What is conversational running pace?

Many runners, especially newbies, wonder how fast they should be running.  They are constantly checking the GPS watches to see what their current running pace is.  Figuring out what your pace should be is a question that needs to be answered very quickly because running too fast is a common problem with all runners and doing so on a regular basis can lead to overtraining or injury.

The more you run the more you will discover different paces you should run.  Most of the mileage you run should be done at an “easy” pace though.  The problem is that it can be difficult to determine exactly what pace is “easy.”  A better way to describe your easy pace is to call it conversational pace.  But what is conversational running pace?

Conversational pace is running slow enough to have a conversation with your running partner.  You don’t want to be able to say an entire paragraph without taking a breath, but you should be able to say a full sentence without having to take a breath.  If you can only get out a word or two before being forced to breath in order to finish the sentence then you are probably running too fast.

For more experienced runners you would use conversational pace for your recovery runs and long runs.  On days in which you are doing a faster workout you would also do the majority of your warm up and cool down runs at conversational pace.

For beginners almost all of your running will be at conversational pace.  One of the most important things when you are just starting out is to build a base.  This means slowly building your weekly mileage to help your body adapt to the demands of running.  When building a base you will want to run at conversational pace.

Running at a conversational pace has many benefits.  First, it helps your body learn to burn fat more efficiently.  This will come in handy when doing a long run or racing a marathon.  Secondly, it helps the body learn to be more efficient.  Being more efficient allows you to run faster with less effort and energy.  Part of becoming more efficient is that your body also learns to use the oxygen it receives more efficiently.  The third benefit is that it helps the body adapt to running without too much stress.  The slower pace helps the body’s bones, ligaments, and tendons become stronger and less susceptible to injury.  With a lowered risk of injury you can continue adding mileage or intensity in the future which leads to better gains in fitness as well as faster running.

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