How Fast Should I Run?

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"I'm new to running and I'm not sure how fast I should be running. What's the right pace to run? Should I run at different paces, depending on how far I'm going?"

Many runners, especially beginners, are always curious about what pace they should be running. Most daily runs should be done at an "easy" pace. This is true for beginner runners, but also for more experienced runners. Running at a fast pace or high intensity for too many runs can lead to injury and burnout. You'll make more progress if you slowly build your running base at an easy pace. Even more advanced runners should only be doing speedwork once or twice a week.

What's an Easy Pace?

But what's the best way to establish what "easy" means? The best and simplest way to determine this is to run slow enough so that you can carry on a conversation. If you're running with someone, that means you should be able to speak in complete sentences, not just give "yes" or "no" answers. If you're running alone, you should be able to sing "Happy Birthday" without gasping for air. For some new runners, a conversational pace may mean doing a run/walk combination . You can alternate between intervals of running and walking, gradually increasing your run time and decreasing your walk time.

Benefits of Running at Conversational Pace

Running at conversational pace (also called base running), has lots of benefits, including: helps create a more efficient running style; helps your muscles to learn to burn fat more efficiently, receive and process oxygen better, and deal better with lactic acid; trains your heart and lungs to become more efficient at absorbing, delivering, and utilizing oxygen. Your running confidence will also increase as your endurance improves.

As a beginner, most of your runs should be at conversational pace. Don't worry about your pace per mile -- if you can pass the "talk test", you're running at the right speed.

When to Pick Up the Pace

As you build your endurance, you'll find that your conversational pace will naturally get faster. But once you build your fitness level and gain more experience as a runner, you may want to introduce a targeted, faster run once a week, such as a fartlek run or a tempo run, into your training. When you're ready to get started, make sure you follow these rules for adding speed work to your training to make sure you avoid injury. For example, you'll need to make sure you still do a proper warm-up before jumping into your speed workout.

Just be careful that you don't get too enthusiastic and start running at a fast pace for every workout. In particular, long runs should be done at an easy, conversational pace to make sure you can cover the distance. Even the most experienced runners don't run every workout at a hard effort.  They do easy-paced runs at least every other day to give their bodies a chance to recover and re-build themselves to be stronger.  Running hard every day could lead to injury as well as physical and mental burnout from overtraining.

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