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How fast should you run? Finding your optimum running paces

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Have you every started a training session and struggled to finish? Or conversely, finished a race and felt that you had more to give? It is notoriously difficult to determine and utilise your training and racing paces but with a little understanding and practice, it is possible.

Whether you are a seasoned runner or just enjoy jogging to keep fit, utilising different paces can be an extremely effective way to optimise performance and avoid overtraining.

Understanding your rate of perceived exertion and how it relates to pace

The way in which you manage your paces will ultimately come down to how much you understand your exertion levels during runs. Whilst there are gadgets on the market which will calculate paces for you, I often find that the best way to find your running paces is through trial and error using the talk test. Too many experienced runners neglect what their body is telling them and are solely driven by the numbers on their Garmin, which often results in overtraining and under performance.

When you learn to comprehend exactly what certain workouts should feel like, you can easily adjust for various weather conditions, different terrains, and fluctuations in energy levels.

Finding the right pace for each type of running session

In this article, I am going to focus on how to properly 'feel' the appropriate pace and effort for easy recovery runs, steady endurance runs, hard tempo runs, and VO2 Max intervals.

1. Easy recovery runs

A recovery run is a short, slow run, completed within 24 hours after a session which can help improve the blood flow to tightened and sore muscles. These easy runs can also improve your fatigue resistance and increase your weekly mileage. They should feel very easy, and you should be able to have a full conversation with someone whilst running.

2. Steady endurance runs

A steady run should feel relatively comfortably, meaning that you could keep up this pace for an hour or more, but it's not exactly easy. Running steadily maximises the development of your aerobic threshold and is the fastest pace you can run whilst remaining completely aerobic. If you can manage 3-4 sentences whilst running, then you are running at the right pace.

3. Tempo runs

The tempo run is the fastest pace you can run without generating more lactic acid than your body can utilise and reconvert back into energy. By training within this zone, you can begin to decrease the pace at which you begin to produce too much lactic acid for your body to manage. A tempo run should feel like a hard but controlled effort that you are able to hold for 30-60minutes during training. During a tempo run, you should be able to say 1-2 short sentences out loud.

4. VO2 Max intervals

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise during exercise which can be increased by training within this zone. A VO2 max workout will feel near maximum effort. You should be breathing very hard and only feel like you would be able to keep running for another 100 meters after finishing an interval. You should only be able to blurt out a few words at the start of an interval and be unable to talk by the end.

Practicing and fine tuning your paces

Don't be concerned if, at first, your pacings seem off and your speed fluctuates each week. It will take time to build up an understanding of what your body is capable of.

Ultimately, the key to finding your paces is; trial, error, and a lot of patience!

About the author: Laura Smith is an elite level athlete who has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.

Want more advice from our ambassadors? Connect with Sundried's Personal Trainers on our app, for top tips, free workout plans and more.

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