One of the biggest challenges athletes face is to pace themselves correctly. Nearly all athletes start out with the mindset that the faster and harder they train, all of the time, the fitter and faster they will get in the quickest time. I know I was definitely one of those athletes.
I remember training for Busselton 70.3 in 2016. I used a training plan as a guide, which I then adjusted to suit my own circumstances. I remember thinking at the time, that the long run was too slow and if I could get “x” fit at zone 2 pace/HR, then I could get “X+1” fit at zone 3 pace/HR.
I was devastated to find out just before the May 2016 event that the training peaks and garmin connect HR zones sit slightly differently and I had in fact done all my supposedly zone 3 long runs at zone 2. I thought I had blown my race. In reality, I had a cracker of a race, my second fastest half marathon off the back of a 1.9km swim and 90km bike ride.
I was a “pace yourself” convert!
I completed my long run today. I am still nowhere near my previous level of fitness and to date, I am still struggling to do much more than 6km at any reasonable pace. Today, however, I ran around 13km using a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk pace in 1.5 hours. This was done at an average run (not including the walks) pace of 6:25 minutes/km well below my current fitness lactate threshold of 5 minutes and even my zone 2 limit of 5:42 mins/km. It may have been slow but I was out there for 15 minutes longer than my previous long run and about an hour more than what I currently run a race pace 6km at (before collapsing in a heap). 🙂
My point is, that the point of the long run session is not about running fast, it is about aerobic endurance. It is about putting time into your legs. If you go and run your long run as fast and as far as you can, then firstly, it isn’t going to be as far as you think it will be and secondly, it is likely to hurt you a LOT more than a slower run. This will, in turn, affect your recovery and your sessions the following week.
When your coach or program, calls for a long (and usually slow) run, they really do mean a “slow” run not an “I am going to run as fast and as far as I can in the time that I have been given” run. You aren’t going to do yourself any favours and that key training session that you want to nail in a couple of days is going to hurt and probably going to be sub-par because you didn’t pace yourself correctly in the previous session.
Remember, each session has its place. Enjoy each of those sessions and it’s likely that long run that you whinge and complain about because it is so so so slow is going to be followed by a “bust your balls” goal session that is going to hurt and you are going to be able to bust your balls that much harder because you did that long run correctly….
A lot of coaches agree that athletes don’t go easy enough in the easy sessions and they either don’t go hard enough in the hard sessions or they don’t pace themselves correctly.
So……. If you aren’t sure about what the goals of the session are, ask your coach or do your research if you are going it alone;
What is the purpose of the session I am about to do?
What is the pace I should be doing it at?
I always say to myself, if I know the goal of the session and I know what I am supposed to be targeting then I can play a part in my own destiny and make sure I get it right…
Be masters of your own athletic destiny 🙂
Peta from Energise Coaching is a Triathlon Australia Development Coach and an Athletics Australia Intermediate Recreational Running Coach. She offers personalised training programs for triathlon/swimming/running, generic training plans and structured run sessions for all levels and abilities. Contact Peta and ask what she can do for you!