How hard to you run? Do you run the same pace everyday? How fast do you run recovery runs? Ever wonder why you’ve done such “good” workouts and don’t perform up to what you think you should? Do you have a plan? Sometimes feeling run-down, having poor race performances or not improving could all be the result of what I call “Tweener Miles”. These are the miles that aren’t hard enough to be a quality workout, not easy enough to allow you to recover from hard workouts and not even your goal race pace – they are somewhere in between. Let me clarify here, Tweener Miles aren’t inherently good or bad, they are just not efficient – they are a waste of energy and may jeopardize end results.
A big mistake novice runners make is running all workouts at about the same pace (the pace is whatever happens to work for that day) and slowly increasing their miles. A more efficient way to getting fit is to run a variety of paces (specific to the person) over a variety of distances. Though it is true that up to about 20 miles per week, miles will have an excellent effect on your conditioning; so too will the variation of paces which will efficiently improve conditioning while helping keep variety in your training.
Recovery. Generally, recovery intensity is one at which you allow your body to strengthen and rebuild (Remember you break your body down in workouts and it gets stronger in the rebuilding/recovery process.) In well trained runners this pace roughly equates to a pace that is well slower than your marathon race pace (1:00-2:00 slower). On a scale of 1-10 (10 = killer pace) it might be 3.
Quality. Though you should not be crippled by soreness after a “quality” workout on the track you probably should feel some affects the next day. You should feel like and want to back off a bit to “recover” the next day. If your speed workouts aren’t producing some mild stiffness or soreness, they probably are a bit too easy. They could even become a faster version of Tweener Miles.
Goal. A goal paced workout is just what it sounds like. You run a shorter distance than your chosen race distance and run at your target pace. For 10k runners it might be 2-3 miles and for marathoners it should get up to 13-15 miles. For instance, if your goal pace is 6:45/mile; running a 6:15-mile then 7:15-mile doesn’t equal a 7:00/mile goal paced run. It is not an average pace, it is your pace for each mile. Your pace should not vary much in these efforts. You should not vary more than five or ten seconds on any mile from your goal pace (terrain excepting – uphills may be slower and downhills slightly faster). The goal is to train you to know your pace and to become an efficient runner at that pace. You need to be able to pick it out from the thousands in the race and in the artificially fast downhill starts (like Boston). If you don’t train at your goal pace it won’t magically appear on race day.
So let’s put this to work in a simplistic example for a 16:30 5K runner who runs about 35 miles per week: If I run 1:20 for 400 meter repeats on the track, that is my speed work (roughly 5k pace or 5:20/mile for many workouts). I then run 6:45/mile on my long run every other Saturday because that is my marathon goal pace. I also do a speedplay workout once a week where I vary pace and terrain – or another quality track workout. On alternating Saturdays I just run long. It should be in the 7:45-8:00/mile effort. Pace is less important on this workout because the goal is gaining endurance. And now what about the other two or three runs of 4-6 miles during the week? The biggest mistake is pacing these. They should be in the 7:45-8:00 range as a recovery run. For some of the more advanced runners, one of these will become a goal paced run. You are recovering as well as preparing for the next hard workout. If you don’t, you won’t be able to complete them as prescribed; you’ll end up injured; or, you’ll end up constantly over-fatigued! Resist the temptation to pick up the pace. Those are Tweener Miles. They may seem like quality, but they only tire you out and don’t contribute efficiently to your final goal. More miles won’t get you to your goal as efficiently as the right miles will.
Each one of these workouts have a pace range associated with it based on your current fitness level and goals. Every run should have a purpose.