How do you Train: By Pace or Effort?

Up until recently, I have always trained by Pace. You know, like 10:00 minutes per mile or a “10 Minute Pace”. For running, it’s pretty simple, you figure what time you want to finish a race in, like a marathon and then you back figure to find the average Pace you need to run to hit that number.

Example, if you want to finish a Marathon (26.2 miles) in 4 hours, then the pace is a 9:09, or you need to average 9 minutes and 9 seconds per mile to hit the 4-hours.

But when using Pace as the basis for Training, we are always having to make adjustments to the pace. Like the chart below shows, when the Dew Point (Humidity) rises, our expected pace falls off drastically.

So what was an “Easy” effort on a cool morning with a 50 degree dew point to hit a 9:09 pace, now becomes an extremely difficult or impossible effort, when the dewpoint is in the 70’s. So what happens, we adjust our Pace.

Another point, what about wind and terrain, like hills? It takes a certain amout of effort to run a 9:09 pace with the wind, but what what about a head wind or running up hills, what do we do, we adjust the pace.

When Covid hit and my Marathon (Glass City) was canceled, I took this opportunity to move from Pace based to Effort (RPE) based training. With the help of my Coaches at TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition, I have been learning to use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion or Effort)

For the last 5+ months, none of my workouts, running or on the bike, have been “Pace” based. I have been using the RPE scale.

What’s so nice about this is there are no adjustments required. RPE 7 is the same weather you are working out in 50 degree dew point or 70 dew point, in a strong head wind or no wind. Your pace will be different, but what really matters is how much Effort you put into it.

It takes some getting used to. It really gets you to understand your body and what you’re capable of. You really don’t even need a fancy watch with all of the data points, its really just about “Time in a certain RPE Zone”.

A typical run workout might look like:

30 – 40 minutes, Zone 2 (Easy warm up, focus on form)

20 minutes Zone 4 ( a bit harder)

10 minutes Zone 7 (Solid hard effort while maintaining good form)

3-5 minutes in Zone 9 (Very hard effort)

10 – 15 minutes back in Zone 2 to cool down.

That’s a total of 1:30 minute workout

RPE may not be for everyone, but its been a real benefit for me. If you’re interested in learning more, my Coach Marni wrote a book on Triathlon training and it has more information on RPE Training or you can always reach out to her for more details

Until next time….

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