Perceived Effort

Perceived effort is a scale of 1 to 10 used to determine how much effort you personally are putting into a run. This means you’re not running to meet a specific time goal such as a 8 minute mile or completing 10 miles in 90 minutes. Perceived effort means how much effort you feel you are putting into a particular run. What each point on the scale means is different for every person and for each run.

If you have a hard workout, your perceived effort will reflect that in the next days run because a pace that is easy for you will be more challenging to maintain. This is normal and in fact if it’s now happening you are either exceptional at recovery or you are not pushing yourself hard enough in your hard workouts.

Why do we use perceived effort to measure how difficult a run is or how hard we should be pushing on a particular day? it is more personal and therefore more effective for you as an individual runner. If you are working with a training program you pulled off the internet, it doesn’t account for you as an individual. It is made to work for a range of people. Perceived effort let’s you adjust on the move and from day to day.

If a workout is supposed to be hard, you know what hard feels like on that day and you can push yourself to that level. Hard workouts should be competed at a 7 or 8 on the perceived effort scale. There are few times you want to push all the way to 9 or 10, maybe the last quarter mile of a run or a race. Easy runs should be completed at a 3 or 4. Tempo runs should be done at a 5 or 6, hard but maintainable for 6 to 8 miles.

Running based on perceived effort helps you ensure that your training is going to have the intended impact. If you are always running at a high level, you don’t let your body recover. No recovery means no progress.

Is running by time rather than perceived effort useful? yes, in small doses. It is a good way to see how you are progressing in your training. Mostly running by time should reserved for races.

Block It

We all get stuck in a rut, but it can be really easy to do with your workout routine. I know I’m guilty of this on multiple occasions, with both my running and with my strength workouts.  There are a few problems with the rut: first, you don’t make any progress; second, you lose motivation; third, it’s boring!

The first is the most important for runners who want to improve. Not all runners want to improve. They are content running their six miles four days a week at a comfortable pace. That’s not me. I want to get better and I like to see progress. Even if improvement isn’t your think, staying motivated to get out there and not being bored the entire time should be enough for you to want to change things up every few weeks.

Many runners work through their training in blocks. Blocks can be four, six or eight weeks long and during each block you focus on a different aspect of your running. That doesn’t mean you drop other aspects of training, they just aren’t the focus point. Other runners switch things around by every other week. And still others, do a rotation over a ten-day period.

Strength Blocks: Starting a block rotation with strength is great because the number one goal of strength training for runners is to reduce risk of injuries. There are three types of strength training typically used by runners. First is body weight. This uses light weights or no weights with high repetitions. The idea is it builds strength and stability without the mass. Second is plyometrics. Plyometrics are explosive movements, such as jumping and springing. These are great but need to be implemented in small dosages especially at the beginning. Third is heavy lifting. Heavy lifting is low repetitions and max weight which strengths your connective tissue. Lifts should be done very slow and controlled. You’re runs during a strength rotation should be lower in intensity because you’re kicking up the intensity with strength training.

Speed Blocks: during your speed block you’re going to have an intense speed workout once a week and then throw in some fartleks during your long run. For your weekly intense session, choose different types of work outs. Don’t just do 800s. There’s nothing wrong with doing a week of 800s, just don’t make it an every week thing. Use pyramids, tempo runs, ladders, or 400s.

Hill Blocks: during your hill block you will have one run a week dedicated to running hills and then you’ll throw in extra hills for your long run. You can run hill repeats or find a long steady climb to conquer. If you’re doing short repeats, walking the downhill is fine, but you’ll have to find some longer downhills to practice downhill running. Downhills will tear up your legs if you don’t build them into your training.

Build Blocks: As endurance runners, especially at ultra-distances, your long run is going to stay in the weekly rotation. However, if you’re not doing a build phase, you’ll only do one long run a week rather than the back to backs. You can also choose to run one long run and then the next day a ten-mile run. But if you’re not in a build block, you’re not increasing the miles on that second day.

The important part is that you are changing things and challenging your body in new ways. Using the same workouts doesn’t get you more of the same results. It gets you a flatline.