Cardio is Bad for You

Cardio is bad for you.

CoverI was told today that I can’t be interviewed on a podcast about my new book, RUN YOUR FAT OFF, because I would contradict other guests on the show who have talked about the dangers of excessive cardio. This is what I was told: 

“We have to ensure we stay close to our messaging. We have so many experts on the show talking about the potential damage from excessive cardio and running, I think it would be a negative for us (you and us) to have you on the show, because it would come across as contradictory. I hope you understand.”

Seriously? So I can’t be on a podcast because I may contradict what others have said? 

There is a MOUNTAIN of evidence to show the many physical, psychological, and cognitive benefits of running and other cardio. To be fair, there is some research to suggest that large amounts of endurance training—like running many marathons and ultramarathons over many years—can cause fibrosis of the heart, but that is true for such a small percentage of the population that exercises. Most people will not do any damage to their heart by running, and quite the contrary is true: Running (or other aerobic exercise that sustains a high heart rate) is EXCELLENT for your heart, making it a larger and stronger pump and increasing its stroke volume and cardiac output. Make a bigger, stronger heart and you make a healthier person. Because you cannot live very well or very long without a healthy heart.

This is just the latest issue that has been served on my plate from the fitness industry. The fitness industry really has a problem. They tell people want they want to hear (like cardio is not good for you), make exaggerated claims (lose 10 pounds in 10 days with Diet X), and people talk through their asses without any education behind what they say. I’ve had enough.

If I weren’t so deeply passionate about running and what it can do for a person’s life, I would seek a career in a different industry. That’s one big thing I miss about being in academia. I miss being surrounded by very intelligent, highly-educated people, who seek the truth through experimentation and hypothesis testing. That doesn’t mean that all fitness professionals don’t know what they’re talking about. Certainly there are. But not having someone on a podcast because his message contradicts what previous guests on the show have said is ridiculous, especially when that person has the body of research to back it up. 

It’s going to be hard to spend the next 30 to 40 years dealing with crap like this. I hope you get my new book to learn the truth about weight loss, calories, metabolism, and running. It’s worth a read. I donate ten percent of sales to the American Heart Association in memory of my father and Susan G. Komen for the Cure in memory of my mother.

Insulin, Boomerang, and Run Your Fat Off

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about insulin. Perhaps that’s because my 19-year-old cat, Boomerang, who has been my companion for 14 years, was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes, which is the most common metabolic disease in the world, is an ironic disease—you have all this fuel (glucose) sitting in your blood, but your muscles can’t use it because of the lack of insulin.


As I write in my new book, Run Your Fat Off, despite what the media may want you to believe, sugar is not inherently bad. Indeed, glucose is your muscles’ preferred fuel, and the only fuel that your aristocratic brain will use. Your brain dines only on the very best. Under non-diabetic conditions, within 30 to 60 minutes of consuming carbohydrate (sugar), insulin increases up to eight-fold in response to the increased glucose in your blood. This dramatic increase in insulin triggers the transportation of glucose from your blood into your cells. It is then that glucose’s fate is determined. If you eat more carbohydrate than your body needs for energy, the excess glucose is either stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver (what you want) or as body fat (what you don’t want).

Although adipose fat (the fat directly underneath your skin) gets all the attention, visceral fat—the fat you can’t see that surrounds your abdominal organs—is even more important. Too much visceral fat has huge implications for your health, including impaired glucose and fat metabolism; insulin resistance; increased predisposition to colon, breast, and prostate cancer; prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality in the hospital; increased incidence of infections and noninfectious complications; incidence of metabolic syndrome; and increased susceptibility to heart disease and high blood pressure. Visceral fat is a bad, bad thing. Research has shown that aerobic exercise is central to reduce visceral fat. Which is one reason why exercise is important for diabetics.

