Effort and Time V’s Speed and Distance

When I first started running all training sessions were ‘Speed and Distance’ type training sessions I.E: I would go out and run 6 mile @ 9min miles or 12 miles at 11min mile pace etc. In fact I was almost obsessed at running a given distance at a given pace.

But over the last few months I have totally changed my approach to training – now based on a 6-Level ‘Effort and Time’ approach, where each level is a heart rate range. I.E: I now go out and do 3hrs at level 1 or 45mins at level 5 etc

This new approach has seen an improvement in times for most of my race distances. And has led to some lively ‘discussions’ at my running club (especially with a few of the vets)

What are your views on these two approaches and / or do you have a different approach



  • WW

    I think there is a big danger in trying to overanalyse training and I think your 'levels' based thoery is probably a more scientific approach to the word defentions used in most training manuals e.g. easy, steady, tempo, hard etc. etc. It seems to me that most mid-pack runners need three training sessions a week where the effort should be reaonably well defined (long run, tempo run, and intervals/hills) but the rest of the runs should not be too prescritpive otherwise there is a danger of always trying to run close to a watch / HRM all the time which can be demotivating.

    Similarly, I only have one running route that is measured because I know if I run for and hour thats 7-8 miles and thats good enough for me, it doesn't really matter if its 7.1 or 7.9 miles - its an hour run and thats how it goes in my diary.

    The only time I really test myself is in races and I (usually) race often enough that I can track any improvement. I am ambitious but I'm never going to win and therefore I don't need the level of accuracy.
  • NessieNessie ✭✭✭
    My training tends to be formed around time and route rather than anything else - i.e "I'm going out to do X route, and I'll be about an hour" so that Mr Nessie knows where I am and when I'll be back. I have 2 routes that I time regularly to chart progress - a 2.1 mile hilly and 7 mile down-flat-up. PBs so far are 19:39 and 1hr13mins. I'm aiming (after Loch Ness) to do each one once a month, and graph the results (SAD OR WHAT!), other than that, Martin's methods sound spot on.

    If it's working for you, why change it?
  • Nessie

    There is nothing sad about graphing progress; I love analysing the figures from various training sessions – from average speed on the bike through to my heat rate every 30 seconds throughout a Triathlon or road race

    Come to think of it – I may also be sad ;o)

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    That makes 3 of us WW. My training log plots and graphs almost everything imaginable. I've even gone as far as to log average weekly running pace and fitness levels based on average heart rate and average pace.

    I do like your approach, although it could be seen as a bit complex for most people. Like Martin says - if you have your 3 or 4 weekly key sessions you can't really go wrong. But if it works for you...
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    I tend to train under the manuals approach of steady , easy and effort paced runs. I run mostly measured routes although they may not be 100% accurate. I know how long it should take me to run each of these routes using the different paces and how I will feel at the end.

    I time myself on my routes occasionally when doing an effort run and on repeats. In the winter I take part in a once a month time trial with my running club over 3 miles.

    If I timed myself every run I would soon become fed up as some days an effort run may not be much more than a steady paced run, but on that day it's an effort, if you see what I mean. However, I wouldn't class that kind of run as a quality run.
  • GodzillaGodzilla ✭✭✭
    I analyse everything - except HRate - big graphs - distance time - effort etc - i've got about 30 routes and about 20 of them are measured so i'm pretty up to date - if i had an HR monitor i'd measure it too. (Ok I am sad, but i'm a business analsyst - at least its more interesting than financial data.)

    - I don't find my progress demotivating, even if i'm having a bad time of it - I'd rather know how badly I was doing than just knowing i did badly. It's like playing golf and not counting your score. Sometimes every game I play seems worse than the last, yet the more i play the more i actually improve over time - on avereage i've improved my handicap by 3-4 shots this summer.
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    By the way there's nothing wrong with analysing your progress. I do it too, just maybe not so thoroughly or scientifically!

