Surprising Insight Why Hard and Easy Running Days Make a Difference

05 Jun Surprising Insight Why Hard and Easy Running Days Make a Difference

In his recent Globe and Mail Jockology column, Alex Hutchinson@sweatscience (author of the book Endure) shared surprising new insight on the value of ‘polarizing’ your training routine. Run the harder workouts harder; run the easier workouts easier. Elite athletes have shown a consistent pattern of 80-20: 80% relatively easy and 20% ‘gut-churningly’ hard. Very little effort was spent at middle-of-the-road efforts.The benefit: going easier on the easy leaves us with more ‘oomph’ to do the harder. The hard part–disciplining ourselves to do this.

Stephen Seiler@StephenSeiler (an American-born exercise physiologist) recently presented his 15-years of research findings at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference. Bottom Line: ‘We’re not training as effectively as we should’. Enter discipline. Apparently ‘intensity discipline’ is one of the traits that distinguishes successful and unsuccessful athletes. Why do we have difficulty doing this? Another exercise physiologist suggests that as humans we may be dealing with a leftover internal remnant of the ‘puritan work ethic’.

Scott Douglas@mescottdouglas (contributing editor at Runner’s World) puts it this way: “Cue my well-worn tale of doing some runs in Kenya slower with sub-13:00 5K guys than on my own. When I told 2:15 marathon U.S. friend what “easy” meant there, he said they were wasting their time. I said, “I’m gonna go with the guys who broke 13 minutes on this one.”

Keep this thought front and centre: If you try to hammer every workout, you’ll never be fresh enough to really push your limits; if you jog every run, you’re not challenging yourself enough to maximize your fitness. Why not start ‘polarizing’ your own workouts? Might produce some surprising results.

Hutchinson’s column is always an informative, thought-provoking, inspirational, and enjoyable read. Check it out here.

Alex Hutchinson

Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D., is a columnist for Outside magazine and was a long-time columnist for Runner’s World. A National Magazine Award winner, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker online, pens the weekly “Jockology” column in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and writes for the New York Times. FiveThirtyEight recently named him one of their “favorite running science geeks.” He was a two-time finalist in the 1,500 meters at the Canadian Olympic Trials, and represented Canada internationally in track, cross-country, road racing, and mountain running competitions. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, and has worked as a researcher for the U.S. National Security Agency. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

Thanks for reading, Cheerios


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