To be a successful injury-free runner, you need to know your optimal training paces.
If you are a beginner runner, or somebody who only has one pace – (“as fast as possible!“) – there are many reasons why you would want to integrate different speeds and intensities in to your training regime.
The most important being: we reduce our risk of injury and see faster gains when we train smart.
How many of us actually train smart though?
The typical runner is living in ignorant bliss when it comes to knowing how fast he or she should be running.
Most of us run fast when we should be running slow, and run slow when we should be running fast.
To understand more about the correct training paces for your current running ability, we have a simple training pace calculator below:
Free Training Pace Calculator
How To Use The Training Pace Calculator
The training pace calculator is easy to use.
Simply enter your most recent competitive time over a given distance. We recommend choosing 5K or 10K for best results.
By competitive, we mean a time that represents a good effort run at the threshold of your current ability.
A recent race result would be perfect.
Once you enter the time and distance, we use that data to calculate five important paces that you can work in to your training schedule:
- Easy run
- Tempo run
- VO2 Max run
- Speed run
- Long run
Here is an example of the calculated training paces for a runner who has just completed a 5K in 20:05.
|5K Time Recorded||20:05|
|Easy run pace||5:09 / km|
|Tempo run pace||4:17 / km|
|VO2 Max run pace||3:51 / km|
|Speed run pace||3:34 / km|
|Long run pace||5:49 / km|
As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the speed run pace and the long run pace. You may be wondering how best to actually use these training paces.
Next we’ll take a look at how and when to use the five training paces.
The 5 Best Training Paces to Master
Easy Run Pace
Easy runs, sometimes referred to as recovery runs, are a great way to improve your baseline aerobic fitness.
The clue is in the name here – they should feel easy.
We’ve heard hundreds of theories on how fast an easy run should be, with three of the most popular being:
- Between 55-75% of your 5K pace
- No faster than your 5K pace + 75 seconds
- 60-75% of max heart rate
Where to draw the line?
There’s no right answer, but your body will quickly tell you if you’ve stumbled across the wrong answer.
Easy runs should make up a good bulk of your training program (we’d recommend a minimum of 25%). Think of them as your chance to get mileage in the legs, to build up baseline fitness and to lay a strong foundation for the rest of your training to build on.
Tempo Run Pace
A tempo run is considered moderate to hard intensity. It should be comfortable to maintain for 20-30 minutes – not full-out race pace, but considerably sharper than your easy and long runs.
Tempo runs are great because they help you boost your lactate threshold, which is the pace at which blood lactate concentration increases exponentially in response to exercise intensity. This helps improve endurance so that it takes you longer to reach exhaustion when racing.
Besides these obvious benefits, a tempo run can help you improve your running economy and form.
A common mistake for beginner runners is to attempt every run at tempo pace. These runs should make up less than 20% of your total training time, or you’re likely to risk picking up an overuse injury.
VO2 Max Run Pace
Both VO2 Max Runs and Speed Runs are typically deployed as part of interval training, which is tremendously effective at boosting your functional speed and endurance.
Interval training involves short bursts of intense exercise, followed by rest or recovery.
What sets a VO2 Max run apart from a typical Speed Run is the distance. These are typically longer intervals, a few notches down from ‘sprint pace’, used for longer races (5K, 10K and upwards).
Be careful not to overdo VO2 Max Runs. One per week is enough.
See also: our VO2 Max Calculator
Speed Run Pace
If you want to improve your raw power and speed, the Speed Run is the ultimate form of interval training.
A session will consist of multiple intervals typically covering anything from 200 to 800 meters. The goal is out-and-out speed. It’s still not a full out sprint, but it’s not far off.
If you look at the example above of the 5K runner who is calculating his training paces based of a recent time of 20:05, the suggested Speed Run pace is 3:34 / km.
If he were to run this pace for a full 5K, his time would be 17:50.
20:05 down to 17:50? That’s a huge jump.
This should give you some perspective on how much faster a Speed Run is than your actual race pace.
It should feel impossible to maintain for a race.
The idea is that by forcing your body to cope with such a pace on a regular basis, you will gradually increase the pace at which you can run and maintain for the full race.
As with VO2 Max Runs, you only want to dedicate a small percentage of your training regime to Speed Runs. One per week is enough to see gains.
Long Run Pace
Finally, we have the slowest of the bunch – the Long Run Pace.
People often ask: what’s the difference between an easy run and a long run?
After all, the pace for the long run is slower, right?
It’s the duration that makes the long run challenging, not the pace itself.
The primary goal of the long run is to improve your overall endurance and running economy. In order to achieve this, you have to aim to run for at least 1 hour non-stop.
Of course, if you’re planning to run for longer than an hour, you can’t hope to get anywhere close to your racing speed at a lower distance – like the 5K or 10K. And yet these runs are some of the most productive of your entire training regime.
Long runs are some of the most rewarding and enjoyable.
This is your chance to turn down the pace, hit the road, soak it all in, and rack up the necessary mileage that will take your performance to the next level.
Don’t miss out on that weekly long run.
But whatever you do, make sure you run a pace that is actually suitable for a long run!