If one of your training goals is to become faster, there are two basic ways to make it happen: either run higher mileage but at a slower pace or run faster, but cover less distance overall. The best way however, is to combine both of these ideas.
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We spoke to Montreal-based running coach and regular Canadian Running contributor John Lofranco to discuss the merits of running more versus running faster and how they can be combined to benefit you as a runner.
In order to improve, Lofranco says that you definitely need to apply both to your training.
“Beginners can benefit greatly from more easy running, mostly because they probably aren’t running much to begin with,” says Lofranco, “so they have lots of room to improve.” However, they can also benefit from faster running since they probably haven’t done much of that either. Lofranco suggests adding a bit more volume. You can do this by adding an extra run or a few extra kilometres on your existing run one week and then maintaining the volume the next week but add in some speed work. The other option is to build volume for a period of three to six weeks. Then, add in the faster work once you’ve developed a good base.
The convincing points:
The good thing about adding more easy running is that you get to run more. It feels good, it’s easy and it’ll help you improve. The downside is you might get a little bored with it and if you go too fast or increase your volume too quickly, you run the risk of getting hurt. Most beginners know how a little imbalance (say a sore knee or shin pain) can turn into a nagging injury. In general though, adding easier running– and again, it has to be easy— is a great way to improve your fitness and your race times.
The benefit of running fast is that your body will respond to this tougher stimulus and you’ll be able to pick up the speed. There are plenty of different workout configurations you can do, so there’s no risk of getting bored. However, if you’re not strong enough or haven’t built a sufficient base, you could again get hurt. “It’s easy to overdo it on speed, especially with limited experience” says Lofranco, “You might not quite know where your limits are and it’s easy to get carried away and go beyond them. And when you do, it’s likely that eventually, something snaps.”
Take Lofranco’s advice this spring and build up some easy running first and then add in a little faster stuff. This coach is willing to bet that this is the best way to get the most bang for your buck.