REAL LIFE RUNNERS: EPISODE #259 – 3 Types of Runs to Incorporate in Your Training (Transcript)
ANGIE: Hey everybody! Thanks for joining us today on episode #259 of the Real Life Runners podcast.
In today's episode, we are talking about the different types of runs that you need to be incorporating into your training and why each of them is important for you to improve as a runner. So many runners just go out and run without a plan or structure, and they end up doing most of their runs at an effort level about 5 to 6 out of 10 that moderate effort. This can lead to a lack of progress, decreased motivation, fatigue, and even injury. Now, there is an entire method to structuring a training plan that we teach inside the Real life Runners Training Academy, but today, we want to help you understand the importance of incorporating different types of runs into your training.
KEVIN: This is the Real Life Runners podcast and we're your hosts, Kevin and Angie Brown. Thanks for spending some time with us today. Now let's get running.
Right, so the three different types of runs. There's a ton of different types, but today we're focusing in on three key aspects before we dive into like any sort of wouldn't get into the weeds today. Let's try to simplify this thing down a little bit.
ANGIE: Yeah, we're staying out of the Everglades today because the Everglades is a hot, swampy mess in the summertime here.
KEVIN: Hot smoke we miss all the time, isn't it?
ANGIE: I know, but especially in June I mean today is actually, it is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
KEVIN: It is. It's the first day of summer.
ANGIE: First day of summer. So yeah, there are, there's so many details and so much nuance to all of this and that's why you know inside the Real Life Runners Training Academy, we do have an entire step by step process that we teach on how to structure a training plan. We talk about all the different effort levels, all the different types of runs that you can do. But today we really want to boil it down to three of them most important kind of we like to think of as like the base or core, that every runner should be incorporating into their plan pretty much at all times, right? And depending on your goal, your experience and what's going on in your life and your running, you're going to want to incorporate these things in different ratios. But they need to be included pretty much at all times.
KEVIN: Yeah, almost regardless of what it is that you're racing for, you're going to hit these three efforts, and as you pointed out in in the intro, most people don't hit these efforts. They head out and they run moderate intensity all the time, and you know you've pointed out that sometimes it's like a little bit faster, and sometimes it's a little bit shorter. I don't think that most of the time people, if they're not feeling great that day, just feel more tired by the end of the run but they just cut the run a little bit shorter because they're just more tired from the day before.
ANGIE: That's possible.
KEVIN: So, sometimes people go a little bit faster, a little bit lower, but they're like roughly they’re in gray areas of level 5, and sometimes everyone just like you know it's always level 5, sometimes I feel good and they go for a little bit longer, sometimes don't feel good, I cut a little bit shorter but it's just always medium, which is, it's not a great way to train it.
ANGIE: Well, and you know, maybe sometimes they’re level 4, sometimes level 6, right? Like sometimes it's a little bit like there usually is a range, but it tends to fall into that moderate like that middle of the spectrum. When you're talking about effort level on a scale of 1 to 10, most runners when they go out, they're falling somewhere in the middle, right? So, for some people, you know we like to say it's around 5 or 6, because, that's really, honestly what we've heard from the most people like, I ask runners this question a lot, like how hard did you run feel today and that's often what I hear the most out. Like some people say Level 7, some people, not many people like, unless they know that their runs are supposed to be easy, right? Like unless they've heard this concept before, not many runners will talk about being much less than like a 4 out of 10, I would say.
KEVIN: That's pretty good synopsis. Yeah, I think also that that's kind of how most people judge their overall distance too. How was your day? How difficult was your day? This is a roughly 6.
ANGIE: That's interesting. Yeah, I mean I, I think that we do tend to kind of migrate towards the middle, right? Like the middle is the bell curve for a reason, right?
KEVIN: Everybody wants to think they're doing just slightly above average, so it's about a 6 out of 10 intensity today.
ANGIE: Unless they want you to feel bad for them.
KEVIN: Yeah, yeah it was a brutal day. It was a 9, it was a 12.
ANGIE: It was a 12, 12 out of 10. But like, okay, so let's like start to dig in here today because yes, that is like one of the main mistakes that we see most runners making is, you know, going out and doing all of their runs at that same intensity level. They're going out and they're running at the same effort level, maybe even the same distance for all of their runs. And then, they get upset because they're not making improvement or they're not feeling good or they're lacking motivation, right? So today we want to tell you that, A. You need to be doing your runs at different intensity levels throughout the week. Okay, not your, your run should not all be at the same effort level, and then we're going to help you understand what these different effort levels are and understand, kind of, what ratio you want? You might want to start incorporating these things into your training and what's to do from there.
So, let's start out with the first one.
KEVIN: As I said, before we get there. I want to say there are some people that are going out at a medium intensity and they love their running existence. This episode might not be for them.
KEVIN: Because there are certainly people that don't necessarily race. They're out there. It's a relaxing, enjoyable experience. They enjoy the pace; they enjoy the loop that they go on. Maybe they have like a friend that they do this with. That's the run and that's fine.
ANGIE: Well, I mean if you're happy with your running then, okay fine, but if you want to improve like, this is why we're saying, you know, if you're having issues like I'm not feeling motivated, I'm not making progress and I want to make progress, I'm feeling tired all the time, I'm burned out, you know I'm getting injured or I'm having these like aches or pains pop up. That's why we really want to bring all of this to your awareness and your attention. I would argue that even if you are happy with your running right now, that you should still take this, and at least, be open to this idea.
ANGIE: You know, I do think that like maybe right now, everything is okay, but I do think that if you go out there and every run is at a moderate level, it's going to catch up to eventually like it's going to be aches and pains that show up a couple months from now or a couple years from now. Or it's going to be lack of progress, at some point in time. Like maybe you are new to running and you're progressing and you're going out and pushing this way. But I'm here to tell you that will stop, okay? Like if you.
KEVIN: Eventually, that plateau is coming.
ANGIE: Eventually, yeah, eventually you will plateau like if you're going out and just running at a moderate pace, moderate effort all the time, there's going to come a point where you're going to stop making progress, okay, and so I would really encourage everyone to be open to the information on this podcast, regardless, if you are happy in your running right now or not. At least be just open to the idea like you can take this information and decide, yeah, I don't want to follow that like I'm going to go out and do my moderate run, and that's totally fine, but at least be open to it.
