How to determine how hard you’re running

Steve has talked quite a bit to the team about making sure we’re running easy when we’re supposed to and not pushing too hard when running steady. He’s brought up focusing on rhythm, flow, and breathing as ways to gauge effort. Each of us have our own way of measuring our effort. I was thinking a little during the 14 mile run this morning as we went through Barton Hills and Barton Skyway on our out and back run between Barton Springs and St. Edwards and thought I’d share some of the things that work for me.

Breathing and my running form are the two things I pay the most attention to. I have a pretty consistent running cadence, 185 to 195 a minute and it’s basically the stride length and effort/power that change at different paces. What I’ve found is when I’m running easy I breath in every three steps and out every three, that seems to hold consistent until I get to around half marathon pace where I switch to every two steps. As I think back, I’ve been able to use my breathing to gauge my effort since I started training with Rogue and we did the track workout switching between 10k and marathon pace every 200 meters. This Tuesday during the progressive run the last two miles where I was around 6:35 pace is when my breathing switched from every three steps to every two. That was a good indicator that my effort was somewhere around half marathon pace which was just right for the workout.

The other thing that has helped me judge effort is my running form. The two things I pay most attention to is my shoulders and my arm motion. If I’m forcing my running my shoulders tend to rise, which is really bad because it restricts my breathing as well. The other thing is how much I’m forcing the back and forth motion with my arms, as soon as that motion isn’t effortless I know I’m pushing too hard. That forced feeling really only seems to happen at the end of a 10k and all through a 5k since the whole run is high effort. If it ever comes up on regular days it’s more an indication that I’m starting to pick up the pace since it levels off once I hit the new pace, so that tends to serve as a good reminder to me to back off and take it easy when I’m in a group where people are pushing the pace beyond where I want to run.

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