After I started running, I became increasingly interested in running and performance… probably because performance was something that alluded me. I felt like no matter how much I ran I never got faster. And I wash people around me dramatically improving their times. I wondered, what was I doing wrong?
So, I decided to learn more about running by become an RRCA certified run coach. My immediate aim was to improve my own running, but I also thought that one day I could coach other athletes who were getting into running as adults. I felt like I could help them avoid the newbie runner mistakes that I had made.
The class is a two-day course that focuses mainly on long distance training (a.k.a. marathon). I found it especially helpful because we learned all about the different types of running and how those types of running stress your body in different ways, ultimately impacting performance. I left feeling like I had a toolkit of run types that I was ready to deploy. That’s how I hope you feel after reading the #itsrunthirty posts.
And the reason I was not improving too much in my running is simply because I was running the same easy pace day in and day out. It was comfortable. And it was what I knew. In the past I had a sneaking suspicion that I should be doing more ‘speed work’ but I had a really hard time pushing myself to do this alone. Other runners insist upon doing speed work every time they run. Some are obsessed with running long on a disproportionate number of runs. Each one of these tendencies has risks and is unlikely to lead to optimal performance.
Let’s explore the different types of running and what they can do for you in your training.
Measuring your Effort
There are a few ways to gauge effort, including pace, relative perceived exertion, and heart rate.
Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) – You’re running on feel. Does it feel easy? Are you able to talk in complete sentences? Carry on a conversation? Sing a song? Yes? Then you’re likely running your easy pace.
Heart Rate Training – As the name suggests, you are monitoring your heart rate and intentionally staying in specific training zones for a specific purpose. If you’re training in this way you will likely hear a lot about zone 2, zone 3 and zone 4.
Until recently, I always trained based on RPE. I had a watch with a heart rate monitor, which I used occasionally, but I felt no need to switch to heart rate training because I thought RPE was working for me. When I did begin to use heart rate zones, I realized that what I thought was my easy pace was probably too fast, meaning my heart rate was likely too high and I wasn’t getting the full benefits of my workouts.
I’ve since converted to heart rate training.
Deciding which Method to Use
As yourself a few questions to determine which method is best for you. Do you have a watch that tracks heart rate or can you buy one? Are you able to capture heart rate data at an upcoming 5k race or 30 minute independent time trial? If yes to both of these, I’d give heart rate training a go simply because you’re getting better data.
Calculating your Training Zones
There are some sophisticated ways to pinpoint your training zones that may be of interest if budget is not a constraint and you have access to a testing facility. VO2 Max texting, for example, can tell you your training zones based on the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during incremental exercise.
But we can approximate zones pretty accurately by determining your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). To do this, do a 30-minute time trial run. Make sure you wear your heart rate monitor. Run as if you were racing – the goal here is to run at the max effort you can sustain for 30 minutes. Click lap on your watch 10 minutes in so that we can capture your average heart rate for 20 minutes. That average is an approximation of your LTHR. From there, you can establish your run training zones using the table below (Source: Joel Friel).
|Zone||% of LTHR|
|1||Less than 85%|
|2||85 to 89%|
|3||90 to 94%|
|4||95 to 99%|
|5||100% or more|
We’ll talk about when and how much to train in these zones in the next few posts.