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How fast should I run?
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How fast should I run?

Many people do not get in shape because they train too hard.

This may sound a bizarre statement to make but it is true. Your over-enthusiasm to get in shape may be what is holding you back and stopping you being as fit as you’d want. You train harder than desirable meaning you are able to do less exercise and are more likely to get ill or injured.

A common mistake is to go out and try to run each run you do as fast as possible – or faster than you have done it before. This is not the way to improve. More than half of your runs should be done at easy or steady pace. By easy we mean a pace at which you can hold a breathless conversation. By steady we mean able to speak a sentence or two at a time. Harder runs (this includes the interval/multi pace workouts such as those you can set on a treadmill) should be done a maximum of every other run but normally no more than one in three. Many top runners will do a month of steady and easy running before introducing their harder sessions. Even then they will only do two or maybe three harder sessions a week. Go out and keep things under control. As you get fitter your runs will be faster for any given level of effort. You won’t have to force yourself to go faster. You will also be able to run further at a given pace.

Don’t try to build distance and speed at the same time. Gradually progress things to make sure any changes are sustainable and can be built upon. This is how your body improves – by being given a chance to adapt to the strains placed on it, rather than being battered and unable to cope with the load placed on it.

You may be asking, ‘Whatever happened to no pain, no gain?’ The truth is that there is always a trade-off between quality and quantity. Plus your body is not able to work at high intensity all the time. Many coaches in many sports will talk of building a base of fitness, or achieving good ‘conditioning’. Steady and easy runs are what do this work. Off these you will then be able to start adding one or two harder runs or sessions each week.

Have a look at our bespoke training programme, accessible from our Home page. You can download a training guide that will be bespoke to you, whatever your level of ability and fitness. It'll have a mix of slow, stady and harder running sessions in the programme so don't chance it, check it out.

You may be thinking that you want to shift a few pounds to tone up and feel this means you need to go out hard. Again this is untrue. You do burn slightly more calories if you run any given mile faster. But by going faster you reduce the total distance you can cover. So two miles of easy running will burn more calories than a mile of hard running. (Don’t confuse this with burning more calories by going slower. The advantage comes from being able to keep going further and cover more distance). Make sure you combine the exercise with a decent diet and lay off the junk food. Sounds painful? Well, the funny thing about working out is that it often makes to want to do the other things right.

People can be reluctant to ease back or take a break when they are tired. Never be afraid to back off to recover if you feel run down. If you are ill or injured don’t train until you feel right again – you just run yourself down.

People getting into running often try to do too much too soon.

For example many people head out and go as far as they can on their first few runs and end up with a problem such as sore shins. The reason for this is that they have put more of a demand on their body than it is up to taking. By building up gradually your body strengthens at a rate that allows you to cope with increased amounts of training. Throw in a few gentle exercises on top for a more rounded exercise program and it wont be long before you look and feel completely different.

The key is to have a varied training programme that has a balanced approach to building fitness and to stay motivated!

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