KEVIN: Excellent. Alright, so, the first area that we're looking at is easy running and when you say easy running word talking about an actual level 2 out of 10 on the intensity scale. Like you said, most people are running like a 5 or 6, so.
ANGIE: So, wait, let's roll, let's back up and just explain effort levels, real quick.
ANGIE: Just in case anybody new to the podcast right so? Okay, if you're new to the podcast, we like to talk about effort level training here and so by this, we basically are using what's called the rating of perceived exertion scale, or the RPE, a modified version, so on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard did your run feel? And only you can determine that, right? Like was it 1 is super easy and 10 is super hard. And so, on that scale of 1 to 10? Approximately, how hard did you run feel today? Okay, so when we're talking about like a Level 2 or Level 5 or level 8, that's what we're referring to, we’re not referring to a specific pace, okay? Like everybody’s paces that are associated with those different effort levels are different and even you, like your pace on a hot day that's 95 degrees in sunny, is going to be different like your LT pace is going to be different than it is when it's 50 degrees and cool out, okay. So, like it changes based on a lot of different factors.
KEVIN: Your L2 pace on a super hilly run, is going to be a little bit of your L2 uphill is different than your Lt down here, exactly your L2 at the start of a long running, your L2 at the end of the Long run, those are not going to be exactly the same, either. There are benefits of trying to maintain a pace on that versus an effort.
ANGIE: Exactly, but today we're really talking more in effort levels and you know not so much in like exact pace ranges.
KEVIN: Excellent. Okay, so, when we're talking 2 out of 10, that's not like a little bit less than what you might be used to like if you would generally categorize yourself as one of those people that like you're like, yeah, like 5 or 6 seems like my normal thing. Taking it down a notch is not 2, taking it down multiple notches is going to bring that to 2. You really have to like, pull on the dimmer switch there and be like oh okay, so maybe I need to turn the light off and then I just barely turn the dimmer on. That's the effort level that we're going for here.
KEVIN: it's a two out of 10. Not, I'll bring it back to a 4, no further, that's still a 3 further. Okay, there's your 2.
ANGIE: Yeah, and this is where a lot of runners get it wrong like a lot of times, most runners that we see like we just talked about, like actually run too hard all the time and a lot of people don't understand what easy running actually feels like, and for a lot of runners this is actually difficult for them to pull themselves back to a level 2.
KEVIN: Yes, mentally difficult, because there's a lot of things that come up here where you train slow down, you're like, ah, I'm just, I'm trying to get through my run so if I slow down it's going to take me longer to cover whatever or distance, or I don't feel fast in the 1st place. I don't want to run even slower than I'm currently running, so I don't like this whole idea at all.
ANGIE: Yeah, I'm already a slow runner, right? So, I don't want to run even slower.
ANGIE: Because when people want to improve as runners, they want to get faster and that's just what we do, and so you have us coming in and saying you need to run easier, you need to run slower, slow down to run fast and people are like whoa whoa, whoa, what are you talking about, right? This is, I think kind of been ingrained in us from the time when we were younger and playing sports and seeing motivational posters and all these things. They talked about, you know, pushing harder and no pain, no gain and these things that we believe make us better. We believe that if we want to run faster, we just have to push harder and what we're coming in is and telling you is that it's actually the opposite of that, that most of your runs actually need to be performed at an easy level, which we're about to talk about. But, so yeah, we do see most runners kind of gravitating naturally to that level 5 to pushing too hard because they think that that's going to actually make them faster. But unfortunately, what ends up happening, is that they end up overtraining. They end up pushing too hard all the time, which leads to them just feeling tired a lot, a lot of fatigue, even to the point of burnout. A lot of runners when you're pushing that hard on all of your runs, it doesn't feel good, right? Like because you're, it requires a lot more focus. It requires more out of you and so it just doesn't feel good. It's not as enjoyable, so a lot of runners start to lose motivation they don't like running. I know I used to hate running and that was one of the reasons, because I had no idea what easy running is. The first time I heard this concept from you, my mind was blown. I didn't even understand what's going on, but that's what happens right when you don't understand how to run easy, how to actually run easy, it can lead to all these things, plus, the worst case scenario that none of us want to jump into, which is injury, right? When you're pushing too hard all the time, you're stressing your tissues and you're not allowing appropriate recovery in most circumstances, which can lead to those aches as those aches and pains and injuries that pop up.
KEVIN: Yeah, I mean you point out like the biggest thing that could come up here is your injury, but I think before we get to that is, the mental breakdown that happens, where you've lost all joy and running. If it's not fun anymore, you're going to stop doing it like you can try and like grit through for a little while and be like, no, no, I'm supposed to be going out and doing this for my health. But day upon day, if it's not fun and it's super uncomfortable, eventually you're going to try and find some other way to you know, enhance your health like you'll find a different exercise than running because running just brutal.
KEVIN: Okay, so, what does easy running level to actually feel like? Like how do we know that we're doing easy running?
ANGIE: Yeah. So, essentially it should feel easy, okay? So, there's a couple ways that we can measure our intensity level. #1 is how you're breathing feels, okay? So, when you are running at a level 2 pace, your breathing should feel relaxed and not labor. You should not feel like you're gasping for air. You should not feel like you're really even trying to breathe that hard. You should feel like you know Kevin and I are just sitting here having a conversation. Obviously, you when you're running it's going to be a little bit more than this.
KEVIN: But that's the kind of conversation you essentially want to be able to have.
KEVIN: Like you want a normal.
ANGIE: It might be a little bit breathier.
KEVIN: Sure. But you're carrying on like easy, full converse, full sentences back and forth. It's not one person finishes and then you have to like pause and catch your breath and be like okay now, I'm going to have to speak something like, you can have a normal friendly like relaxed conversation, back and forth.
ANGIE: Yeah, and you could tell a story too, right?
KEVIN: Yes, that's a good way of looking at it.
