My training lately has had far more quality miles in it than what I have done in the past. I’m adjusting to this change, though, and I look at that as progress. If you break down my week, you’ll see that I am either running a particular prescribed pace–usually tempo or marathonish pace–or I’m going easy. What am I not doing? Running in that murky area in between–let’s call it medium pace.
Why is medium pace not a good place to be? Because it doesn’t deliver benefits. Speedwork does. Easy efforts do. But not that in between zone. What that in between zone does is sabotage your other, more important, quality workouts. Go too hard on an easy day and you might not have enough in your legs to reach the paces you need on a speed day. Go too easy on a speed day and you’re not going to see the gains you want from the session. Can you see the vicious cycle that starts?
I wrote last week about running with a group and how it takes discipline. This is especially true when it comes to that in between pace. It can be very easy in a group to get swept up into a pace that isn’t doing you any good. If you need to drop to the back of the group (I do this) to keep your pace easy, swallow your ego and do it. You’re only hurting yourself on race day by running too fast on a training day.
Is there such a thing as too easy on an easy run? My coach, Jeff Gaudette, has told me no, and I agree with this. An easy run has lots of benefits, whereas a medium pace run does not. Quite simply, I would not be able to do as many quality miles as I have of late if I were going even a bit too hard on those easier paced runs.
One final note on pace. When it comes to speed work, if you have a particular pace you are aiming for, stick to it. While an easy run can’t be too easy, speedwork can be too speedy. I totally get that it feels good to blow through a prescribed pace and think you are therefore making bigger gains. You’re not. Jeff wrote an excellent article on this topic if you want the whys behind it.
So tell me–do you spend too much time in the gray zone?