Mistakes Runners Make – Sometimes you need to order the order the small or large (Never order the medium)
As a life long endurance athlete one of the biggest lessons I’ve been able to learn for myself and now for the runners I coach is to stay away from medium effort level training. If you are running for the sake of just exercise and general weight control this is not as vital but still something you should consider applying. This principle is for those that want to get faster and achieve new goals. The runner who rarely misses a run. If you feel your growth as a runner has stagnated I’m writing to you.
So what is medium effort training and why should I stay away from it?
Medium effort training is the grey area where it’s not too hard nor is too easy.
Your paces and distances run look the same day after day. If you reviewed your training diary (if you keep one, and you should) it would all look the same. Example of what you don’t want to see. (For a runner who runs a 1/2 Marathon at 8:40/Mile Average, 20 Miles over 4 workouts)
Monday (Ran 5 Miles @ 8:30/Mile Pace)
Tuesday (Ran 4 Miles @ 8:35/Mile Pace)
Thursday (Ran 5 Miles @ 8:30/Mile Pace)
Friday (Ran 6 Miles @ 8:30/Mile Pace)
It feels like you should be improving because you are tired and you feel a little dull each run. It’s an area of training that is extremely easy to fall into and comes somewhat naturally. It is the middle of the bell curve. Taking it back to the drink analogy, I’m sure the most popular size of coffee ordered is medium, but in the middle is not where your potential lies.
Another mistake related to this is the term recovery runs. One of the biggest mistakes I see is runners calling a workout a “recovery run” but if you look at the pace it’s very close (if not the same) to their typical pace, if not their goal race pace. Big no-no here, you’re destroying your potential to grow.
If you’re still reading this maybe you’re reflecting on your own training and can see those patterns. So why should you stay away from it? Because it is nearly impossible to improve from.
To improve as a runner you need to push yourself outside of the medium effort area. A few of your workouts should push you, challenge you deeply. Reflect on your training; are you doing that? This can look like interval workouts above goal race pace or working on a specific weakness you feel. They are hard and uncomfortable. They are the days to order the large. The outlier days.
These type of workouts require preparation. Physical as well as mental. If you have been stuck doing medium effort training this is very difficult because you are carrying too much fatigue. You are never fresh enough to give your best. The fix is to focus more on recovery and to run the rest of the days much easier. Your goal for these runs are to to gain no fatigue, they should take nothing out of you. You are using these days to prepare for the hard days. They are the days to order the small. They are also outlier days but on opposite ends of the curve.
So how should this look and how much of each should I do? The easiest way to remember is the Hard/Easy/Hard/Easy Principle. Make the hard days hard, easy days easy. Here is another simple example of what your log should look like. (For a runner who runs a 1/2 Marathon at 8:40/Mile Average, 20 Miles over 4 workouts)
Monday (Ran 6 Miles with 3 X 1 Mile @ 7:30/Mile with 3 Minutes Rest Between)
Tuesday (Ran 3 Miles @ 10:00/Mile Pace)
Thursday (Ran 8 Miles with 2 X 3 Miles @ 08:00/Mile with 3 Minutes Rest Between)
Friday (Ran 3 Miles @ 10:00/Mile Pace)
If you running improving has stagnated I encourage you to try this principle and just see how much you will improve. Don’t get stuck ordering the medium!