Run Your Workouts by Effort

Running is supposed to be simple, right? If you run, you are a runner. If you want to be a better runner, you just need to run more. If you want to be a faster runner, you need to spend just a little bit of time running faster.

When you do speed workouts, the goal isn’t to finish those workouts with your hands on your knees feeling like you gave it everything you had. You’ll want to save that kind of effort for race day.

When we wear a watch, and the numbers don’t line up with our effort, we can question our abilities and our goals. If the effort was there, that’s what matters. That’s how we make progress and get faster.

How to Pace for 5k Effort

For runners with a 5k time over 20 minutes, 5k effort is comfortably hard*. The perceived effort should be 5—6** on a scale of 10 (10 is the effort you could hold for about a minute).

Because of the psychological systems used at different effort levels, it is easier to run much faster than 5k pace when the repetition distance is short enough that it can be completed in under 5 minutes. Continually imagine that you are racing for 3.1 miles, not just to the next cone (or lap around a track).

Bottom line—your effort matters more than any number. You determine how hard or how easy to run, when to speed up or when to slow down. You determine your pace. Your watch does not.

*yeah, I’ve never thought of a 5k as comfortable in any way either. So just realize that comfortably hard is a notch below very hard.

**Runners with a 5k time under 20 minutes complete a 5k utilizing a different physiological system and their target effort level for a 5k would be rated as 7—8 or very hard.

How we determine the number of repetitions

Our LRC workouts target a specific distance each week—versus timed intervals. In a timed interval workout, if everyone ran 6 x 2 minutes fast, with 4 minutes walking recovery, everyone would do the same 36-minute workout and will have run 12 minutes at 5k effort. To do the same for workouts based on distance, we vary the number of repetitions.

If runner A takes 3 minutes to run the interval, and runner B requires 2 minutes, then runner A would do 4 repetitions and runner B would 6 repetitions. In the end, both runners have completed 12 minutes at the target effort level.

Some days, a runner will feel like they can do one more repetition and be invigorated, other days, one less rep is the smarter decision. Don’t trudge through a rep with bad form just because someone said that you should be able to do 6 reps. Fatigue can be from running too fast or it can be from a combination of other factors: weather, sleep habits, nutrition, hydration, stress, etc.

As the repetition distance increases, the number of repetitions will decrease. The total time of harder effort will increase slightly over the 10 weeks of this 5k training cycle.

Running by Effort, Not Pace