I think it’s safe to say that most of us want to be better runners in the future than we are today.
At least I do.
Today I’m wrapping up this little three-part series by digging into the final common area where many runners could see improvement: intensity discipline.
What is Intensity Discipline?
My definition of intensity discipline is pretty simple.
Easy runs need to be easy. Hard runs should be hard.
Now, admittedly, not every runner is as simple-minded as I am.
So we can broaden this out a little more to include pace discipline as well.
Is it the same thing?
Not quite, but it’s close.
And quite frankly, if your intensity discipline is poor your pace discipline probably isn’t any better.
So with a little luck, whichever way you come at this you’ll get to the same result.
How to Improve Your Intensity Discipline
Not surprisingly, I advise using a heart rate strap to monitor your intensity during an easy run.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need to go all in on heart rate training to become a better runner.
Keeping an eye on your heart rate during a run keeps you honest about how hard you are working.
There are countless examples of runners thinking they are running easy whereas an objective measure, like heart rate, tells a completely different story.
In my experience, it’s a lot harder to lie to myself about whether or not I’m running easily when I look at my heart rate data vs when I just reflect on my impressions of a run.
Can you use the talk test? Or just make sure to run at an “easy” pace?
Provided, of course, you’re disciplined enough to adhere to those other measures.
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When It’s Time to Go Hard, Go Hard!
In general, more runners struggle with intensity discipline on their easy runs.
But it’s not uncommon for runners to slack off a bit on a hard run, either.
No, it’s not.
When you have a hard workout on your training schedule, it’s important to give it your best effort to get the most benefit from the workout.
That said, that doesn’t mean that every hard workout is an all-out effort.
As a general rule, the longer the hard segment of the workout the less intense your effort should be.
To put that another way, you’re going to push a lot harder for one-minute repeats than you would for one-mile repeats.
At least, you should.
So how do you make sure you push your hard workouts appropriately?
This is a lot trickier than just relying on heart rate, at least in my opinion.
And setting pace targets can be helpful but it’s not as simple as that for the same reason pace isn’t a great barometer of easy.
It’s ultimately up to you to push yourself on a hard workout.
Ideally, you are looking for an intensity level that you could push just a little longer than needed, maybe an extra 10 seconds or so.
If you could keep going at the same intensity for another 30+ seconds? Then you probably could have pushed just a little harder.
And if you blew up before finishing the hard interval? Then backing off, just a little bit, is what probably needed to be done.
It’s not easy to get sorted, to be sure.
But the closer you are to getting these efforts dialed in, the more growth you’re likely to see in your running.
Make It Obvious
The rule of thumb I give to the runners I coach about intensity for workouts is simple: make it obvious.
Meaning that when I look at their workout on Strava or whatever, I want to see a clear difference between the easy and hard parts of the workout.
If I can’t tell it a glance where we pushed, there’s a problem.
Maybe the hard wasn’t hard enough. Or the easy wasn’t easy enough.
A lot of times a bit of both.
Fix this, and you’ll get way more bang for your workout buck.
Put a Bow on It
You can be a better runner.
However you define it, I believe fully that it’s within your power to improve your running in the next 6-12 months.
There’s a pretty good chance that at least one of the areas we’ve discussed in the past few weeks will help you move forward.
Just remember one thing, improvement takes time.
Whether you’re pumping up the volume, focusing on consistency, or developing your intensity discipline, you won’t be a better runner overnight.
Shoot, you won’t be a better runner in a week or even a month.
Keep showing up. Keep doing the work.
And somewhere in the next 3-6 months, you’ll start to see the payoff.
How Do You Make Sure Your Runs are Completed at the Appropriate Level of Intensity?
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