The 80/20 Rule.
If you want to train like the pros — and we all can, regardless of our pace — then you need to incorporate the 80/20 rule. Simply put, you do 80 percent of your runs at low intensity and 20 percent at high intensity. Seems easy enough, right?
Low intensity means running 30-90 seconds per mile slower than race pace. It makes good sense that you should do some of your runs this easy, but 80 percent of them? It could be harder than you think. It’s a different kind of discipline to hold back, especially if you’re feeling good or you’re used to checking your watch every mile.
So, for example, let’s say your goal race pace is 9:00/mile. You are scheduled to run five days per week; 1-2 of those runs should be at high intensity (30-60 seconds faster than your goal pace) and the rest of your runs should be at low intensity (30-90 seconds slower than your goal pace). That means 3-4 runs at a pace between 9:30-10:30/mile. Which sounds great — until you try it.
Here’s what could happen to you on a low-intensity run, if your goal pace is 9:00/mile.
Mile 1: You run an 8:50 or 9:10, faster than you should.
Mile 2: You try to slow down. It feels awkward and your mind wanders to the areas of your body where you feel uncomfortable. Breathing is easier, so there’s that! But you just ran a 9:15. Still too fast.
Mile 3: Self-talk to run slower. You might even switch to an easy-listening playlist. Lionel Richie is good for some smooth tunes. Your hips and knees ache. You run a 9:20 and it feels hard.
Mile 4: You feel extremely tired, and you try to keep the slower pace, but unless you are with a group, you forge ahead at a 9:00/mile.
Mile 5: You’re over it. You run fast and hope you get it right next time.
Or, maybe you struggle with pushing yourself hard enough on the high-intensity days. Just remember: they’re only 20 percent of your workouts. That’s it! You can do it.
The thing is, it’s how elite athletes from around the world train, and it’s is why they are so successful. For a more in-depth explanation, check out this article from Competitor.
I think what can make it so hard is that pace and effort don’t always match up. If you are fresh, your race pace feels easy. If you are tired, it feels hard. And running slower when you feel good can be mentally exhausting, but I have no doubt that it will make you a better runner. You just have to hold back until it’s time to run that 20 percent.
Good luck, Angels! — Amie