I first issued this little nugget of advice a few months ago in my ‘Tip of the Week’ column on the MYP Facebook page.
Aiming for the widest possible variation in pace between your fastest and slowest miles in your weekly training schedule is a very solid rule of thumb for determining the basis of a good training plan. It can also be phrased as the easy days easy, hard days hard approach to training, and by consciously slowing down your easy runs, you will indirectly speed up your key run sessions.
One of the biggest traps which runners fall into is going out the door and just running the same pace day after day. The easy days easy, hard days hard approach to training on the other hand confers two distinct advantages.
Firstly, by slowing down the pace of your easy runs, you ensure that you are fresher for your key sessions, and that you recover and adapt better from these key sessions after you have completed them. This is what drives real benefits in performance.
Secondly, one of the most significant advances in running science in recent years has been to show that you actually derive greater benefits from running extra slowly on an easy day, than you do from running a little quicker on these easy days. If you are a 20 minute 5k runner, then easy runs at 6:00 pace per k will lead to greater increases in capillary and mitochondria development than easy runs at 5:00 pace per k. Capillaries and mitochondria are the microscopic entities that are the foundations of the body’s aerobic system, but more on that in a later blog post.
If you’re still unsure, then just ask yourself how is it that elite marathoners can run 3 minute kilometres on a hard day, and then equally as impressively run as slow as 6 minute kilometres on an easy day. Remember, that both the hare and the tortoise have their day! There is a very important place for both within your training schedule. In all of the tailored training programmes which I write, I keep this nugget of advice in mind.