Which brings me back to Boomerang. After watching my mother give insulin shots to my diabetic grandmother for many years, I now find myself giving insulin shots twice per day to my cat to regulate his blood glucose. And given the importance of exercise for diabetics, I’m training him for a marathon. Doesn’t he look excited?


Only 9 more days until Run Your Fat Off is released by my publisher Reader’s Digest. I hope you pick up a copy. If you are in southern California, come celebrate with me at the red carpet book launch party in beautiful La Jolla, California on my birthday, March 14.    

Book Launch Party flyer 

How to Be a Fitness Expert

Recently, I was browsing the weight loss books in Barnes & Noble and found three books stacked next to each other on the shelf that made the following claims on their covers:

“Lose up to 10 pounds in 21 days.”

“Lose up to 14 pounds in 28 days.”

“Lose up to 10 pounds in just 2 weeks.”

weight loss book

I guess if people want to lose weight as fast as possible, they should buy the one that makes the third claim since that one gives them the most rapid rate of weight loss.

The fitness and weight loss industry is filled with this kind of propaganda. “Fitness experts” and “celebrity trainers” are all over the place, especially social media, and they’re quick to tell you how to lose fat, build muscle, and keep your metabolism revved long after your workout is over. Unfortunately, much of what they say or write is wrong.

When you become a fitness professional, it can be intimidating. After all, you have a direct impact on other people’s health. People pay you for your knowledge. Where is that knowledge supposed to come from when the language of marketing and celebrity obstructs the truth?

The answer, unfortunately, is often buried in obscure academic journals and textbooks that few people outside of academia ever read. Part of the problem is that many scientists don’t know how to communicate with industry professionals. But they have a wealth of knowledge. Professional conferences are another way to educate yourself. Spend time reading, learning, absorbing information, asking questions, and contextualizing the information you learn. This is not an easy or fast process. But it is a long-lasting one.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started working in the fitness industry was that I thought I knew a lot. Once you have a particular concept set in your head, it’s very hard to open your mind to other possibilities and answers. You get stuck in a rut. But to keep learning and discovering, you have to break the rules that you set for yourself. If you assume something is true or think you know it all, that assumption leads to other assumptions and fallacious ideas. You need to always keep an open mind. Sometimes, it’s helpful to pretend like you don’t know anything at all.

As for those claims made by the weight loss books in Barnes & Noble? Since it takes a 3,500-calorie deficit to lose a single pound, it’s not possible to lose weight (and keep it off) at the rate the books advertise unless you starve yourself and exercise all day long and become severely dehydrated. In my new book, Run Your Fat Off, I tell people the truth about losing weight and keeping it lost for the rest of your life. It’s about time someone told the truth. 

I think my next book is going to say on its cover, “Lose 10 pounds in an hour!” Now that would generate some sales.

Mile, Chasers, and Running Away

On Saturday, I drove up to Lakeside, California in Orange County to run in an All-Comers track meet. I have always loved racing the mile. It’s intense, just like my personality.

These all-comers track meets tend to attract a lot of middle school and high school kids, but not a lot of adults. Adults tend to shy away from the track. I think it’s because of the intensity. Adults tend to get intimidated by intensity. People tend to gravitate toward long and slow over short and fast. Indeed, the half-marathon and marathon are the most popular races in America. But I like to cut against the grain. My whole life has been about cutting against the grain. Ever since I was a kid, I have always done things the hard way.

But on Saturday, there were actually some adults at the meet, and enough masters (age 40+) runners to have a separate masters race. Masters races are fun. We’re like a bunch of old guys trying to recapture our youth. And some are discovering the youth of track for the first time.   

For the first time in a long time, it rained for a track meet in California. I don’t like racing anywhere in the rain, but I like it even less on the track. I like to feel the track beneath my feet.

