Running: A Different Approach to Training - Less Effort, More Results
A lot of people have been asking me lately how fast they should be running. It seems that left unanswered, most runners tend to lean toward hard daily runs with labored breathing. While this is the most common type of run, I don't believe it's the most effective way to spend your time. Even if your big race is looming, there are better ways to structure your training. Rather than getting into a whole seminar about how to structure intervals, speed work or heart rate in relation to race schedule, I am merely going to suggest that we take a look at training aerobically.
So, what is aerobic training, and what is the alternative? Aerobic training is exercising while primarily using oxygen. The alternative, anaerobic training, is training "without oxygen". Aerobic-based training focuses on building a tremendous aerobic base all season long rather than focusing on anaerobic speed.
Customarily, we see runners always pushing the envelope, running hard, unable to talk and completely wiped out after every run. Let's say that a runner tends to do his or her runs at around an 8 minute per mile pace. Let's also assume that the same runner would have to slow down to a 9:30 pace to be aerobic. I maintain that by running aerobically at a 9:30 pace that a runner will build more capillary beds (muscle tissue), recover quicker, be less likely to get injured, and become more motivated.
Furthermore, I believe that with patience, it is possible for a runner to surpass his anaerobic pace with his aerobic training. This is explained by the fact that aerobic training builds more efficiency, better biomechanics and is anabolic or muscle-building rather than catabolic (breaking down of muscle). Anaerobic, or "hard" training, breaks down muscle and can lend itself to poor biomechanics.
Without getting into a series of formulas to determine your heart rate, I would suggest that you listen to your breathing for this insight. While a heart rate monitor is much easier, breathing is also a great way to monitor your efforts. As you run at a fairly pedestrian pace, gradually increase your effort until you feel the first deepening of your breath. At this point, slow down and re-approach that speed to see if you get that same deepening of breath. This is the effort that is aerobic. These runs will at first feel very slow, and could even require walking up hills. But in just a few months a runner will feel a dramatic pace increase and a perceived exertion decrease. I have coached athletes to a sub 5:30 pace at distances from 5K up to half-marathon using 99% aerobic capacity training. Give this method a try and with patience you will find better results - with a lot less effort!