Runner’s Are Wont to Worry: Make sure you’re stressing over the RIGHT paces

Runners seem to like to worry. Perhaps it’s a bit of the self masochism in us, on some level we must like to hurt, so it makes sense the same attraction is there for worrying. Our brains never seem to never be happy, or feel quite right, unless we’re preoccupied with something troublesome. [Why it has to be a negative is a topic for a post of another day!]

Am I doing enough? Is that a ‘new’ pain? Is that an INJURY?! Did I go out to fast? Am I doing too much? Should I ice that again? etc…etc. A common one is worrying about paces.
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Well that’s only natural, of COURSE runners worry about paces…and they should. Paces are numbers, they are concrete, they are the benchmarks that tell us if we’re heading in the right direction, if all of this work is paying off. For runners, numbers are what show us progress. Paces, times, the black and whites of our sport are what feed that runner’s OCD-neurotic monster. It fuels our motivation.

Runners thrive on numbers. So paces and miles, naturally. The problem is worrying stressing over the WRONG numbers. Let’s make a deal:

DO worry about the paces of your hard runs, races, and workouts.
DON’T worry about the paces of your easy runs.

Ahhh, there we go. Easy in concept but quite a different beast to wrestle when applied to the never-logical runner’s brain. 😉
It’s far too easy to get sucked into thinking all paces are created equal. They AREN’T. They don’t hold races for ‘easy’ days…they could but then why not just make it a real race?

You see, it’s the hard running that counts. It’s the fast running that counts for PR’s. Let’s force logic onto our running brains here:

If you want to run FAST then the days that COUNT are the HARD ones.

How do you make sure your legs and body are recovered and prepared to run fast and hard on the days that count? Well, make sure they are able to recover between hard workouts. That means your easy days need to be run at whatever pace it is that allows them to recover.

Simple. Logical. But simple and logical sometimes get mangled in the runner’s brain.

So next time your brain starts off on a manic stress-induced worry attack because *HOLY CRAP* the pace of my easy run was soooo slow. STOP. Pause. Ask yourself this:

What was the pace of my last hard workout or race?

If the answer was that the pace was in the direction you want your running to go, if it’s showing progress…then who the flip cares about your easy day pace?!

Stress about what matters.

If your runner brain must worry about something pick something a little more benign. Maybe worry about the fact that your watch tan is blinding me.

1) The runner brain often can struggle with simple and logical, what’s another instance you have?

2) How do you keep your hard and easy day paces separate and at the right effort level?

3) Some run watchless, do you go naked on some of your easy days?
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10 thoughts on “Runner’s Are Wont to Worry: Make sure you’re stressing over the RIGHT paces

  1. So I am reading this with my head hung in shame. This is one of my biggest problems. I get so stuck on the numbers and feel like my easy pace should be a certain pace when really the only thing it should be is easy. I like the idea of only focusing on the speed work and if that performance isn’t dropping then let the easy just be easy! Oh man I can’t wait for my next training cycle and to fix this flaw! Who knows what it will mean to my times?!?!?!

    • haha…ditto what i said to mark. 😉 but really, with runners and numbers it’s really an on-going process of remembering/reminding/re-remembering this. 🙂
      PS- i’m just as excited for u to start harnessing that speed demonette!

  2. AHHHHHH! Yes. How do I beat this into the brains of my runners? My new rule (for a few individuals) is: “You can only brag about your Easy pace if you’re bragging about how CLOSE it is to the (slow, conservative) Easy pace I prescribed for you. Bonus points if it was slower!”

    The best argument I can provide to those who won’t listen to reason is that running slower = more time on your feet = good for training. That’s by no account the #1 reason for slow runs, but if it works, it works.

    I wear my watch on easy days, but don’t really care what it says. I just like to have an accounting of distance and pace. 🙂 And interestingly, I think trail running did wonders for teaching me to run by feel, rather than pace – and to stop caring what my Garmin says. Uneven terrain and lots of hills and tricky footing mean that perceived effort is totally different from pace. Yet another reason to get off the road and into the woods! 🙂

    • that trick with the watch is what i think is the perfect comprise for not feeling quite comfy to go naked…and what i suggest. it’s nice to have the Garmin there for reference but not even looking at it during the easy run is a GREAT way to not get sucked into the numbers game. 🙂

  3. I try not to pay attention to my pace and splits on my long run days but I must admit, I absolutely pay attention lol. Sometimes I end up speeding up more than I should during easy runs simply because I feel that I can (or to chick some random guy).

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