A Not So Serious Guide To Effort
Run by feel, not by pace. It’s one of the biggest things runners can do to get faster, build volume and fall in love with the process.
But, for athletes who are unsure of how, exactly, things should feel, here’s a guide that uses music to help you settle into a rhythm, no matter if you’re on a recovery run or hammering out a workout.
Don’t try to match the beat of the music, match the feel. After all, it’s not a pace we’re looking for but a *vIbE*. The goal is to help you find an effort level by focusing on how it should make you feel, and moving away from being dependent on data and numbers. Afterall, numbers may lie, but Ginuwine and Lizzo tell the truth.
Recovery is sexy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Recovery is an effort that is void of any effort, much like the smooth tones of Ginuwine’s crooning. You should finish a recovery effort feeling fresh and recharged, exactly the way you would feel after a couple of minutes of smooth body-rolls to R&B legend’s 1996 debut smash hit. Smooth and sexy, lean on recovery effort after big workouts or when you’re feeling fatigued. No pace is too slow for recovery.
Easy effort is fully conversational, a pace where you could holla at shorties ALL. DAY. LONG. I call this my “Usher Pace”. If you can’t sexy-whisper along to the lyrics while you’re cruising the streets, you’re going too hard. This is the effort we run the majority of our runs at. Your easy pace shouldn’t change if you’re running four miles or 20 miles. Easy means easy, not the absence of pain. On these runs, easy is not a speed, but a vIbE. You want no strain or stress. Sometimes, that might be very slow. Other times, it might start slow and end faster when you feel effortless and smooth. Don’t overthink it. Keep it smooth, keep it sexy, keep it sustainable. Easy running embodies the quiet confidence of Usher’s 1997 smash hit.
For a steady-state effort, you should be able to string together a couple of sentences, like Lil John (OH YEAH!), but not too much more. Steady-state is like cresting a wave, you can ride it for a bit, but not all night. This is an easy-moderate effort, like when YOUR SONG comes on, and you hit the dance floor, you’re feeling yourself, but you’re not going all out because the night is young. It’s that fine line where you know you could sustain the effort, but you’re not about to spill your drink. Similiar to the musical stylings of Pitbull, you can really only handle concentrated, intentional doses of steady-state.
Here, we’re about to get TURNT UP. Traditional tempo runs are often around one-hour race effort, or approximately lactate threshold. But I like to think of it as my SWAG THRESHOLD 🔥 . Lactate threshold is approximately the effort range when the body begins to produce more lactate than can be cleared while staying at the same effort level. This is your one-hour effort because mortals cannot sustain Lizzo’slevel of SWAG indefinitely. It should be comfortably hard, but hardly comfortable. You shouldn’t be conversational, but you should still be able to holler “YASS KWEEN” at your bad self.
Here’s where shiz gets real. An interval is close to an all-out effort, but it’s not a sprint. It should feel smooth, and somewhat sustainable. To quote Swedish Pop-Goddess Robyn “It hurts so goooood”. The effort should be consistent, and you shouldn’t fade substantially within the interval. You should rarely go faster than the pace you’d run for a mile or 3K except in shorter strides (see below). When in doubt, slow down. These efforts are intense, but not explosive. You should be able to do it again, and again, and again.
This song is intentionally obnoxious because honestly, you should not be able to handle more than 4-5 sets of 20-30 seconds of this. This is all out, running from whatever these guys are running from. Again, it’s not a sprint and it should still feel smooth. From your easy pace, accelerate smoothly and efficiently, reaching stride pace as quickly as possible while avoiding sudden shifts. Then, after 20 or 30 seconds, fall back to your easy pace (be sure not to decelerate sharply or jog more slowly than normal between strides). Much like “Sandstrom” the human body is really only capable of handling so much, so use sparingly and intentionally. (This is roughly the effort you would hit to evacuate the dance floor if “Sandstorm” were ever to come on.)