I’ve been wearing the 2017 version of my high school’s jersey the last few races. The current coach of my high school team gave me the jersey to wear when I met him at a track coaches clinic in New Jersey in December. Running in a track meet wearing the jersey of my high school team brings me back to my high school running days. If I only knew then what I know now…  

About 250 meters into the race, I took the lead from the guy who went into the lead from the start. I often would rather sit and kick, but I felt that his pace was too slow, even in the rain. I ran the rest of the race in the lead. At my age, it’s not often I get the opportunity to lead a race. I feel like I’m being chased, and trying to run away from everyone else.

I ended up winning the race, but I could feel myself tying up in the last 100 meters. There were a lot of people cheering, and I could hear encouragement for the runner behind me, so I knew he must have been close. Over the final 50 meters, I could feel my form falling apart, and I was just trying to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. It was a relief to get there first. But it wasn’t without a huge effort.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?  


No achievement—running or otherwise—is meaningful without a huge effort. It is in the commitment to prepare and in the effort of the moment itself that we find true reward. And so my achievement on this day wasn’t so much that I had won a race against other masters runners. It was that I didn’t give up and kept trying to run away—from them, and from myself. As I wrote in The Inner Runner, “I run away from the person I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be that overweight, slow, out-of-shape lazy guy who sits in his La-Z-Boy chair or on a sports bar stool and watches football all day Sunday in his undershirt. I don’t want to be the middle-aged man who looks himself in the mirror and wonders where the good-looking high school athlete went, deciding to run a marathon or race a mile to cure his mid-life crisis. I don’t want to be the person who takes the easy way out and never challenges himself. I don’t want to be the person who lives an ordinary life. So I run away from it. All of it. I run away from becoming lazy. I run away from the guilt of not running. I run away from a bad race I had last weekend. I run away from becoming normal and ordinary. I run away from all of the things I don’t like about myself. I run away from complacency.

When we run, we are free from what binds us, from what keeps us down, from what holds us back. Running helps us cope—with tragedy, with disappointment, with frustration, with sadness, with all of the negative feelings that hold us back from living a happy, fulfilling life. Whether it’s thousands of people running 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston for a common goal, or just you running three miles alone around your block before work, running, on both a large public scale and a small personal scale, gives us hope for our future.”


The Running Stride

Your running stride has two components: stride rate, which is the number of steps taken per minute, and stride length, which is the distance of each step. Running speed equals stride rate times stride length:

Speed = Stride Rate x Stride Length

Over time, as someone runs a lot, and spends time running at faster speeds to work on technique, the body adopts the best combination of stride rate and stride length to make him or her a more economical, fluid runner, giving new meaning to the phrase poetry in motion.

sporty woman jogging on wide sandy beach at bright sunshine

Stride Rate

Although stride rate varies considerably among runners, most runners should aim for 80 to 90 steps per minute with each leg. To calculate stride rate when running, simply count how many times the right foot hits the ground in one minute. If the stride rate is less than 80, most runners will likely benefit from increasing their cadence. With a slightly faster stride rate, the runner will take lighter steps and spend less time impacting the ground, which reduces the chance of injury.

Stride rate is influenced by the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers and the ability of the central nervous system to recruit muscle fibers and move the legs quickly. Fast running is the simplest way to increase stride rate because it trains the central nervous system to recruit those fast-twitch muscle fibers.

After a thorough warm-up of easy running for about 10 minutes, gradually accelerate to full speed and then hold your maximal speed without straining for about 5 to 10 seconds before decelerating. Because the arms and legs move in sync, stride rate can be increased by pumping your arms more quickly. Remember to remain relaxed through the sprint. Do 5 to 10 sprints a couple of times per week.

Stride Length

Have you ever run with someone much taller than you and noticed that he or she takes longer strides? Despite what you may think, little correlation exists between a person’s height and stride length or between a person’s leg length and stride length. Taller runners don’t always take longer strides than shorter runners. Surprising, huh?

