and what to consider when setting your training plan.
1. Build a solid foundation This is important to allow your body to adapt to the stress you want to put it under. The pace of this should be relatively easy and mean you can have a conversation throughout the whole of the run. Once you have been running consistently for 3 months then this is a good time to start considering different paced runs into your training.
2. 80% of your training should be at an easy pace ‘I like to run quicker all the time though as I feel like I am getting more from it’. This is often what I hear when I tell people they need to change their training approach, and while I agree it is nice to run quick, you will quickly break yourself if you aim to do that all the time. Conversation paced running means you are recovered for the harder sessions. If your run quick all the time, your body is not able to adapt. It is these adaptations that allow us to run quicker, further and with less discomfort than when we start out.
3. We are not elite athletes As nice as that would be, we all have lives around our running and they will take away significant amounts of energy and should therefore be considered as ‘non-specific’ elements in our training plan. For example, elements such as working nights, having children, stress, a busy social life or a labour-intensive job, will all have an impact on your recovery. Your diets may not be perfect and you probably don’t get enough sleep or an afternoon with your feet up. This will reduce your recovery too.
4. Run to your current fitness level Basically, don’t chase your record book and Strava goals. If you have not run for a while or had a different focus, don’t expect to return to the same speed or cover the same distance or duration as before. You will soon be exhausted or sat back on the side lines if you do.
5. Consider the following
Easy run – I can have a full conversation without any issues, I feel like I am holding myself back. (Duration: All day) Moderate pace run – I can answer in a full sentence, this pace feels natural. (a few hours) Tempo pace – I can answer with a short sentence, I feel like I am pushing myself ever so slightly (20-60 mins depending on fitness) Threshold – Short couple word answer, I feel like I can only keep this up for 15-20 mins (15-20 mins) Above threshold (anaerobic) – unable to answer, I feel I can only keep this pace up for a few minutes at the most. (1-3mins)
Now these principles apply to all levels, whether you are a beginner or a well-established runner it is important to structure your training. At the end of the day, we run because we enjoy it and therefore the majority of your training should be exactly that. Then, when you do the harder/quicker sessions you are ready for them.
For example: If you run 3x/week, I would recommend 2 of those are easy/moderate and the third, a harder session of some description - perhaps focusing at a tempo/threshold pace.
Consider seeking advice from a coach or running group to help you build the harder sessions into your training as 'googling' training programmes will be very generic and not necessarily provide you with the right training for your level of fitness or lifestyle.
Remember to keep 80% of your training volume in easy to moderate zones and you will reduce your injury risk and improve at a much more consistent rate. You might enjoy it more too.