Your personal running coach

Your pace or mine?

I’ve only got one pace.

Of all the statements I hear from customers and friends, this one bothers me the most, because it’s BS!  It completely denies the brilliance of the human body in being able to adapt and change to cope with new demands.  The idea that you simply cannot get quicker because you’ve only got one pace, either means you are unique – your body doesn’t operate in the way that all other humans do.  Or, more likely, you’ve not really tried and tested the methods we all use to address different paces and train different areas of running fitness.

This could get really sciency, so I’ll try my best to keep it understandable, but forgive me, as some things i’m trying to describe are just better done with the scientific terms.

A while ago I did a VLOG about energy systems and what happens when you hit the wall – definitely worth watching this to help understand the terms aerobic and anaerobic a bit better.  

But let’s talk about varying pace.  For a moment, forget about running, let’s just consider walking.  You can walk at a dawdle, perhaps if you’re walking around a shop looking for the perfect pair of leggings.  

You can walk at a moderate pace; you’re on your way somewhere, but in no particular rush.  You can walk at a steady pace, perhaps you know you’re going to be walking for a long time, so you pace yourself.  Or, you can walk at a brisk pace – you’ve got 4 minutes to get somewhere that you know is a 6 minute walk away so you increase your pace.

What about running?

That’s 4 levels of intensity we’ve identified with walking, and I can identify at least 4 when it comes to running.  Dawdle, moderate, steady, brisk for walking.  Easy, steady, tempo, fast tempo and sprint would be paces I would identify for running.

Your ability to run at each of this paces, and to be able to sustain these paces depends on a number of factors.

  1. Knowing realistically where these paces fall for you – what do they feel like? Often I use terms like 10k pace or half marathon pace in my training plans – an experienced runner will be able to start off at a fairly accurate pace for them at the start of any of these races, as they know how 10k pace or half marathon pace feels.
  2. Your cardiovascular capacity and current fitness
  3. Your muscle makeup and current fitness

1) Knowing What Different Paces feel like

Chances are, if you think you only have one pace, you probably have little idea of what your paces are.  Most people who fall into these category either never ever try pushing themselves, OR, they push so hard at the start of each run that they are then forced to struggle on through the rest of it.

 One thing to do is set your garmin or whatever measurement device you have on current pace, and then you can see how much you vary.  Another is to take your time for a recent race and put it into a pace calculator – this should throw out suggested training paces that I’ve mentioned above.

2) Cardiovascular capacity  

This is your VO2 Max – There is a limit to this and it’s largely down to genetics, but a certain element of it is down to training. It’s a measure of the amount of oxygen your muscles can consume per minute.  Top endurance athletes have very high VO2Max, whereas those who don’t exercise have very low VO2max.  The second part of this is training fitness – the fitter you are – ie the more frequently you train, the more able you are to access the limits of your fitness, which means getting to your max heart rate, or maximum weights etc.

3) Muscle makeup and current fitness

You may have heard of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles.  Slow twitch is more suited to endurance sport whilst fast twitch is more suited for power sports.

Your concentration of each type of muscle fibre is largely down to genetics, however there is a 3rd type of muscle fibre that will adapt to training – so you can make yourself more endurance trained or more sprint trained for you.

What does this all mean?

Because most people reading this blog aren’t elite athletes, I am assuming that actually everyone can improve all parts of their fitness.  And you know what, even elite athletes believe that, and keep training and research keeps happening, and records keep being broken.  As we get smarter and improve technology we can continue to push the limits of human performance.  But, when you are fitting running in around other life commitments there are easy ways to train to improve.

View the table below for examples on how to train each part of fitness that can benefit a runner like you:

Type of fitness Example session
Aerobic fitness Long slow run – 10 miles + at easy pace
Anaerobic fitness Tempo run – 30 minute run with middle 10 minutes at a just on the edge of comfortably fast pace.  Increase time and distance of this run
Speed Endurance Being able to hold a faster pace for a long time is the essence of endurance running.  A great session for this is a progression run. E.g. 5 miles, starting at easy pace and getting progressively faster to finish at 10km pace
Leg turnover Speed drills, or cadence drills
Strength Runners strength programme.
Flexibility Saturday Night Stretch and roll

So, to come back to my original statement – do you still believe you only have one pace?  If you would like to explore the possibility of having more than one pace, and seeing the benefits that using multi-pace training will have for your running, check out I Run Success Coaching Here.  

Get the free video series

Subscribe to get the latest video straight to your inbox

Powered by ConvertKit
Angela Isherwood

Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.

Leave a comment