    I also log in my diary the miles on each pair of my training shoes as a running total. It's good for seeing how long each pair lasts etc.
  • Perhaps I should qualify also by saying that I USED to be absolutely obsessed to a similar level to the extent where I would go for a run the afternoon after a race just to log the extra 3 miles I needed to make 50 for the week (or so). Like most things (the stock market for example!) its all great when things are going well but if the graph suddenly turns downward then it could be quite depressing.

    Motivation is a strange thing and I agree that if your methods work for you then go for it.
  • This year I decided to abandon my training log altogether - actually it wasn't me that decided, it was my PC hard drive which died with everything on it (not backed-up, of course - who backs up their training log?!?).

    Anyway, whatever the reason, I actually feel much better about my running than when I obsessively plotted my progress, and I seem to have improved just as much this way, if not more so. I can totally sympathise with the graph addicts, but I was finding that I couldn't just "go out for a run" without a watch and a HRM and all the anxiety that brings - you always want to run a known route faster than before, and the simple fact is it's not possible.

    Running without measuring anything is really worth doing from time to time, cos it puts you back in touch with what's really important about running which is that it quite simply makes you "feel good" like no other sport I know.

    Having said that, I've just this week got back into the whole HRM thing and will doubtless be back to my obsessive ways by the weekend. Oh well. s.
  • Speaking of HRM's and logging n' stuff, Drew, is there any chane that you could mail me your training log, so I can see these graphs that plot HR and other variables. Its just that I recently got a polar s610+pc interface, and I only use it in fits and spasms, as I've got no idea what to log from it really. Of course, I understand if you object/would rather not mate...
    Actually, come to think of it, Id appreciate a look at anyones training logs, if they're rather proud of them. It'd be useful in a) updating my own PC log (havn't used it ina while, reverted to papyrus script), and b) as experience of analysing training programs, as a level 1 UKA coach (level 2 wannabe! :) )
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    KK, I'm currently working on next year's log which has a few additions to it. It's a "simple" excel spreadsheet. Once I've finished and trialled it I'll be happy to provide a copy to anyone who wants it.

    What sort of things would you (or anyone else) like on a training log?

    As I do a bit of crosstraining it also takes into account cycling sessions as well. I was thinking about adding a weight training column, not for specific exercises but for time spent.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Just as an addition; to use my training log to its full potential you would have to have a basic knowledge of using excel spreadsheets.
  • At the moment I am training for my first marathon at the end of October. It is just recently that I have started mixing my running up properly, threshold, VO2 and long runs with a couple of recovery runs between. The main problem I have is that I work offshore and whilst getting an hour session in on the treadmill is usually not a problem, not many others are up at 4a.m. I feel the endurance side suffers a bit after a couple of weeks. The difficulty is in trying not to over compensate when I get back home. Logging ay sessions helps a bit, heart rate monitoring helps more than I thought it would, graphs? Not sure about that, people think I am sad enough as it is before covering the walls with pie charts.
  • Sarcy1

    Running for an hour on a treadmill offshore at 4am takes impressive mental stamina. The main excitement (from memory) is watching out for the yellow air pressure warning light if someone leaves the door open, as power then gets cut off and you fly full tilt into the metal wall opposite. Hopefully you are on a newer platform with the gym in the main accomodation area!

    The most motivating chart I have used was minutes per week and weight vs time. These days I am in the "sad" club of those who download their heart rate after every session. Overlaying races like 10ks or half marathons is entertaining.
  • Trainspotters, eat your hearts out. I love this running navel gazing, it's reassuring to read of everyone's obsessive streaks manifesting themselves slightly differently.
    Two things: I'm crap at judging pace and I suspect using the wretched HRM doesn't help develop judgement about pace at all. I don't have a watch that measures split times, and haven't worked out the mile points of my routes so I only know at the end what my av pace has been. And I'm lucky to live in a place where I could run at least 10-12 different 4-7 mile routes from my doorstep. Variety is the spice of life! But one of my running partners runs one of 3 loops all the time and when he's marathon training he just runs several loops of the same, that would drive me crazy.