Of the two components of the stride, stride length is more important than stride rate. When the pace is increased from a jog to a run to a hard run, stride length increases more than does stride rate. If you don’t believe me, count every time your right foot touches the ground for one minute next time you run. Then pick up the pace and count again for one minute. You’ll notice that you won’t take that many more steps in a minute, despite a large difference in pace.

Stride length explains much of the difference in speed among runners. The subconscious manipulation of stride length and stride rate at different speeds is governed by what is most economical for runners; that is, at each pace someone runs, he or she may have a stride length that’s most economical for him or her to use, while staying at a specific stride rate (or within a narrow range of stride rates) may be what’s most economical for all running paces. The body is always trying to enhance its economy, and it’s a more economical strategy to increase the distance of each stride than it is to increase the cadence of the legs. (Same is true for swimming or rowing—distance per stroke is more important than the number of strokes per minute.) 

Stride length is influenced by the range of motion at the hip—specifically, hip extension—and the amount of force the muscles produce against the ground at push-off. Never reach the leg out in front of your body to increase stride length, because that causes deceleration and braking. As you become a better runner, your stride length naturally gets longer.

Stride length is also influenced by fatigue. Indeed, a shortening stride length is one of the most obvious signs of a fatiguing runner. If you watch the end of a race, you’ll notice that the runner who has the faster stride rate compared to the other runners is the one who usually wins. So, while stride length is more important during the early and middle stages of a race, stride rate becomes more important at the end of a race, when the steps are shorter because of fatigue.  

Learn a lot more about running technique with the REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification. Only a couple days left to take advantage of the New Year’s Discount. Starting at 40% off on January 1, it’s been decreasing 1% every day until it’s gone. Use code NEWYEARDISCOUNTFEB7, NEWYEARDISCOUNTFEB8, etc.

And if you need continuing education credits for your personal training or group fitness certifications, take advantage of our CEC courses:

Talk to Yourself

I talk to myself. A lot. Out loud. It helps me to think. To create. My mother used to tell me that only crazy people talk to themselves. I guess I’m crazy.

Believe it or not, successful people talk to themselves. Often, they have on-going conversations with themselves, verbalizing and solidifying in their own heads what they want to accomplish. While you may not want to talk to yourself out loud in public for fear of being thought of as crazy, self-talk can be a very powerful strategy to run a successful race and be successful in life.


Unlike the 100-meter dash, which is over in a few seconds, distance races give you a lot of time to think. They are also physically uncomfortable, which can lead to negative thoughts and doubts about being able to hold the pace or beat other runners. Any time a negative thought enters your head before or during a race, say, “Stop” and replace it with a positive thought. Say to yourself, “I’m strong,” or “I’m fast,” or “The other runners are even more fatigued than I am.” Early in your race, say things to yourself that keep you calm and relaxed. In the middle of the race, when you start to feel fatigued, say things that keep you encouraged to hold the pace. You may want to focus on a specific landmark on a road or cross country course or lap of the track, and say to yourself, “Just hold the pace until I get to the landmark,” or “Just the hold the pace until the next mile marker,” or “Just hold the pace for one more lap.” If there is a specific runner you want to beat, say to yourself, “Just stay with him (or her) for one more mile (or one more lap).” Toward the end of the race, say things that get you fired up to run as fast as you can. Say, “Go, go, go!” You may even want to have a specific mantra for your races, something that means a lot to you and triggers a feeling of empowerment.

And next time your mother tells you you’re crazy, she means it with love.

Get more racing strategies in 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners

Don’t forget our New Year’s Discount on the REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification. Thursday is day 18, which means a 23% discount. Discount drops 1% every day until it’s gone, so hurry! Use code NEWYEARDISCOUNTJAN18, NEWYEARDISCOUNTJAN19, etc.

Top 5 Ways to Be a Better Runner and a Better Success in 2017

1. Run More

More than any other factor, how much you run each week has the biggest impact on your running success. More than any other factor, how much you do has the biggest impact on your success as a person. So, commit to run more and do more this year. Pick a goal and stick to it, no matter what gets in the way. No excuses.

