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Antonio Cabral
RE: 2 kinds of runners. Which are you?
How would I calculate the easy pace for our young punk?

I should not have to remind you (since we are the same age) than when we started training there were no such things as HRMs. Today, there are tons of gadgets for checking run effort and exercise intensity, including running pace. Everything from cheap stopwatches to good HRMs, all the way up to GPS devices!

In the old days, we had to learn to control pace intensity by a different process. One way for those with track access or access to a measured route was simply to run the same route daily and simply record the time each time. Knowing the distance and the time you could then calculate the average pace.

One way I used to estimate HR during an easy run was to stop every so often and take the HR (either at the heart or the carotid vein). Record it for 10 secs and multiply by six to get BPM (beats per minute). The rule-of-thumb then was the correct target HR zone for easy aerobic runs was 120-140 bpm, perhaps up to a max of 150 for young runners, or beginners, or someone who is out of shape.

Of course this method is not as accurate as wearing an HRM, but in their absence it was effective. The lack of HRMs did not stop those that wanted to train this way, and we used to use this method quite a lot before HRMs became inexpensive and in common use.

An HRM is a good resource from which we can get tremendous benefit to allow us to understand about different training zone paces, as well as analyse the cardiovascular model of training and control everything from easy pace to intense (but submaximal) paces; what some call LT, or Tempo training.

The cardiovascular model is good for a number of training situations; as with beginners or inexperienced runners. Also in the case(s) of those who train far away from their coach and cannot be observed by him, or are self-coached, or those who are not able to estimate training effort some other way.

But in my opinion, the runner that uses an HRM regularly should be using it to learn how to run “by feel” in the correct training zone. Every competition, and every attempt at improving performance, indeed every training stimulus needs to be guided by correct pace management whatever the workout distance or intensity. As the runner gets more and more experienced, they should also acquire the ability to know “by feel” that they are training/racing at the optimal effort. They should not have to rely on a device.

With a 1,000m test run, I would be able to tell with some accuracy the optimal pace at which our young punk should do his easy training sessions. However, it may be the case that he may not always have access to an accurately measured route to be sure he is training at the right intensity.

I believe that it is also true not to be governed too much by a HR prescription on any given day. Only the runner knows the optimal training pace on any given day. Why keep up to a specific HR zone if you know you feel tired? Why run slowly (just to keep to a HR zone) when you know you could run faster that day with no negative consequences?

What I want to emphasise is that although it can be interesting for our young punk or anyone else to use an HRM, they should also be learning how to run by feel because ultimately only he will know the best pace to do his easy runs, and he needs to learn how to know this “by feel” / intimately.

So, questions like: what pace, what intensity, how many miles, should the young punk run in his daily easy runs, I shall discuss in later posts. Before leaving I would just like to point out the need to individualise many aspects of everyone’s training.

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