While it is common to find athletes spending too much time running easy runs too hard and hard runs not hard enough. It is at least as common to find athletes that understand the need for easy runs to be easy but then hard runs are always really hard. In other words, we dip really far into the ‘energy well’ each time we have a workout. For a time this approach may yield some success and even build a level of mental resilience. Over the longer term though, this approach typically leads to burnout, injury or plateau.
We often talk about speed being on a spectrum. As athletes and coaches we want to prepare the body on either extreme of our goal race pace. This means working on general endurance and general speed as well as the speeds that will support the specific race pace or effort you are seeking to achieve. When designing training one needs to consider how to incorporate all of these building blocks at different stages of the training process.
This is particularly important around workouts where the details of the session matter in terms of what adaption we are looking to achieve. Running 200m repeats at 10k effort with 50 seconds easy jog between reps is a very different type of session to running 1k repeats at 10k effort with 60 seconds recovery. For a well-trained athlete, the former may well be completely aerobic in nature while the latter is likely to be a higher intensity session that requires more time to recover from. Crucially not all sessions need to be really hard, of course from time to time it is useful to push the boat and see where you are at, but for the most part each training session provides an opportunity to lay a foundation from which you can build from, not consistently break you down.