2. Train with a Variety of Speeds

If you run slowly all the time, you’re just going turn into a slow runner. Train along the whole continuum of speeds, from very slow to very fast. Understand when it’s time to run slowly and when it’s time to run fast. Live life along the whole continuum of speeds, from very slowly to very fast. Understand when it’s time to slow down and relax and when it’s time to push the pace. You don’t have to rush through life at someone else’s pace; you have only to take life at the pace that is right for you.

3. Optimize Recovery

All of the adaptations you make when you run occur during the recovery between workouts, not during the workouts themselves. So to adapt optimally, you need to recover optimally. That means staying hydrated, consuming adequate carbs and protein, not stressing your body outside of your workouts, and getting adequate sleep every night. As successful people, we also need to optimize recovery. If you push, push, push all the time, you’re going to, in my mother’s words, burn the candle at both ends. So take time for yourself (this is the hardest lesson for me to learn myself).  

4. Be Patient

To become a better runner and raise your level of performance takes time. You have to put in the work and be patient. You can’t do one interval workout this week and expect to be faster next week. You can’t do one thing this week and expect to be a better success next week. Success in all aspects of our lives takes time. Few things in running and in life happen on our timeline. Focus on the work itself rather than the timeline of that work.   

5. Train with Others Who Are Faster Than You

To be a better runner, run with other runners who are just a little faster than you so they can push you to reach for something better than you are. To be a better success and a better person, work and hang out with other people who are a little smarter, a little more compassionate, a little more sophisticated, and a little more savvy than you.

6. Love More

To be a better runner, you have to really love it. There’s a lot involved — lots of mileage, long runs, tempo runs, interval workouts, hills, speed work. If you don’t love it, it’s not going to be a good experience for you. To be a better success, you have to love what you do, you have to love the people you surround yourself with, and you have to love yourself, even in the face of failure and rejection. So love more in 2017 and watch your running and your life be better.

Through running

Goals, New Year, and Compasses

Some people may find it odd that I rarely talk about goals. It’s not that I don’t have any; just that I would rather focus on making them happen than talk about them.

Most people are talkers. They talk and talk and talk and nothing ever happens. The few times I have had a regular job, it’s been a frustrating experience. There is so much red tape and bureaucracy. I can’t believe how many meetings there are. People have meetings to decide when they’re going to have a meeting. Few things get accomplished, and none of them quickly.

For me, running has always been my compass, providing me with direction on how to get things done. As I wrote in The Inner Runner, “Running puts us on the right path. It directs us toward a life of meaning. And it helps us get more done.”  

But just because running is my compass, it doesn’t have to be yours. Find what gives you pleasure, what you are deeply passionate about, what makes you get out of bed in the morning because you want to, not because you have to, and make that your compass.

So, as we complete yet another year of our lives, remember that December 31 and January 1 are just days. There is no greater meaning to them other than what we attach to them. We don’t need “New Year, New You” campaigns and we don’t need to make a pledge that “This year I’m going to do X.” All we need is a compass.

Happy December 31 and happy January 1.

Racing, Lessons, and Marlboro High School

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a track and cross country coaches clinic in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and met the current coach at the high school I graduated from in New Jersey. He gave me the school’s track/cross country racing singlet, and yesterday was the first chance I had to race in it. It was the first time in 25 years I had worn a Marlboro High School racing singlet. It was pretty cool.


As I wrote in The Inner Runner, when you pin that race number to your shirt, you make a promise to yourself and to the other runners around you to give your best effort. And when you cross that finish line, you’ll know whether or not you kept that promise. I kept that promise yesterday. Even though I’m not as fast as I used to be as a teenager at Marlboro High School, I can still promise to give the race everything I have. 

