Here are five strategies 🖐 to use when faced with a problem like the following:

“HELP! What’s the best way to adapt my workouts when [theoretically] I should be getting faster over time?”

We hear this every so often with some of our Higher Running athletes using one of our training plans. For today’s newsletter, Coach Sandi Nypaver thought it would be helpful to explain what to do in instances where you’re not sure about a workout pace. Or even knowing when to run faster paces for workouts because you’re improving over the course of your training cycle:
“It’s important to understand that fitness is a moving target. If you haven’t had a recent race performance to gauge what you should be running your workouts at, then yes, it will be a bit difficult for you to fully know what paces are achievable for you. But all hope is not lost! There are a couple of strategies for working around that.

Strategy #1: Keep a meticulous training log. Keeping a meticulous training log will enable you to look back at your training and understand what kind of paces you were once at, how you felt at the time, and what kind of event you were training for at the time. If you’ve never kept a training log to track all of these types of things, there’s never a bad time to start! Some people like to use online fitness apps like Strava, Garmin Connect, and Training Peaks. Any of these work great, but it’s most important for you to be able to use something that can be referred to years down the road.

If you are someone that’s kept a training log for a long time, look to see how you’ve improved over time. Is there heart rate data for you to compare with a 7:15 mile pace at week 2 versus a 7:15 mile pace at week 10? (Note: we definitely understand there’s a lot of variability and factors that go into heart rate, but this can still be used as a “general” guide). Did you training log note how you felt at certain paces? Again, these are all good things to start doing if you aren’t, and great things to refer back to if you’re someone who does have these data available.

Higher Running Training Plans also come with an Intensity Spectrum Pace Chart that you can use to see approximately how you should be feeling for different types of efforts. By the way – you can also get this for FREE by clicking THIS.We give this to athletes to help them understand how paces should feel, especially if they don’t have an extensive training log or racing history.

Strategy #2: Use a heart rate monitor I already kind of touched on this above, but I wanted to dive deeper into how you can use heart rate when training to your benefit. Again, we don’t want heart rate monitors to be the thing you swear by, because there is a lot of “fickleness” (is that even a word???) when using one during training (read more about that HERE). You can compare your “feel” or “perceived exertion” with your respective heart rate values. Over time, your fitness will improve and you’ll notice that your paces will get faster even at the same heart rate value.
Strategy #3: Start off easy and increase the pace if you’re feeling good. 📈If you’re just totally unsure where to start with regards to a “marathon type effort” or “10km type effort” for an interval, I would always caution my athletes to start off easy and then try to pick up the pace if it still feels too easy after the first couple of intervals. On the flip side, if you start to fall off the pace for the given rep, then you know you started off too hard. This may take a bit of trial and error, but over time, I’m confident that you’ll be able to find your flow at the correct paces.

Strategy #4: Be real with yourself when it comes to your goal finishing time. 
I’m all about setting huge goals and doing everything in your power to make them happen. However, it’s also important to be realistic with our desired finishing times in races to ensure your workouts help set you up for success. In all of our Higher Running Training Plans, we prescribe some workouts that are based off of your goal race pace. This “goal race pace” of yours may have been based off of a previous race finish time, or it may be what you feel like you can do in several months’ time. If it’s the latter, there are warning signs to know if you’ve chosen a goal race time that is too fast (or too slow).

Let’s say you’re at week 12 in your marathon training plan (and approaching taper time), and your workout of the day was 2 mile repeats, if you’re not hitting under race pace for these two mile repeats, your race pace is probably too fast. This same mentality can be applied towards any race distance. To reiterate, it’s best to be on the more conservative side because you can always get in the duration of the workout and increase the intensity later.

Strategy #5: Know when it’s time to increase your paces, and more importantly, when NOT to increase your paces. If you’re 2-3 weeks out from the race and you think you can run faster than what you’ve been doing, it’s best just to keep that in the bank. You don’t want to overdo it before a race, and the best course of action is for you to hit the paces you know you can. This still allows for a good training stimulus while saving yourself for race day.

Knowing race paces and when to increase paces can be confusing. We hope this provides a few suggestions that will help you better understand the best way to approach these unknowns. It may take some time for you to really feel in tune with your body and be able to feel these things out, but we’re confident that you can succeed in doing so over time.”