ANGIE: Like I think that this is a good way. Like when my friends and I run together, it's just nonstop talking because I love it and we just tell each other stories about what's been happening, you know, like what our kids did like what our husbands did or didn't do. I mean, I don't know.. just kidding. But you know, that's really what it what you want it to feel like in a level 2. You want, if it, I call it the talk test, right? So, you can maintain a conversation, you can speak in complete sentences. You obviously have to pause now and then to take a breath, just like I am, like, I can't just continuously talk without taking a breath, so you're going to want to be breathing normally, but your breathing should feel relaxed and not labored.
KEVIN: It depends on the topic of the of the podcast of whether you can just talk without taking a breath sometimes.
KEVIN: Sometimes we're just we're going.
ANGIE: Sometimes we're going. It depends on who you're talking to as well. Like if you're having a conversation with a friend, like we joke that like one of my friends, we can't talk about politics with her because it just like rubs her up and all of a sudden, we're going like 30 seconds faster than we were like a you know a mile ago.
KEVIN: You're only going to be able to hold on to that for so long because eventually, you're not going to be able to maintain that conversation.
ANGIE: Exactly. So, there's certain topics we just don't address because it just ends up like bringing up too many emotions and going too fast.
KEVIN: Yeah, that's excellent point. So yeah, you get the talk test if you don't have like a group of people that you're with. I actually prefer this one when I don't have a group of people I'm running with. That's when I break up the singing because no one wants to be around me when I'm actually singing.
ANGIE: Ask our girls, they'll confirm.
KEVIN: But, if you're off by yourself and you try and actually try and sing a couple lines of songs, maybe you got music going in your headphones try and sing along. If you can actually sing along, you're doing just fine. If you're listening to a podcast and they're making jokes and you find yourself laughing on a regular basis, and it doesn't immediately lead to a side stitch, or you having to like stop and walk, right? You're probably doing just fine.
ANGIE: Exactly. Okay, so that's how you know if you're at a level 2, alright. Now, the benefits of level 2 are massive, okay. So, the biggest thing about L2 is that it helps to build your aerobic capacity and.
KEVIN: That's a big umbrella.
ANGIE: I know, and that's why we're going to go into a little bit more details right now, because obviously, a lot of running a lot of you already know that running is an aerobic activity, so there's two main types of activities in that you know, that we use or that we put our bodies through. One is aerobic and one is anaerobic. Anaerobic activities require oxygen for us to utilize energy and convert energy from one form to another.
ANGIE: Is that a pretty simplified way of saying it?
KEVIN: Yes, correct.
ANGIE: So, running is an aerobic activity that's basically how we, you know, build up our lung capacity, our heart rate, the blood flow. All these benefits of aerobic activities. Now some of the other benefits of aerobic activities that you may or may not know about our that, it actually increases the number of mitochondria that that is present in your cells.
KEVIN: Yes, that's one of them.
ANGIE: Okay, and mitochondria are important because those are like the little powerhouses of the cells. I like to think of them as like little nuclear power plants, which then allow your cells to convert energy more efficiently. Okay, so basically when you take food in, your body goes through a process to convert that food into energy. So, if you have more mitochondria, you can do, there's more little powerhouses doing that job to convert that food into energy so you're going to become more efficient at that and you're going to have more energy available,
KEVIN: Right? So, you can actually take whatever fuel you have. You have more things that can turn that fuel into actual usable energy within your body, so that's one of them. But there's three major things that are happening when you're trying to improve your aerobic capacity. One is how many mitochondria do you have that can convert the energy? Two, how much oxygen can you actually bring to the mitochondria? Which means how many red blood cells, do you have? You get more by running at an easy pace. Your body will literally just create more red blood cells. Oh my God, this person needs a whole lot more oxygen flowing through your body and you can't just flow oxygen, you have to flow it in on attached to red blood cells to try and simplify it. And then, the third one is, how can the red blood cells get from point A to point B from your lungs to your working muscles, which is through, you know, capillary action, is essentially once the red blood cells get from lungs to legs, then they need to get into like all of the little intricate parts of your muscles, which is this tiny little network of blood vessels, capillaries, that actually let the oxygenated blood get directly to the muscles.
ANGIE: Exactly. So, when you're running at an L2 pace, you actually build new capillary networks, so those are like, like Kevin said, those are the small blood vessels that take the blood from the bigger blood vessels and actually take it out into all of the individual muscle fibers and areas in your body. And so, if you have more of those networks, you're going to be able to get more blood, more oxygen carrying blood to those muscles working muscles more efficiently, more quickly, so that your muscles don't fatigue as quickly. So, if you have improved blood flow, you're going to be able to have improved endurance because your blood is going to bring more oxygen into your muscles and into the cells and everything to convert that energy.
KEVIN: Excellent, alright, so when are we doing easy runs?
ANGIE: Most of the time.
KEVIN: Like all the time.
ANGIE: All the time, right? So, most of your running should be performed at the L2 level, so we like to use what's called the 80/20 rule. Which means, 80% of your runs should be performed at an L2 and only 20% of your runs should be performed at higher intensity levels.
KEVIN: So, what type of day are we heading out on an easy run, Is it the day before or hard day that should be, easy. Is it the day after a hard day? Easy. Long run? Easy. Any run that's not actually specifically designed to be part of your 20% speed session should be easy. You shouldn't then start sliding into the gray area of, yeah, I feel okay I guess today's medium run.
KEVIN: If it's not supposed to be a harder effort then it should stay in the easy zone. I think that's even once people start getting onto a plan, they're like, but I feel good today, so I'm going to push a little bit harder, Yep, still an easy run. Keep it at an L2.
ANGIE: Don't do that unless you want to flip your days around, right. Like If you're feeling really good and this is what we kind of we teach our athletes inside the Real Life Runners Training Academy. Like if you go out one day and you're feeling really good and you want to do some speed work but today was an easy run and your speed work is not till tomorrow, you can swap things around as long as there are certain criteria that are met. Like you don't want to put two hard runs back to back, you don't want to put a hard run in the long run back. In fact, like there's ways that you can and swap things around to make it work for you, but you have to also make sure you keep in mind the rest of your training schedule in the rest of your week so that you're not messing up other runs in that week by pushing too hard today.
KEVIN: And you don't just want to keep blowing off easy runs because you feel good.
KEVIN: Like that's great that you feel good, now continue going off on an easy run and building all of those phenomenal benefits you get from going at an easy pace and eliminate some of the like challenges that come from growing at the hard place where you're getting actually more wear and tear and beat down on your body. Just enjoy the easier run, enjoy, not kind of breaking down your body, breaking down your body mentally and physically. And just go and reap the benefits of that gain some mitochondria.