When I first started running track and cross country in school, and for many years after, I defined myself by how fast I ran my races. If I didn’t run as fast as I wanted, I would get down on myself. I would mope around for days after a disappointing race. My identity was tied to my race results. Although I still get disappointed when I don’t run as fast as I want or think I should, I’ve slowly and reluctantly realized that I’m not defined by my races. I’m still a great person if I don’t run a 4:29 mile or a 2:59 marathon. And so are you.

Except for the few people who have the ability to win races, racing is not about winning. Sure, it feels good to win. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of races in my life, all of which were when I was younger and none of which were of any real consequence other than how good it made me feel. I fell far short of the Olympic dreams of my youth. No matter what level of runner you are, running is about how much we can put ourselves on the line, literally and figuratively, to measure up against our true selves and to shorten the distance between who we are and who we want to be. When we put ourselves on the line and pledge to run as fast as we can, we become vulnerable. We expose ourselves to the one person we matter most to—our self.

Racing is the best example of living through our bodies. When we race, we push our bodies to their limit. Or at least we hope to. We are given the rare opportunity to act like an animal in the wild, running free and showing our inner strength. Racing, if we do it with our whole heart, forces us to face what is happening right at that moment, in a way that few other experiences do. We give it our all, and we get even more back.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@drjasonkarp” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Racing is best example of living through our bodies. We give it our all, and we get even more back. [/tweetthis]

I always tell the runners I coach when going into a race that the most important thing is that they finish the race feeling like they couldn’t have done any better on that day. Regardless of the outcome—the time on the clock and the place you finish—what matters most is that you walk away from the race being able to say to others and to yourself that you gave it everything you had. That alone is something to be immensely proud of. That alone is worth the race entry fee.

Thank you, Coach Raymond Sypniewski, for the Marlboro High School racing singlet. I’ll wear it with pride when I race, and remember to always give my best effort. Go Mustangs!

How Fast Should You Run?

Runners ask me all the time how fast they should run for various types of workous — easy runs, tempo runs, intervals. Most runners run either too fast or too slow to obtain the desired result. To determine the correct speed, you must know the purpose of each workout. Always remember that the goal of training is to obtain the greatest benefit while incurring the least amount of stress, so you should run only as fast as you need to meet the purpose of the run. And guess what? You only need to run at four speeds. Yup, that’s rght. Just four. From slower to faster, here are the four speeds at which you need to train.


Easy Runs and Long Runs

The purpose of easy and long runs is to stimulate the physiological, biochemical, and molecular adaptations needed for endurance, including the storage of more fuel (glycogen) in your muscles, an increased use of intramuscular fat at the same speed to spare glycogen, an increased number of red blood cells and hemoglobin, a greater capillary network for a more rapid diffusion of oxygen into the muscles, and an increased mitochondrial density and number of aerobic enzymes to enhance your aerobic metabolic capacity. Since many of these adaptations are volume-dependent, not intensity-dependent, the speed of easy runs is not as important as their duration. The single biggest mistake competitive runners make is running too fast on their easy days. By doing so, you add unnecessary stress to your legs without any extra benefit and you won’t be able to run as much quality on your harder days.

Your easy runs should be done at about 1½ to 2 minutes per mile slower than your current 5K race pace, about 70-75 percent maximum heart rate. As you increase your weekly mileage, you may need to run slower to accommodate the extra volume. Speed-type runners (those who are better at shorter races) will have a greater difference between their race pace and easy running pace compared to endurance-type runners (those who are better at longer races). I have always been more of a speed-type runner; my easy runs are much slower than the pace I race at. 

Marathon Pace Runs

If you are training for a marathon, I will add a fifth speed to this list because the marathon may be the only race for which it is very valuable to practice specific race pace, for both the value of the pace itself and for the fueling/hydration strategies that you will use in the marathon. Include some long(ish) runs at your realistic marathon pace as you get closer to the marathon. 

