Some of you may be reading this post thinking “What in the world is a PACE workout?”. Others may be thinking “I’m not trying to be super fast, I’m happy with my current pace.” Hopefully at least a few of you can back me up on saying that PACE workouts are a huge benefit to any runner.
If that is a new term to you the simple definition I would use is: Pace refers to the speed at which you are running, so a Pace workout is a workout that focuses on the speed more than distance or anything else. Pace workouts can be very structured like the Asics Pace Academy Challenge I have been doing on Thursdays or they can be very organic. The Asics Pace Academy is a six workout plan that has you go through different types of pace workouts with the goal of getting you to finish with a 5K PR at the end. I am not overly concerned with a 5K PR, but I need to increase my pace on my runs to get my half marathon PR and this has been very effective.
If you aren’t into plans or things being overly structured you can make up your own pace workout as you go. The simplest form of pace workout is probably the weirdest running term I have ever heard, fartlek. With fartleks, you simply run at your normal pace and periodically pick up the pace to 80-90% effort and run for a period of time. Then back down to your normal pace for a while and repeat as you wish. A great way to do this would be to pick one of your weekday runs and run normal for the first mile, do fartleks for the next mile or two and then normal again for a cool down mile.
If you want to be just a little more structured head out to the track at EKU and do some 400m repeats. 400m is one lap around the track. The workout would consist of doing a warm up lap or two around the track and then do a lap faster than you would like but something that you can complete (maybe 75% effort). The next 400m do slower than your normal pace (considerably slower) to give your body time to recover. Then repeat your fast lap again.
The reason you want to do some of these pace workouts is that it teaches your body new things. Your legs learn what if feels like to turnover at a new rate. Your lungs learn that they can recover from being pushed hard and do it all over again. Your mind learns that even when everything else wants to stop you can push that last little bit and feel accomplished. Doing these types of workouts regularly will change how you run. It isn’t just designed to make fast runners faster. It works just as well for beginners. The pace may be different, but the increases are still increases.
Give it a try. Go out there and pick a tree out in the distance and run to it like it’s the finish line. When you get there instead of stopping slow down and let your body recover for a bit. Then do it again. Over the last couple months as I have been doing the Asics Pace Academy Challenge I have taken my 3 miles training runs from 9:10 to 9:20 pace all the way down to the point that this morning my 3-mile run was at 8:00 per mile. That wasn’t a pace workout that I was trying to push hard that is just what my body carried me at. Pace workouts do work. If you want help coming up with a plan for your workouts let me know. We would be happy to help.