How I Learned to Pace Myself
I was talking with someone the other day about pacing and I remembered that I used to have a terrible time whenever I would run outside without the help of a trusty treadmill. I had no idea how to pace myself and would run like Sonic the Hedgehog.
This would be fine in the beginning until I was winded and felt like I was going to throw up. When I would get to this point it was impossible for me to keep running, even at a slower pace, and I would simply have to stop to get my heart rate down and my breathing under control.
Throughout my years of running, I have found a couple things that have helped me fall into my natural pace:
1. Running on a treadmill
I know that some people have an aversion to treadmills, but for me this has been the most helpful instrument in learning how to pace my runs. A treadmill keeps your pace consistent and allows you to get in touch with how your body feels at a certain pace. Since I hate running in the cold, a treadmill is my best friend in the winter. I am able to get months of consistent runs in which allows me to know how my body responds to a certain pace.
Once I have found what pace is comfortable for me, I pay attention to my breathing and my body during those times on a treadmill. When I go from the treadmill to running outside, I know that I am running at a comfortable pace if my body is responding in the same way. If I start becoming short of breath, I know I need to slow down some to get things back to normal.
2. Having a heart rate monitor or device that tracks my pace
I don’t have a heart rate monitor because I just don’t care that much about monitoring it. I can feel if my heart rate is too high because I start having trouble breathing and feel sick. There are different heart rate levels that people aim to maintain for different purposes such as cardio training vs. fat loss, but I don’t pay attention in that much detail.
What I do like to track is my distance and time per mile (pace). I have a Fitbit and a Garmin watch, so I have been able to track my runs on there and subsequently my pace. There are also other apps such as Map My Run which does the same thing. I know what my comfortable pace is, so by paying attention to those devices each mile, I know if I am running too fast or too slow based on my goal.
Those are the main things that have helped me learn what is comfortable for me. One drawback that I have found in consistently running on a treadmill, however, is that (for me) it can also limit my ability. It is very easy to set the pace to something you are comfortable with and just run. Unless you challenge yourself by increasing the speed sometimes, it is difficult to improve.
For the longest time I was comfortable running a 10 min mile and thought that that was the best I could do. I was fine with that, but once I started running outside, I realized that my mile times started to decrease over time. The treadmill is great for helping you maintain a set speed and not slow down, but it also prevent you from speeding up. Some days I had more energy than others and was able to run faster. By running outside, I’ve decreased my mile times to between 9 and 9:30 miles. A couple of my miles last weekend were actually sub 9 minutes!
I hope everyone has a great weekend and make sure to get outside and move!!
Question of the day: How do you pace yourself?