Lactate Threshold Runs

The lactate threshold (LT), or what I call the acidosis threshold (AT), demarcates the transition between running that is purely aerobic and running that includes significant oxygen-independent (anaerobic) metabolism and the development of acidosis. Therefore, AT is the fastest speed that you can sustain aerobically. The purpose of AT training is to increase the speed at which your AT occurs, which allows you to run faster before anaerobic metabolism and fatigue begin to play a significant role.

I’ve noticed that the AT workout is the most difficult type for runners to run at the correct speed since it requires holding back and not pushing the pace. There’s a comfortably hard feeling to the pace that requires practice. AT pace is about 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace, or about 10K race pace (75-80% max HR) for recreational runners, and about 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace, or about 15 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 10K race pace (85-90% max HR) for highly trained runners. The better your endurance, the longer you can sustain your AT pace and the better you’ll be at sustaining any fraction of your AT pace. In other words, if a 15-minute 5K runner can run 30 seconds per mile faster than AT pace (which equals 110% of AT pace) for those 15 minutes, a 25-minute 5K runner is not also going to be able to run 30 seconds per mile faster than AT pace (which equals 106% of AT pace) for 25 minutes, which is 10 minutes (and 66%) longer than the good runner. What matters is how long it takes to run the distance, not the distance itself.

VO2max Intervals

The purpose of VO2max intervals is to increase your VO2max by running at the speed at which VO2max occurs, which corresponds to your max HR, max stroke volume (the volume of blood the heart pumps per beat) and max cardiac output (the volume of blood the heart pumps per minute). Cardiac output = heart rate x stroke volume.

If you can’t get to a laboratory to determine your VO2max pace, either run at close to your maximum heart rate or use your current race performances. Many coaches and runners like to do workouts at 5K or 10K race pace, but there is not much benefit running at 5K or 10K race pace other than to practice that pace since 5K or 10K race pace does not correspond to any physiological variable that affects race performance. For example, 5K race pace is too slow for a VO2max workout and too fast for an AT workout. VO2max pace, which is the fastest speed that can be maintained for about 7-10 minutes, is about 1- to 1½-mile race pace for recreational runners and 3K or 2-mile race pace (10-15 seconds per mile faster than 5K race pace) for highly trained runners.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Don not train at 5K or 10K race pace since 5K or 10K pace does not correspond to any physiological variable that affects race performance.[/tweetthis]

Interval workouts with reps lasting 3 to 5 minutes are ideal for training VO2max since they provide the greatest cardiovascular load, however research has shown that shorter reps can also improve VO2max as long as the recovery intervals are very short to keep VO2 elevated between reps. An advantage of shorter reps is that you can accumulate a greater distance or total running time at VO2max pace. Regardless of the duration of the reps you choose, the speed should be the same since the goal is the same — to improve VO2max. As you progress, make the workouts harder by adding more reps or decreasing the duration of the recovery intervals rather than by running faster. Only increase the speed of the workouts once your races have shown that you are indeed faster. If running 800-meter reps in 3:15 (6:30 mile pace) elicits VO2max, running them in 3:05 (6:10 mile pace) will also elicit VO2max. But since the key is to run only as fast as you need to obtain the desired result, don’t run each rep in 3:05 when 3:15 will suffice.

Anaerobic Capacity Intervals

The purposes of anaerobic capacity intervals are to cause a high degree of muscle acidosis so that you enhance your buffering capacity, to increase the number of enzymes involved in anaerobic glycolysis, and to increase speed by recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibres. The speed of these reps, which should be 45 seconds to 2 minutes with recovery intervals up to 3 times as long as the time spent running, should therefore be just fast enough to cause acidosis and recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres — 800-meter to mile race pace for competitive runners and 400-meter race pace for recreational runners.

Next time you go out the door to run, ask yourself what is the purpose of the workout. If you run all of your workouts at the correct speeds, not only will you be rewarded with new personal records, you may even be able to tell other runners how fast to run.

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