You have been training for a while and you keep getting similar results in all of your races. Some days you are doing better, some days, not so much. You keep training, putting in the hours, putting in the volume but you just seem that you have hit a plateau. What if you could use the results of some of your races to determine at which intensity you should be working in your training?
A lot of the time, we tend to just train and think that just putting the work in will make us perform better. Just putting the work in will get you to the finish line most of the time. Putting in quality work will get you to personal records. What is quality work? Quality work is a training session that you will be working on particular training zones. Those quality-working sessions are often related to interval training, steady state training, time trials and even long runs (when training for a long-distance event). You have to be careful with those because you will need some sort of easier training sessions following that or even some sort of rest.
Training zones are defined differently according to each coach. If you use Doctor Jack Daniels’s running formula, you will notice that he has the “Easy”, “Marathon”, “Threshold”, “Intervals” and “Reps” training zones. When going “Easy”, you promote a training base to develop your cardiovascular system. When going to your “Threshold”, this is where change starts happening. If using “MC Millan Running Calculator”, the wording is different (Endurance, Stamina, Speed and Sprint Paces). What I prefer about the running calculator is how the pacing is divided. I personally find his work to be user-friendlier.
The question now is how do you set up your own training zones without breaking the bank by doing laboratory testing. Although this may be really fun (yeah I enjoy running with a mask on my face that measures data), races or even time trials will give you all the information you need in order to set your training paces. That is what a lot of coaches use.
Races are a way to approximate your aerobic capacity or more precisely, your “VO2MAX” (ml of oxygen/kg of body weight/min). According to your results, you will get different paces for your varied training zones. Although I have started my training/coaching career with the running formula and still use it as a reference on a number of occasions, I find the “MC Millan Running Calculator” to help me more in reaching my sporting goals.
It is good to pay attention to where you are at in your training by doing time trials or races. Not only does it inform you on where you are in your fitness, it also sheds light on your level of fatigue and helps you adjust your training accordingly. Training blind will only get you to the finish line. Even there, I beg to differ. Do you want to finish strong or just finish the race? By knowing your paces you put the control in your hands. What you do with the numbers is up to you. A new personal best could just be one step away!