One of the most important training concepts to master is effort; how hard or how easy should I run? Because it’s based upon individual perception, effort is difficult to quantify. It becomes more accessible if we think of effort as varying degrees of hard & easy. If you remember to adhere to the mantra, “Keep your easy days easy & your hard days hard,” you will significantly increase your fitness level in a short period of time, while remaining injury free.
Runners can measure “easy”, or comfortable, running by whether or not they can carry on a conversation. If runners cannot talk while running, or if breathing is labored, the pace is not easy. Slowing down, giving the body an opportunity to feel comfortable, & saving discomfort for harder workout days will help runners achieve an easier pace. As fitness level increases, runners will gain the ability to move at a quicker speed & still remain comfortable. The body burns fat calories on easy runs because its metabolism uses fat as its fuel source, rather than sugar (glycogen). This means that runners lose more weight by running easy for longer periods of time than by running at a hard effort for shorter periods of time. Easy runs lessen the stress upon muscles & tendons & increase the restorative properties of the run, contributing both to fitness & injury prevention. While many think of easy running as “junk miles” or a day to skip running altogether, it’s a crucial part of training.
Runners should only run hard one day per week: the quality workout day. On this day, they gain speed & strength to complete the distance in goal time. Rogue designs workouts intended to stress your body a little more each week. The long run day is also a hard day but not because it is run at a hard effort. Just covering the distance prescribed at a comfortable pace will seem taxing to the body, requiring a day or two of recovery. By keeping the other days of the week easy runners allow their bodies to rest & prepare to tackle the workout & long run days with enthusiasm. Running too hard on easy days leaves runners feeling lethargic & unmotivated, sure signs of over-training.
On workout days, start off conservatively, & build into the hard effort. It is counter-productive to start off at a fatiguing pace, because it forces runners to slow down significantly or stop altogether. Endeavor to work hard for the whole workout, even if maintaining the same pace isn’t possible. There is no need to try to hurry the process up; give the body what it needs.
Consider cross-training days easy days &, as you feel more comfortable with the training, make one XT day hard per week. Choose to cycle or swim, since these activities use different muscles than running & are less likely to contribute over-training.
Above all else, maintain a positive outlook, and remember that consistency and positive self thought produce amazing results no matter where you start.