Take it Easy

The Bottom Line Up Front:

  • Building an effective amount of volume in the proper training modularity is the key to optimizing performance.
  • Understanding the parameters of your training module is the first step towards accumulating effective volume.
  • Find ways to make sure you stay within these parameters.

Building an aerobic base, and increasing that base is integral towards becoming effective in performance of endurance events. And to build this aerobic base, it is vital to build an increasing volume of effective work performed with the proper mechanics, and with the proper energy delivery systems pertinent to this type of activity (seems to be a recurring theme in developing yourself as [insert dream athletic status here]).

If you are a just beginning your journey into being a runner, “just running” is a fairly safe method to begin building. Athletes with a very young training age tend to adapt well to new stressors (within reason) because “any stress” is greater than “no stress” which is what your body was used to. And controlled stress is what you need to force your body and its systems to adapt.

As you begin to vary workouts, you may start to experiment with new ideas, as they are far and wide. Hill sprints, fartleks, HIIT, etc. You can find a new workout almost every day. While these workouts are gassers, and can help build speed, they are working a different energy system and not doing as much to expand your aerobic capacity. But when it comes back to expanding your aerobic base, the simple trick of low intensity, steady state does wonders. I personally keep one low intensity day per week, in my goal of becoming the hybrid athlete. But as goals vary from person to person, you may find yourself doing more mileage days than I do (hopefully not less).

Your magic window for quality aerobic work lies around 60% of maximal cardiovascular effort, for 30-90 minutes. For most, this will typically fall at 120-130 beats per minute. If you have a heart rate monitor, this is easy peasy. But for those of us cheapskates who don’t want to shell out the cash, I find its a good rule of thumb to mind your breathing rate. Your breathing rate should be elevated, but sustainable. If you find yourself getting progressively shorter of breath, you’ve gone too far. This is actually the originating thought behind military calling cadence when running. It only remains a possibility if you are in a zone where your cardio respiratory rate is manageable.

But one pitfall that seems to creep up on people as  they accumulate low intensity mileage, is creeping beyond what is “low intensity.” I feel this stems from two factors, the first being the natural desire to FEEL like you are doing work, and the second being sheer boredom or impatience.

Don’t FEEL Like Working Hard

It has been conditioned in us to feel that effective work has to feel like work. No pain, no gain. You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for, etc. While these are great for motivation, they can also cause a person to lose focus on what element of their body they are trying to develop. And in the case of developing the aerobic systems of the body, low and slow wins the race.

  • If you have a heart rate monitor, most people will fall near 120-130 beats per minute.
  • Think about maintaining “controllable” breathing rate. If you are starting to lose it and suck wind, you’ve gone too far and need to dial it back.
  • If dialing it back means bringing your jog down to a walk for periods, this is still beneficial, and will add to your total time.


As Americans, we tend to hustle sometimes. We feel like we have to cram things into shorter time windows for the sake of efficiency. I think this is the root of why some of us lack the mental fortitude to just relax, and let the mileage come to us.

  • Effective workout scheduling, don’t FIND time for your mileage, MAKE time for your mileage.
  • Avoid the treadmill if possible, run outdoors where the scenery gives you a distraction.
  • Investigate the potential for trail running.
  • Just kidding about the treadmill (maybe)… some folks can really get it done with a nice long sporting event on a TV, if your gym has them.

The Long Haul

Running for mileage and distance will be a commitment. But the proper planning of your schedule, and general mindfulness of your aerobic state of being will drastically improve the robustness of your aerobic capacity.

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