ANGIE: Yeah, because you know how you're going to keep feeling good on those runs.
KEVIN: Easy runs?
ANGIE: Easy runs, yeah, like you probably feel good because you've actually been allowing yourself to slow down and run easier. Like people don't understand this when they go out and they're like oh every run is a grind, I'm just feeling so exhausted I'm just wiped out all the time, you're not running easy enough. Okay? Like if you start to actually slow down and run easy, you'll run start feeling so much better, not just the ones that you're running, but the next one and the one after that, right? Because you're not so tired and your body is actually allowing, you're actually giving your body time to recover, okay?
KEVIN: A sign that you're probably not going easy enough on your easy days is if you've ever thought to yourself like I'm doing like 25 miles a week, but I've got a marathon coming over something like that and I don't see how I could possibly go from 25 miles a week to like 35 or 40 miles a week. I'm exhausted. You're exhausted because you're going too hard on those days. 25 miles a week is not enough to just completely wake you out 7 out of 7 days. In all likelihood, you're pushing too hard on the vast majority of those days. If you slow it down, it's probably not going to be that hard for you to increase mileage if you're going for a longer distance race.
ANGIE: Yeah. So, I like to think of this kind of like a crowded highway, like if you are in an area I don't know where you guys live but down here in South Florida we have had a massive influx of people like there are so many people that have moved to Florida in the last two years because Florida stayed open, you know, for a while, a lot of states we're shutting down and so we just have this massive influx of people now and there is construction everywhere because the traffic was getting so bad. And so, when you have like a crowded highway or crowded roadways because there's too many cars for like say you have a three lane highway, they know they need to expand that to five lanes temporarily that's going to slow things down, right? Construction when you have, like lanes that are closed and construction, that's temporarily going to slow things down even more, but you know that that's because they're widening the road they're adding two additional lanes. So, in six months or a year, whenever they finish that construction, if they actually ever finish construction because I don't know like it feels like things are constantly under construction around us.
KEVIN: We just only have construction.
ANGIE: It's only construction, but in theory, right? Once they finally wide in that highway in the future, there's going to be massive improvements in the speed of your travel, because now you have five lanes where the where there used to only be 3. And so, that's really what happens with easy running like by you slowing down now you're building those capillary networks. You're building those mitochondria. You're building your body aerobic capacity, the lung capacity or heart, the strength of your heart to actually pump blood out to your body like you're increasing the number of blood because you're doing all of these things so that in the future when you want to run faster or during your speed sessions when you want to run faster, you're going to be able to do that.
KEVIN: Right. Excellent, so, I think that's a pretty good synopsis of Level 2 running from all possible angles.
ANGIE: And if you guys have any questions on this, always feel free to reach out to me on Instagram. We're @realliferunners over on Instagram and if you don't follow us already, or even if you do, I would love for you to send me a message and let me know what about this episode you really enjoyed.
KEVIN: Alright. The next area is an interesting one, especially when we get new people onto our training team. Because the next section is level 5 and it's a super important section. I love Level 5 workouts myself. They were some of my favorites. But we get a lot of people come into the team and that's all they've been doing so whereas level 5 is super important to train for lots of different length races. 5K, half marathon, marathon, whatever it is Level 5 has a great, there's a great purpose to it. A lot of people come in, and they've almost maxed out all the benefits from this almost too far that they're doing so much L5 that one there ignoring benefits of other zones. But two, they're not gaining the benefits from this because they pretty much peaked them because they haven't built up the level 2 benefits so they can't even gain all the benefits from 5.
ANGIE: Right, because a lot of times this is where most people run most of their runs at this level 5, when in reality this should actually be a very small amount of your training that's included in the 20% like going back to that 80/20 rule. 80% at level 2, 20% everything else makes. So, the L5 should be a portion of that 20%. So maybe for you, depending on what distance of erase your training for, maybe that's only 5%. Maybe it's 10%. Right? it doesn't matter I'm sure I shouldn't say it doesn’t matter; it does matter what you're training for but it's still a part of that smaller percentage. And what happens when people are running too much level 5 essentially, like Kevin just said, they end up tired, over trained, decreased motivation, they get injured more easily, all of those things. But on the other hand, then there's people that aren't doing enough of this right? there are people that come in and they understand the benefits of level 2. Or maybe they're pushing more at like a level 3-4, right? And they're not pushing up into that like 5-6 range. What happens is there is a lack of progress, right? People that will start to listen to our podcasts or maybe you know, find one of my reels on Instagram or something where I'm talking about the benefits of easy right?
KEVIN: Talk about the benefit of L2.
ANGIE: And they start easy writing like. Oh my God easy running is amazing, I love easy running, then they just run all of their runs at L2, you still need to incorporate in level 5, okay, because if you don't incorporate L5, then essentially you stop making progress at some point and you can start to have decreased physical and mental strength, especially mental because I believe for me, especially mental strength is one of the big things that gets built at this level 5.
KEVIN: Yeah, level 5 you have a great term for running for at level 5. If it is uncomfortably comfortable or comfortably uncomfortable.
ANGIE: I think it's comfortably uncomfortable.
KEVIN: It's somewhere in that middle range where you're like, I would rather be going slower than this, but I could sustain this if I needed to.
ANGIE: For a little bit longer.
KEVIN: Like it's, I don't have to stop and walk right now like I couldn't keep this going. Like level 5, as you build up your endurance and you're able to run further and further, level 5 starts being this middle ground. It's somewhere between like a 10K race pace and a half marathon race pace, depending on how fast you run over those two distances. But it's somewhere in the middle. It's something that you could sustain for a while. It just doesn't feel great while you're doing it, but you could do it.
ANGIE: Right. So, how do you know if you're at a level 5? #1? Like Kevin said, it should be comfortably uncomfortable or moderately uncomfortable like not to the point where you like need to stop right? Because you're out of breath, like you could keep going. You can hold this for a while longer, you just don't really want to, right? Because it doesn't feel great, it requires focus for you to maintain. So, going back to your breathing, your breathing is slightly more labored, but it's still under control, right? You're not like panting, you're not like trying to like suck wind or anything like that. It's just your breathing you need focus to breathe a little bit more, but you still feel in control of your breathing.
