There are no magic paces (or black holes)

Back in the 1990s, a lot of runners talked about running at VO2max pace or lactate threshold pace or some other specific pace. We were told that you needed to run at that specific pace in order to get the best benefit from a workout. If you ran between these magical paces, you were putting in extra effort for no added benefit.

How right were we about those things, though?

Now, we know that a better way to improve your lactate threshold is to spend time both just below it and just above it, not right at it. We know that your VO2max can be improved at a variety of paces.

The truth is that your body doesn’t work like a light switch where something is either on or off. It’s much more complex. At different paces, different energy systems are being stressed at different levels.

Based on this knowledge, it’s very reasonable to believe that we are actually better off running at a range of paces, not just specific paces and absolutely ignoring other paces.

As the runners I coach and anyone who has been reading this blog for some time knows, I’m a big fan of assigning workouts by effort level instead of pace. 10K effort or half marathon effort may not be right at lactate threshold pace but that’s a good thing, you can refine your skill at running the correct effort while still getting in a quality fitness boost.

That variety that you might find when running your workouts is a feature, not a bug. It’s part of the design.

Don’t get yourself too stuck on hitting a certain pace or just the right intensity. Focus more on getting a quality effort in, regardless of the specific pace. Sometimes, that might mean a little more volume at a little slower pace. Other times, it might mean going a little faster for a shorter duration. Either way, know you’re still getting a workout in and not wasting time or effort.

Photo credit: DF Runners, on Flickr

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