After just 8 weeks of training, two of my athletes have improved their long slow run pace, what I call zone 1, by over a min/km. That’s a dramatic improvement! Basically they went from doing a 5min/k to a 4 min/k which is their easiest pace. I wish I could take all the credit for their hard efforts. The truth is though, I provide the details and then they execute to get the results.
Prior to laying out the plan for them, I first had them do a lactate test to see what their current fitness level was. I use lactate as a means of showing how efficient their energy systems are. For an endurance athlete (anything over 6 minutes) the key is to have a very large ability to burn fat as fuel. Since this is your largest source of energy (3% body fat person has 10, 000 calories stored) it makes sense to train this system.
After testing the two athletes, it was apparent that their lower zones, or their ability to burn fat as fuel, needed work. The prescription was to use heart rates and speed data from the test to keep them in their respective zones. It was an adjustment for both as they were used to go much faster on their recovery/long runs.
Re-testing this past weekend confirmed that this ‘painful’ exercise of slowing down had paid off. Their bodies became much more efficient at burning fat as fuel with less effort, translating into faster speeds.
You may also benefit from going slower on your recovery/long runs. Training your body to work on burning fat instead of stored carbohydrates (found in your muscles and liver) will pay huge dividends especially at longer distances. I cannot tell you what heart rate or speed this is for you unfortunately. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry on a conversation the entire time. If you have access to testing, this would be a much more accurate way to figure out what your body needs.