There’s a difference between running fast all year round (with striders and speed work) and running fast each and every day. I’m a big fan of staying fast all 12 months of the year and really against running every run too fast.
When I was a freshman in high school, I was running on the Cherokee (NJ) track team with runners who were much older and faster than I was. Even though I was turning into a good runner myself and could hold my own, I was constantly finding myself being dropped on runs.
I was running as hard as I could to keep up with these more experienced runners and after a month of doing this, I was worn out and run down. I was constantly tired and I never recovered well enough to run good workouts. I was hanging on by a thread.
Thankfully, this was way before the days of Garmin Connect and Strava, where every run was broadcasted to the masses. Instead, only my training log was getting to see just how fast I was over running each and every day.
After talking with my coaches, we decided on an individualized plan to help me with my running. We slowed down my easy runs so I could recover from my workouts and long runs and we made Saturday a proverbial rest day – anywhere from 0-5 miles at as slow of a pace as I wanted.
As a coach, I’m a really big believer in slow days being slow/relatively low effort level and workout and long run days being longer/harder and more challenging.
This high/low pattern has been researched and studied and it is how a vast majority of athletes train.
Here’s why running fast all the time isn’t good for you:
Recovering from training is near impossible if every run you do is too fast. The only time you adapt and get stronger/faster is when you run easy paces and allow your body to bounce back. If you never run easy, you never allow the training you do to take effect.
If the majority of your runs are fast, there’s never a time when your body can adapt to the training. It’s only when you run easy (aerobically) that you allow your body to get stronger and take in the hard training you do.
Injury Risk Rises
You’re more likely to get injured when every run is fast. A tired and run-down body is much more susceptible to injuries. Not only will an injury derail your running, but when you’re run down and demanding a lot from your body, you’re risking getting sick. These high demands can’t always be met and that’s when fatigue and injuries occur.
When your easy run pace bleeds into your workout pace or even worse, your race pace, you are always running too fast. Since the majority of your weekly running should be done at an easy effort, there is little pace differentiation between easy running and race pace. Not only will you be too tired from all your fast running, but you also won’t be able to adapt to the aerobic benefits of your training. Aerobic training is the majority of the energy system used in every distance race, so skimping on it is doing you a bit of a disservice.
Instead, you are much better off training in microcycles, where easy days come before and after hard days. Scheduled days off are included to maximize recovery and workouts are the only hard-effort days of the week.
In order to really make this happen, find training partners who challenge you on your hard running days and keep you from running too fast on your non-workout days.
Another way to make sure your easy runs are actually easy is by training with a heart rate monitor. I’m a big fan of HR training because it takes into account my current physiological state + outside factors like heat and humidity.
If you haven’t checked out a pace calculator recently, you should. Use your most recent race performance (and adjust slightly for weather, course, and elevation) and use that as your “current fitness”. The calculator will give you suggested current training paces for easy/long runs, threshold & tempo runs, interval paced reps, and speed work.
*As a note, all runners who work with me have a built-in pace calculator in their training logs.
Running fast all year is a decent philosophy to adhere to: you always want to keep your legs turning over and speed work helps with that. What you’d like to avoid if at all possible, is running fast on your easy runs when they are supposed to be slow and regenerative.
Running fast all year round is smart. Running fast every day (without a chance to recover), not so much.Tweet
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