    Training logs: mine is still hand written into one that fell out of RW one month. I often write notes about who I ran with, weather, if it felt particularly good or bad. I find it really useful to look back on times for routes and HR, since therein lies some sense of progress that would otherwise only be noted during races.
    My racing data is typed into a spreadsheet showing distance, time, av heart rate, av min/mile, position as % of field, women and women in my age category, assuming this details is included in the race results. Agree with Achilles though, never lose the sense of running for pleasure, that's where we all started isn't it?
  • Laura -

    I think you're spot on about HRM's and pacing.

    Firstly, an HRM is not a speedometer and one day you can be running above your "normal" heart rate for a specific pace and another day below it, depending on a whole range of factors. And in races you don't get rewarded for hitting specific heart rates, you get rewarded for hitting specific paces.

    Secondly, over-reliance on the HRM means that, as you say, you don't develop that precise intuitive judgement of how fast you are actually running which is absolutely essential to good pacing under race conditions.

    I know it doesn't make as much sense physiologically, but personally I get much more phychological benefit from knowing that I've trained at a particular pace that I've been aiming for, rather than limiting myself (sensibly) to a specific BPM. I then know that I'll be able to hit those paces again when I need to - and with accuracy at that.
  • Achilles, your argument makes a lot of sense, but then I'm having a downer on HR this week. I guess it depends on motivation and running level - at your level a sense of pace must be crucial to getting your time goals achieved. Because I run lots of different routes and terrain, pace is generally much less important than effort level, but that is not consistent with wanting to improve my 1/2 m time!

    I've only trained within any kind of structure this year (marathons will pitch you into running nerd territory even if you're not there already) and I found the HRM brilliant for helping me judge effort and different intensities. I used it during the marathon too, since I knew by then what HR was sustainable for long distance whereas pace involves taking a bigger risk - what if on that day a given pace requires a greater than normal effort for some reason, and you blow up?
    That said, with experience I might have got just as comfortable a feel for pace/effort without it.
    It's interesting comparing notes though - a guy I worked with recently had several years worth of HR data stored on his computer. I asked how he used it - he didn't, he just likes keeping records.
  • Laura -

    You're right about the risk of not racing "within your limits", as it were, i.e. the HRM route - you do stand a good chance of blowing up. However, if you don't at some stage push the limits and race beyond your comfort zone, you'll never know what you might be capable of - and that's the interesting part!

    Having said that, it's probably not a bad idea to get used to racing the distances initially with the HRM (I did the same myself), so you get a rough idea of what you can handle - I'd just advocate doing without it after a while and simply going for it.

    Loved your story about the guy who simply kept his records and never looked at them - people are weird!
  • Whenever I use my HRM I find that my ranges vary quite a lot even if I am running at the same pace, does this mean I should be running slower to get my rate down to target or as Achilles says just ignore it and more or less run as you feel you can.
    At the moment I have a very basic HRM, upper lower limits and that is about it, if I wanted to get a better model any recomendations?
  • Sarcy1 -

    actually I said try to ignore the HRM "during races". I think it serves a useful purpose in a) stopping you going too fast on what should be easy training runs, and b) keeping you up to speed on tempo runs where the heart effort is fairly critical.

    I've just bought the Polar S210 which is great on functions (intervals are great, plus you can set three heart rate ranges qhich seems very useful). The transmitter isn't as reliable as I was hoping - it seems very susceptible to electro-magnetic interference and is quite slow to respond to changes in pace. I guess the interference thing is one of the many downsides of running in a big city.
  • I don’t think you should ignore you HRM during training – if training is to be effort based the priority should be the effort expended on the run (IE HR) not the pace of the run – one of the biggest mistakes especially during recovery runs is to say that:

    “The pace at the given HR is too slow and I feel comfortable running just a bit faster”

    This is a classic scenario that leads to over training and not giving proper attention to recovery

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