Updated: Mar 19, 2021
There are a number of benefits to pacing your run by effort vs trying to maintain a certain speed or go for a certain distance. This is what I have noticed for me. But listen to your body when you try this out and see what it tells you. Here is what I’ve noticed:
Increased Speed at the Same Relaxed Breath Rate - The fun thing for me about running on effort is that when you become in touch with your effort levels and breathing associated with it, you’ll notice that as you improve, your pace will increase but your effort will stay the same. So you can run faster and longer while maintaining that relaxed breath rate (or said another way, maintaining the same effort level).
More Control/Flexibility with Speed - Also notice what you gain from an increase in effort and what it costs you. In my experience it's not a linear relationship. I notice that on a 60 min run, if I go at an easy breath rate, when I finish I can carry on with my day and I’m barely impacted. I still burn 1000-1100 (I’m a big guy :P). While if I run at race pace breath, I often come back exhausted and only burn an extra 100-200 calories. For the rest of my day, I'm sluggish at best. This may not be your experience, but try varying your effort on the same route and see what you gain from it and how you feel after. Then you can decide if it's worth it or when it’s worth it. Collect that data so you can make good choices for you.
More Control Over Your Heart Rate - Running on effort allows you to moderate your pace. For example, when you hit a hill, in order to keep the same effort, you have to slow your pace. This helps to prevent your heart rate (HR) from spiking. It is extremely hard to lower your HR during a run, so spiking it at the start of a race or jog can make the rest of the run uncomfortable.
More Control Over Your Exhaustion - As you increase your effort, you use more energy each moment to maintain that effort. Said another way, when you increase your effort, you are increasing your Rate of Energy Consumption. Exhaustion could be described as a state of lack of energy, so in this sense, as you increase your Rate of Energy Consumption you are also increasing your rate at which you approach exhaustion. By maintaining a steady effort level as you run, you are maintaining the rate at which you approach exhaustion. If you decrease your effort level, you are also decreasing the rate at which you approach exhaustion. This may seem obvious, but when I see people sprinting up hills at the beginning of a race, I don’t think they understand how much it is exhausting them.
More Control Over Your Enjoyment - By running on effort, you can start to moderate the enjoyment you get out of running. What? That doesn’t make sense. The harder you run or the more effort you exert, the less pleasure (or more exhausted) you feel. So in a sense, you can choose your pleasure or enjoyment level of your run by moderating your effort level (or the level at which you approach exhaustion). Play around with this when you’re moderating your effort level on a run and see how it feels to you. How does your enjoyment feel at different levels of effort?
That's a lot to think about. It's going to take time to digest this information, to start just try to run on effort and see what you notice. Then come back to this blog and use the tips to guide your learning. Remember these are my experiences with running. Take it with a grain of salt and listen to what your body tells you and see if it works for you.
Running by effort vs by speed or duration has a number of benefits, which are:
Helps you build to faster speeds at a more relaxed breath.
Encourages you to vary your speed to maintain a constant effort level and maintain your heart rate.
Allows you to be aware of the rate at which you approach exhaustion and moderate your run.
Give your more control over the enjoyment you get out of running.
Pacing yourself based on your energy output or effort allows your to vary your pace through out your run. Next it's important to understand the benefits of running fast and slow.
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