Ah, running. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying it keeps you fit. But like most forms of exercise, only if you push yourself.

When we first start running everything is an achievement. You do your first mile. Then you reach 5K. And the dizzy heights of 10K after that.

But your body is a conniving git. It will absorb those initial efforts and make you fitter. It will let you lose some timber. You’ll feel great.

Then, it’ll all stop.

Well, not all of it. It’s better to keep moving, of course. But the fitness and weight loss will slow down. Right down.

So, you have to go back to all that panting and sweating malarky.

Intensity

Intensity is the word. When you push hard during. run, you are turning burning. It makes you stronger. It boosts your cardiovascular system and the benefits will come.

You can keep plodding.

But if you do, don’t expect to get any faster. And don’t expect to get much fitter.

Ramping up the intensity of some of your runs will do wonders for your pace.

There is a formula you can use across a week of running to sort this out.

Quantity, quality, frequency

Here’s how this little formula works:

  • Quantity - how many miles you run
  • Quality - the intensity of the run
  • Frequency - how often you run

Easy, right?

You decide how many days you are going to run (frequency) then how far each run will be (quantity). Then, you choose which sessions are going to hurt (quality).

There’s an easy way to do this.

You can use something called the Borg scale. Or:

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

It’s a scale that runs from 6 to 20.

A 6 means sitting on your arse doing nothing. while 20 means running so hard your eyeballs are out on stalks.

So, when planning the quality part, some workouts need to be in the 13-17 range (somewhat hard to very hard) while others ought to be 10-13 level (light to harder).

The scale might seem like a bit of a faff at first. But when you get used to the numbers, it’s a great way to test that you are pushing hard - sometimes.

Perceived what?

I’ll explain what is meant by perceived exertion. It means:

How knackered you felt during the run

Sort of. It’s a guide to say that the data my running app caught is one thing, but the way the workout felt is something else. The RPE scale catches the something else factor.

You make a judgement about how the workout felt.

Heart rate zones

Another useful measure of workout intensity is the heart rate zone. Most popular running apps use data sent to them from your running watch to track this.

The idea is simple: on a workout where you want high intensity, you aim to get in zone 4 and 5. Where you want maximum output you run hard enough to have your heart trying to jump out of your chest. Zone 56 is the anaerobic zone - where you are maxed out in terms of effort.

I’ll be adding a post about this next so I’ll save the detail for then.

Running like you mean it…

So, running like you mean it is all about pushing yourself hard - at least a couple of times a week. The idea being, that you continue to build your ability to run faster.

A slow plod is ok sometimes. A steady run is also fine. But you do need to push the intensity to build your fitness and burn the fat.