KEVIN: Yes, you could have a conversation, it just wouldn't be quite the smoothest of conversations.
ANGIE: Right, so it would be more like short phrases when we go back to our talk tests, you're going to have short phrases versus those complete sentences and storytelling like we are mentioning in L2.
KEVIN: Yeah, you're talking because you're trying to do anything to distract yourself from the intensity that you're going, but you're not having a full conversation. You're definitely not storytelling it this it's one of those things where it's like man, if I could ask a question then they'll have to talk for a little while, and then I can try and gain my breathing again. It's that and it goes back and forth in just short little phrases which is fine.
ANGIE: Yeah, that's why I love running with certain people in my running group because they'll talk nonstop. Kind of no matter what pace we're doing, right? Like and because there are some of them that are just so well trained that run like marathons. Like, I've got many people in and I should say many but, several women in the group that I run in that are doing like the 50-state challenge, you know where they're running a marathons, so they're in marathon in every state, so they are constantly training for a marathon, you know. They do multiple marathons per year and they can just talk like no matter how many miles are running, which is amazing. So, what are the benefits of L5 of this tempo run pacing effort level? #1, it helps to improve what's called your lactate threshold. So essentially to try to simplify this and correct me or, you know try to pull me back in if I get too scientific in here.
KEVIN: Go for it.
ANGIE: When you exert energy. When you're out there working out essentially there are byproducts of energy production, okay, so your body is producing energy and then there are essentially waste products and these waste products build up in your body if you are exercising at a high enough intensity where producing the byproducts and cleaning up the byproducts are not matched up, right? Like if you're producing more than your body is able to clean up at the same time, then you're getting an excess of these byproducts. Okay, one of them is lactate, so we all have this lactate threshold which kind of feels like that burning sensation in our muscles. Like when lactate starts to build up, and so when you are doing tempo runs in this L5 area, you're essentially improving your lactate threshold, and so essentially what that's doing is increasing your body's ability to feel that uncomfortable physical sensation of the brain and keep going.
KEVIN: Yeah, it also improves what two things, because you pointed out that that threshold level comes when the number of byproducts that you're making is not quite imbalanced with the number of byproducts that you're able to actually deal with. That's like, essentially, you've got like a garbage cleanup crew that's like, oh, we've got lactate, let's do something with this and make it go away. And part of it is it can actually use it and reuse it as a different form of fuel so your body does two things. One, it starts producing a lower amount of lactate, and two, it starts being better at cleaning up what you've used in a in a much more efficient manner. And those two things, allow your threshold level the speed that you can run and still maintain that balance of making byproducts and cleaning byproducts, you start being able to run at a faster pace even though you're still at what's considered the threshold inside your body.
ANGIE: Right, because your body becomes more efficient at producing energy, so you don't produce as many of those byproducts.
ANGIE: And when you do your body knows how to clean them up faster
KEVIN: Right. But if you don't, actually enjoy all the L2 through and build up a whole bunch of mitochondria and allow your body to just start pushing oxygenated blood throughout your body really fast. It's hard to lift your threshold level because you're not able to produce the energy quite as efficiently. You might be certain to get pretty good at the cleanup stuff, but you're not ever going to reach your good full potential if you're not actually work getting the benefits of L2. So, you can try and just be like I'm going to run L5 all the time. And you get really good at the clean Up crew, but you don't get quite as good at the efficiency of I'm not producing as many by products.
ANGIE: Right, because your body requires oxygen to oxidize fat and oxidized certain energies and convert certain forms of energy to another. So, you get that oxygen in when you're running at L2 when you can breathe comfortably, you get more oxygen In in that, oxygen goes in and your body can actually utilize that to make its energy systems more efficient, right?
KEVIN: So that's the very science-y chemicals going on your body not quite into super detail that hopefully people didn't skip through that, but there's other benefits. And some of these other benefits are super huge, they're the mental benefits. If you ever want to race, you reach a point in the race where you just like and I'm going to slow down now. I would like to be done, is the finish line here or if it's not, I'm certainly going to start slowing down, but you don't have to. Like you could push through that uncomfortable, but if you've never practiced running in a state of somewhat uncomfortable, moderately uncomfortable getting towards fairly uncomfortable if you've never practiced that when it shows up in the race, you're much more likely to freak out over it, your body is going to be like I don't know what this discomfort is and instead of responding to it as a challenge where it's going to put like good chemicals and be like? No, no we can overcome the challenge, it's going to be like, whoo, that is pain and that is uncomfortable and I need to freak out and panic and it put it's on the like the freak out chemicals and then your body just the cordial.
ANGIE: Freak out chemicals. That I mean, that's a stress.
KEVIN: The freak out chemical yeah cortisol so your body doesn't respond appropriately. And instead of being able to like rise up to the challenge, you instead just say, oh yes, that's super uncomfortable now it's time to slow down.
ANGIE: Right. So, they help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable and they basically help you practice that mental focus to keep going even when you don't want to.
KEVIN: Excellent. Right, so I like to.
ANGIE: And then there's those freak out chemicals.
KEVIN: It says when something pops up in front of me, I can respond with a rush of adrenaline where I might be able to like rise to the challenge rather than and rush of cortisol where I would much rather just lay in the fetal position.
ANGIE: Fight or flight.
KEVIN: Am I missing on these chemicals?
ANGIE: I mean, it's not like you get a rush of cortisol though. That's, but that's not.
KEVIN: This is true.
ANGIE: But you're, that's not exactly accurate.
KEVIN: Sure, but your cortisol levels will continuously rise if you see what's in front of you as something that is more going to hurt your body.
ANGIE: Right. So, anyway, let's go into some of these examples of tempo runs and L5. What's a good way that we can incorporate this in your training?
KEVIN: So, one of the earliest ways that this came into training is I think early 80S was quote on quote tempo runs. They were 20 minutes trying to find this level that was your threshold and then sustaining right around that threshold level. And at that time, it was all being done in a lab and they're doing like blood tests on the athletes throughout the whole thing. You probably are not regularly blood testing yourself during your run, so what you do is you practice what this moderate intensity is and then you sustain that for about 20 minutes. There's a whole lot of calculators on online that you can find what your threshold pace is. You can estimate it off of different race paces, that you can estimate what essentially your lactate threshold is.
