The Marathon: Part IV - The "Run"

My suggested training regimen describes the following different kinds of running workouts:
  1. Run
  2. Tempo Run
  3. Easy Run
  4. Fartlek Training
  5. Track Workout
I've promised to cover each one of these in greater depth as we come to them. Tonight's workout is a forty-minute run, so today I'll give you an idea of how to approach the basic run.

The Subjective Intensity Scale
Different experts have different approaches to the idea of workout intensity. Some, like Sean Burch, make use of a subjective intensity scale. For example, I could describe an arbitrary scale of 1 to 10, where 1 represents falling asleep and 10 represents running from a man-eating lion. We can imagine, then, that the lower half of the scale is reserved for sedentary activities; the upper half is for workouts and other such activity. 

It is tempting to suggest that an easy run is a 6, race pace is a 10, and the basic run is an 8; but that's not exactly how it works. A marathon runner should only ever approach 10 when nearing the finish line, or during some track workouts; in all other instances 10 is a waste of valuable energy. 9 would be something like your marathon goal pace. 8 is more like tempo pace, 7 is average, and 6 is an easy run.

On a subjective intensity scale, then, tonight's run should be forty minutes at 7/10, or a 70% intensity level. Have a look at the "Legend" tab of my Workout Document to keep track of intensity level.

Now Forget What I Just Said
Having said all that, I seldom reference subjective intensity scales myself. Part of the problem is that, left to our own devices, we'll never push ourselves hard enough. We tend to be convinced that we're at a 7 if we're breaking a sweat. That makes easy runs no different than a brisk walk and tempo runs not nearly difficult enough to achieve our goals. How do you get around that?

One way is to "add 0.5 to everything." If you think you're running at 7, force yourself to run 7.5. If you think you're running 7.5, force yourself up to 8.0. This isn't a perfect solution, but it can be very helpful when you're doing pace work (and especially once we start fartlek training).

My preferred option, though, is a bit more organic. For the basic run, don't think too much about intensity. In fact, don't think about intensity at all. A basic run is the speed you would have run had you simply felt like going for a run.

On Tuesday, we'll be going for our first tempo run, so I'll be sure to provide more organic descriptors of what is perhaps my favorite workout.