You stare at your watch (GPS) during your easy run and tell yourself that you are running too slowly. You ran a workout or race yesterday and you don’t feel awesome (or maybe you do) and press the pace down to that magic number you like to see. We are all guilty of it. But is this really the best thing to be doing?
No. Not at all.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years as a competitive distance runner it is this simple fact: Throw mile pace out the window. Quite frankly you can throw distance out the window for that matter. But these are the measurements of a runner, something we all obsess over. In my opinion the statistical nature of our sport is both a blessing and a curse. Scientifically making training and race estimates accurate and more personalized. On the flip side race times, run distances, and paces turn people into headcases who don’t know how to run based on feel or effort nor how to just compete during a race.
While I still highly value this data for fine tuning and race specific workouts, especially in track, I have found much success in using more effort and time based training in both coaching and my personal plans. This works very well for cross country, road racing, and base phases regardless what you are working towards.
It has been my experience that this type of training helps more with the mental part of running and teaches one how to push when the going gets tough. I feel that being gritty and toughness, both physical and mental, has just as much if not more bearing on how you will preform than fitness alone.
Being able to just go out there and having the ability to simply compete and push when the going gets tough is one of those intangibles that is difficult to teach and often you have it or you don’t. Effort based training is great for trying to develop this in athletes.