ANGIE: Yeah, so the 20-minute tempo is kind of the classic right? Like that's been useful for you to understand what that level 5 that moderate pace feels like just sit in it, it’s like one of the races, like one of my least favorite types of runs, when I started running. I appreciate it much more now because I understand the benefits of it, but like I used to tell Kevin like it's annoying to me because it doesn't matter how fast you go or how slow you go, you're just there for 20 minutes regardless, which is good and bad, right? Because sometimes I think that when we feel like can this thing just be over with, we tend to just try to push harder so that if we're doing, say, a two-mile tempo run. If you push a little bit harder than you're going to finish it sooner, right, which is, that's a benefit, right? Then you can get out of that discomfort by pushing yourself harder, but that's missing the point. The point is, trying to sit at that uncomfortable level and just ride there right? And so that's why the time-based tempo runs are really helpful because it doesn't matter if you go faster, it doesn't matter if you go slower I mean it does kind of matter if you go slower then you're not getting the full benefit of the workout, and again, if you go faster, you're also not getting the same benefit of the workout. So, it just teaches you to kind of stay there in that discomfort and just kind of ride out the 20 minutes.
KEVIN: Yeah, it's why the time-based tempo runs are much more useful I think than distance-based, if you go distance-based, people tend to try and put a finishing kick on it. Just pick up the pace in the middle of it like I feel okay, because the temple run shouldn't feel that brutal, it's still only level 5, like 20 minutes at level 5 should not be breaking you the same way that like if you were trying to hold 10 minutes at level 7 You're really going to be up against it. But 20 minutes at level 5 should not be that brutal. So, 20 minutes trying to hold a similar pace as a good one. The other one, if you're trying to like start feeling out what that Level 5 is, is a progression run. I like this one if you're not quite sure what L5 really feels like. Your kind of started L2. You move yourself up to maybe L6 over the course of about 30 minutes. A good chunk at that time is going to be at L5. It might be a little bit under might be a little bit over, but a good chunk of it may average out to around L5 so you're going to start feeling a huge amount of these benefits even though you run wasn't necessarily like perfectly level all the way through, you may have like kind of kept climbing it, but the purpose of it is to just kind of keep getting faster. You get 2 benefits, one when you're tired. You have to be going even faster at the end and two if you're not sure exactly what L5 is, you're going to end up spending a lot of your time there if you start under it and you finish over it. You're going to spend a bunch in the middle.
ANGIE: Yeah, and they're actually pretty fun because then it's like this is also known as a negative split. So, like you can watch your pace get faster throughout the run, which is pretty rewarding and gratifying in my opinion. I feel like that makes me feel really strong to like finish faster than I started. And also, when you go back and look at the stats, you’re like, yeah, look at that, you know like I just kept getting faster so progression runs or negative split runs are pretty cool too. Another way that I really like to incorporate tempo runs, especially if you're new to this pace and to this idea, are what are called broken tempo runs. So essentially what you'll do is you'll run for a little bit like of an extended period of time, so somewhere between like 5 and 10 minutes, not the full 20 minutes. But somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes and then you'll take a short break. So, an example of this would be like 5 minutes at a medium pace with a one-minute break in between and you repeat that five times. OK, so it's an interval base run, but a lot of times people think about interval runs as like harder, which we're going to talk about here in #3. But you can also do tempo runs in interval way, you just want to put very short breaks i between, so it's enough of a mental and s little bit of a physical break. So, the break is not long enough that it's really giving you a ton of physical benefits. It's really more mental benefits and just kind of like that short rest period and then go again. So, like 10 minutes at tempo pace a one-minute break and repeat that three times.
KEVIN: Right, you can also then get over 20 minutes at a tempo pace in a much easier fashion than just trying to actually do 30 minutes at temple pace, which is a whole heck of a lot harder than 3 times 3 times 10. It's also how I tricked Angie into doing tempo runs.
ANGIE: Yes, you did.
KEVIN: Yes, I did. Alright so, I like to think of, this level 5 training of essentially like parenting on a road trip.
ANGIE: Parenting on a road trip.
KEVIN: Yes, we would all like to be operating at our highest level as parents all the time. But you're going to be trapped in the car with the children for multiple hours, so you know that you can't be going 100% the whole time. You're going to balance this out and kind of ride that middle line medium intensity and it will increase your mental stamina when you're in the car with the kids for hour upon hour.
ANGIE: Show you only do it 20% of the time. During the road trip, 80% of the time you're at a Level 2 parent.
KEVIN: No, the road trip is like race performance. It's like it's when you actually show up and knock out the half marathon is, you're holding level 5 for longer than 20 minutes. It's practice you have to practice moderating your intensity.
ANGIE: So, do you go out and like you know, practice this in the car before you jump into the 18-hour road trip with kids and a dog in the crate. Great thanksgiving in Ohio.
KEVIN: I really think an 18-hour car ride with two kids and a dog with solid preparation for ultramarathoning like the mental stamina that you need to just keep grinding it out hour after hour is critical and at the end of both of.
ANGIE: Oh, there you go. You're welcome.
KEVIN: Them your butt hurts.
ANGIE: You're welcome, so maybe that's why you had to stop because we didn't go the full 18 hours straight, right?
KEVIN: This is true if we had driven straight through.
ANGIE: Then we would have that.
KEVIN: Yes, that was that was the issue.
ANGIE: So maybe we just need to take a longer road trip?
KEVIN: Lord. Alright, let's move to our next level. We're talking L8. These are hard.
ANGIE: Hard intervals, okay. So, far just to recap. We've talked about level 2. We've talked about level 5. The third effort level that you want to train at is level 8. Okay, 8 out of 10, so these are hard now. The mistakes that a lot of people make is that they never tap into this higher intensity work. Most runners most endurance runners never really push themselves that hard, okay, and so when they don't do this a lot of times, what happens is that they make slower progress or they end up plateauing because they're not training so many of the muscle fibers that are available to them like we're going to talk about here in a second
KEVIN: Or they go too far and they don't ever hit L8. They do a lot of easy running. Maybe they saw a thing online. Maybe they caught one of your reels that said, hey, this is the glory of easy run. And then they've heard, maybe they caught another real that was running hard is good, but they go to sprint, so it's easy and it's sprinting and it's not actually tapping into level 8, which has different benefits and much greater benefits I think than full blown level like 10 out of 10 or it was 10 out of 10 and then I tried to crank it up to 11. Like that's not the training that we're talking about. This is not full all out sprinting. It's a couple notches down from 10 level 8 you could sustain for several minutes, whereas level 10 you're not sustaining for several minutes at all.
