pace + distance // effort + time

Heading into the eye of the storm itself for my mile splits and a little scerd…

This elusive idea of pace and distance/effort and time has sparked interest into further exploration for me. I, like many others, am near obsessed with my pace and hitting a whole round number mile. 4.99 is not 5 ha! But is it really all that important? In this post I want to explore the differences, purposes for and pros and cons of each.

Pace and distance are clear, quantifiable values. I guess because of this it’s easier to judge them. Effort is so vague I have struggled with finding satisfaction in it in the past. But I am learning. For now I take my pulse and calulate what % max heart rate (220-(age)*(whatever % you’re wanting to work at) I am working at and it works fine for me. And I really only bother with it when I’m doing hard effort workouts like speed work and tempo runs. On easy runs I only go as hard as I could still maintain a reasonably comfortable conversation with a friend.

It was interesting the other day I was stoked about using effort to judge my run. I did 6 mile repeats at what turned out to be 90-95% max HR! But the funny thing was I was so content with how it felt when I took my pulse I was surprised at how hard I was going. I wasn’t obsessing over how fast I was going either. Just moving along at what felt like was a “comfortably hard” pace. I knew about where my mile ended and would pull out my phone when I was getting close. In this case I still used distance, but for a specific workout to increase speed that makes sense to me. Incorporating effort upped the ante in a marvelous way.

The attitude I carried helped me relax a lot! And I was actually better able to perform my workout. It was amazing! And I still had energy to spare to happily greet every passerby. I love feeling like my smile might have uplifted someone else’s day. Even if it was just for a brief moment.

Unfortunately, on occasion, the stars do not align and effort may not be a very good indicator, especially if you use HR to judge your effort. The other day I ran a recovery run after a particularly grueling downhill run. A full week went by before I was feeling 100% back to normal. But for that first recovery run, my body was so sore, even at a 10 min pace I was working up a sweat. My HR was very low, but I was exhausted. It was so strange. In this case, I still felt my effort was on point, but how could I judge it? I just had to tell myself I was doing my best under the circumstances.

I will say, as devil’s advocate, that for a long race like a marathon you need to get the miles in. How else would you know that 3 hours of running would be sufficiant to completing the race. Let’s say you’re a beginner, hoping for a sub 5-hour completion and don’t know what hitting “the wall” feels like. I get it .. 3-4 hours on your feet is killer, but I’m telling you right now it’s going to make things much easier to keep track of your miles and make sure you’re getting enough than risk not being able to finish the race. Races cost big $$ and it’s disappointing to drop out after all that training. For races I’d say keep track of total mileage if you can. Train by with time, but keep an eye on total mileage every day so you can compensate the next day or throughout the week sometime. 

However, what your actual pace is, is pretty arbitrary. Especially in training. If you’re racing, it’s good to know what you’re doing so you don’t blow up out of the starting gates and tank later. But I think worrying about hitting a certain pace is an easy way to overdo it and hurt yourself. And telling yourself you’re not good enough unless you hit an arbitrary number is definitely hurting yourself mentally. So just don’t do it. It’s basically just comparing yourself to someone else and let’s be real, there’s always going to be someone faster and someone slower too so what’s the point? Just have fun and appreciate the machine of a healthy body you have that can carry you through the demands you place on it! There’s plenty of people who wish they could do what you can and legitimately can’t. And I think we all need to be a little nicer to ourselves anyways. Not saying don’t push, effort should be up there, but let’s focus on obsessed over that instead of a random number 😉

Now using time as a measure. It’s much easier to stay on an easy pace when you’re only using minutes to judge how far out you’re going. For example: 30 minutes out and back-my only problem here is I always push for a negative split. This is where you try to run back faster than you ran out. Knowing mileage makes this negative split temptation all the more tempting, even more so from mile to subsequent mile, which can be counter productive to a recovery run. You can simply run by how you feel. If you can carry on a conversation you’re probably doing it right. If you’re alone and talking to yourself out loud you’re probably a little cray. It’s ok, I definitely am 😜

So in the end, I’d say there’s a time and a place for it all, but focus on your effort. Your heart. If you’re putting it all out there, and you know you are if you’re taking your pulse or wearing a monitor, that’s plenty to be proud of. I fell briefly into a comparison trap this week and it’s not a happy place to be. Honestly just putting one foot in front of the other is good enough, however fast you do it ❤️


4 thoughts on “pace + distance // effort + time

  1. Read this yesterday. Great post! For the longest time I just focused on time, but now at 55 I just focus more on how I’m feeling and my effort level. I am slower now, but I think focusing on effort level is improving my speed, and most importantly I am remaining injury free. See you at St. George! Only 16 more days! Did a 4 mi. run today, and am planning on doing a 10-12er on Saturday or Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true! Thinking over this post since then I’ve noticed pace obsession can hamper us in 2 ways, we may be over OR under effort! It’s so good to tune into your body and be familiar with it too! Thanks dad ☺️


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