ANGIE: Right. So, part of Level 8 that you need to remember is that it's essentially short bouts of hard running followed by a recovery period and the key here is that you need recovery number one and #2 you need those longer periods of recovery because the effort is harder like. Recovery is really, really good for you, and this is where one of the reasons that a lot of people don't want to do this type of work or do this work incorrectly because they don't want to take that longer recovery because they think they're not being productive, right? Like they don't like a lot. An example of this would be like running one minute hard than taking a one-minute walking break or two-minute walking break given right? Depending on how hard you're going and so runners look at that and they're like well, I'm only spending 8 minutes running at a hard level and like I'm spending 8 minutes walking and they're looking at that as not being productive. But when you're pushing yourself to a level 8 to this hard effort level, it is absolutely imperative that you allow your body and your muscles to recover so that you can then hit that high intensity again. Because, essentially what happens is you hit that high intensity, you kind of drain your muscles of energy and of blood, and of all the things. And then you need the recovery to allow those tissues to build back up to baseline so that you can then hit that hard intensity again. And when you try to hit that before recovering all the way, you never, you know, actually gain the full benefits of the activity.
KEVIN: It still feels really hard, yeah, but your speed in this one, I know we're talking all on effort level, but if you kind of start looking at the clock a little bit off of this guy, maybe you do say like 400-meter repeats quarter mile repeats. You do the first one in two minutes. We pick a nice easy number. We'll do the first one in two minutes and you're pushing really, really hard and then you do the next one without recovering fully, and you do the next one in 2:10 and you the next one in 2:20. You're slowing down your like I'm still pushing really hard, but you're not getting the recovery enough of this so you're no longer quite getting that same physical stimulus because you're not able to push to that same speed that you were getting before. If the benefit of running fast is actually running fast if you're trying to do it on super tired legs because you're like, ah, the Walking in between means that I'm not working hard enough for it. No, no, the walking between allows you to work really hard during the time period where you're supposed to work really hard like I get this experience coaching track, the sprinters will sprint for 20 seconds, 10 seconds and then they get like 5 minutes of walking around and doing some running drills like. It's a huge amount of recovery time because the intensity is so high during the actual effort level. Distance runners are like no I'll just I'll jog the recovery for like 30 seconds then I'll push pretty good again. You're not pushing hard enough on that part that's the problem.
ANGIE: Yeah. Well, then you're pushing more to like a level 5 or level 6, if you're doing like jogging or recovery but these harder intensities you should be like walking or just standing around and resting. So how do you know if you're at a level 8? you're breathing is hard, and as far as talking, you don't want to talk. That's how you know that you're at a level 8 and there are a lot of benefits of level 8. A lot of times people ask us like I'm a distance runner, why would I be doing you know, quarter mile repeats or 200-meter sprints, like that doesn't make sense. I'm training for 1/2 marathon. But even if you're trained for distances that are longer, there is still benefits of incorporating this a little bit in your training and again when we talk at the beginning about you, your body, your goals. It depends on what race your training for when you look at the ratios and how much of each thing to incorporate into your training right, like.
KEVIN: Yeah 100%.
ANGIE: If you are training for 1/2 marathon or marathon, you don't need a lot of L8 but sou still need a little bit, right? Because it basically helps you build your anaerobic capacity, right? We talked a lot about aerobic capacity with L2. L8 really helps to build your anaerobic capacity and your other energy conversion pathways in the body. It also helps to activate more fast twitch muscle fibers in your body, right? There are fast twitch and there is slow twitch so it's good to activate just more muscles in general. You want to make your body more fatigue resistance that that is going to help improve your endurance. You can also when you do level 8 you improve muscle recruitment. So that means that when you are firing, when your brain is sending that message down to your muscles to fire instead of recruiting, just maybe and I'm just making these numbers up, but these are not exact numbers obviously. But instead of just recruiting 10 muscle fibers, when you do LL8, you're like those muscle fibers you are all bringing their friends, so instead of 10 maybe you're now recruiting 50 or 100 muscle fibers that are all firing at the same time. So, you're getting more muscle fibers active, which is going to increase your power. And when you do that during L8 that those muscles are now activated and they can kind of help you out more when you're doing your longer, slower runs.
KEVIN: Yeah, increasing your power is always a good thing, even if you're like I'm training for a marathon. It's going to take me 4 hours to do this thing. I don't need the kind of workouts where. I'm pushing hard for 30 seconds for 45 seconds. You’re going to gain benefits. You're going to gain efficiency in your running form. You're going to increase your overall power output if you can increase the level of your power output when you're not running that hard, you're running. It's a like 20% of your maximum power. You're still able to put out more power at 20% because you increased your ceiling. The higher the ceiling is then when you're running it and easy 20% of a taller ceiling is still greater power, and that's greater speed, and that's faster racing.
ANGIE: Right, and so when you also when you recruit more muscle fibers that helps to make running more efficient because now you have more friends doing the same job. So, imagine that you're trying to lift up a couch and you are just trying to lift it up by yourself, or even just you and one other person. If you recruit a couple more people to come help you, it's going to be much easier for you to move that piece of furniture, right? And that's really what muscle recruitment does. Is it makes running more efficient both in the number of muscle fibers that you recruit and also in your running form? Okay, when you are running at a level 8, you have no room for wasted motion and wasted energy.
KEVIN: No, no you don't.
ANGIE: Right, like there are a lot of people that have very inefficient running forms and that their arms are swinging all over the place. Their heads bopping all over the place, and when you're running fast, you just you can't be swinging your arms all over right they have to be more streamlined. And so, when you hit these higher intense levels it automatically makes you a more efficient runner and naturally improve your running form.
KEVIN: Right, so there's still maybe a few things because there are some incredibly talented people around the world who have a little bit of like what looks like hiccups in their running form but they've practiced so much at these higher running intensities that their body has now this term that that is the more efficient way of running. So even if you're looking at the arm carriage of like some pro athlete and you're like well, it seems like their left arm swings slightly to the side. They've practiced so much of their bodies now determine that that is by far the most efficient way to run so trying to change it would no longer be a thing. But they only got there by putting so much time and effort in at these higher bases. Otherwise, that's just going to be super inefficient.
ANGIE: Right, so let's talk about some examples of higher intensity L8 types of runs.
KEVIN: Right, so in Temple runs we were talking about, most things are going to be time based and you gave an example of this one that was time-based go hard for a minute and then walk for a minute. Or if you want to do a jogging version of it. I like to do a high intensity that includes a jog, but my recovery instead of being go hard for a minute walk for a minute is go hard for a minute jog for three, like it takes me a lot longer to recover.
ANGIE: Super easy job.
KEVIN: Yeah, like I'm jogging and It's a slog for the opening minute of it and then I start feeling almost normal during the 2nd and then I start feeling recovered during the third. So, when I go again, I'm able to actually push again otherwise I like to walk on the recovery for these guys. From like a mileage perspective, you could do quarter mile repeats, half mile repeats, for European friends, kilometer repeats. These are all good, relatively short intervals. Something that you're going to be able to sustain depending on your speed, probably for what 3 minutes max.
ANGIE: Well, yeah and I think when you're getting into like half mile and kilometer repeats, you're starting to kind of get into that gray area. Because I don't think you, like most people, don't do L8 for that long of a time like you can, but it's not pleasant.
KEVIN: It's not pleasant. It's quite the challenge. It's more of a time trial at that point.
ANGIE: So, I think it's more like those are. I think of those more as like a level 7. But again, that's getting into like a lot of different nuances in detail, right? Because there's going to be a lot of different types of runs that we didn't talk about today. You know we didn't get into like steady state runs. We didn't get into 5K,10K pace runs because we really wanted to stick to the core here of like Level 2, Level 5 level 8. Because if you guys can nail down getting these incorporated into your training plan on a regular basis, you're going to see massive benefits in your running.
KEVIN: Right. So, if you're looking at distances here, there's something that you could sustain for one to two minutes. So, find, depending on how fast you're running when you feel like you're pushing, you're not pushing all out but you're pushing really hard, if you'd like to go distance based instead of time based, figure out what distance you could sustain for around a minute, and then that's roughly the interval that you're going for. It's okay if it's a little bit over a little bit under, you know, somewhere in that one to two-minute ballpark. That's roughly the range you're looking for, that's why. I let quarter mile repeats at this level.
ANGIE: Right. So, you know one thing that we can kind of relate this too of like why L8 is important, is lighter fluid like you know, like let's use a random metaphor. Lighter fluid is one of those things that you used to start the fire right. It burns, but it doesn't sustain the fire like it. You use it to kind of get it going just like speed can kind of help kick you off of a plateau, so if you're finding that you are not making good progress and you're running, and you're kind of plateaued there adding in some higher end speed work can really help to kind of move things around in the body and kind of get you get you going in a different direction.
KEVIN: Yeah, but no one’s going to sit around and roast marshmallows over a fire made out of lighter fluid and kindling light that seems dangerous. So, if you've already been incorporating some higher speed and you're like, oh, they're suggesting I should put some more speed into it now. Remember the you need 20, 20% of your running at this higher level. And that includes L5 and L8, otherwise you're looking at, well, there's already a nice fire maybe we should spray some lighter fluid on it. That's an injury waiting to happen. Please don't do that.
ANGIE: Yeah, don't do that right like so yeah, use L8 but use it sparingly. Just like lighter fluid.
KEVIN: Just like linear fluid.
ANGIE: Okay, so, what are like the exact ratios you should be using for all of these things? There that's too much for us to go into today, you know. So, if you guys want guidance on that on how to build a training plan that's right for you, you're going to want to come join us inside the Real Life Runners Training Academy, because we teach you exactly how to do this. We teach you how to incorporate all of these different types of runs into a comprehensive plan, so that that will help you to achieve whatever goal it is that you're chasing, right? Because there's just, there's a lot of ways you can start to put all these things together.
KEVIN: Yeah, I mean you covered some of the things we never even talked about of specific pace runs in steady state. There's all, I mean, we covered L2, 5 and 8. There’s more numbers between 1 and 10 last I checked.
ANGIE: Yeah, there's a lot more there. So, but as a general rule, 80% of your runs at a level 2, 20% of your runs at the higher effort level is a really good place for you to start. If you want to start, kind of designing this on your own without help.
ANGIE: Alright, so guys as always thank you so much for joining us today. If you haven't subscribed to the podcast yet, please do hit that or that follow button. Share this podcast with a friend. Because we love to help other runners understand better ways to train, feel better when they're out there, running and get better results you know, we want to help as many people as you can. So, by you sharing and also leaving a review on whatever podcast player you enjoy. Whether you're watching us on YouTube and you can like this video or share this video. If you're listening to us on iTunes on Spotify, you can leave us a review and those reviews really do help other people to find the show. And I love hearing thing about you know new followers on Instagram that told me they just found the podcast when they did a search for running podcasts, right? Because if you would go into a podcast player and you type in running or runner, it's going to show you some of the more popular podcasts and they determine that based on the number of downloads based on the reviews based on the ratings. Okay, so when you rate and review and download the podcasts, that is you helping us to spread the podcast to new people so?
KEVIN: It's super exciting when I search and we pop up on there.
ANGIE: Yeah, so thank you guys if you've done that already, thank you and if you haven't, please do. We appreciate it so much. And if you want a Real Life Runner sticker, If you haven't gotten 1 yet, send me an e-mail, [email protected], with a screenshot of this episode or reach out to me on Instagram @realliferunners and request a sticker, and I will be happy to mail you a real life run or sticker that you can put on your water bottle or your laptop or wherever you want to put it.
KEVIN: She's not kidding. We just mailed some stuff here.
ANGIE: I did. So, as always guys, thank you so much for joining us. This has been the Real Life Runners podcast, episode #259, now get out there and run your life.