As with any cardiovascular activity if you are going to perform for several minutes or even a few hours you need to find a sustainable pace. Here is an email from someone who enjoys running with a group but struggles with running alone:
Hey Stew - When I run with my group of friends, I am always faster than when I run alone. It seems my group pushes me harder than when I run by myself. Do you have any advice on getting better running workout when alone? - Tom
Great question Tom. I have struggled with this one as well so I formed a group locally where we are all constantly challenging each other in one of several arenas - running, swimming, weight lifting, calisthenics. Personally, now I train harder on my own in order to compete with the faster / younger runners. Here is how I do it:
Normally we run the same routes. When we are together running, I make landmarks and time checks to see how my speed is. So usually at a mile marker, I can find out if I am in a sub 7 minute mile pace or not. Usually the group hits this mark repeatedly. So on my own, I go to a track and work on my speed and pace and push myself for 6-6:30 mile pace. For instance:
Repeat 5-6 times 1/4 mile run - 90-95 seconds cooldown jog for 1/8 mile
Then I see if I can pull it all together with sub 7 mile pace for 2-3 miles. Now this pace maybe too fast or too slow for you depending on your running level and experience, so I recommend running the original route you and your friends like to run and mark off time checks at certain landmarks like intersections, flag poles, someone's house, etc. Then see if you can push yourself to match those scores the next time you run alone.
I have often used the stop watch as a training guide for a variety of events - especially physical fitness tests. When I do situps, I try to find my goal pace that will get me to 100 situps in 2 minutes. This is 25 in 30 seconds or 50 in 1 minute. I repeat those sets a few times in my PT workouts and compete with no one but myself and my watch.
The same can be done with swimming, biking, and running. Find a pace you like to strive for and divide that distance by a number that makes sense and work several sets of that pace into a workout. Like this:
Swimming a 500m swim - divide the swim into 5 x 100m sets or 10 by 50m sets. If you goal is to swim in the 8 -8:30 mark then shoot for a pace of 50m in 50 seconds. In the end you should be at 500 seconds (8:20) for 500m. Your multiple sets of swimming at that pace will soon be easier and easier to maintain.
Running a 3 mile run - divide the run into ￂﾽ miles or mile runs and do a workout called "repeats". Basically, run 5-6 1/2 mile runs at your goal 3 mile run pace or run 3-4 mile runs at your goal 3 mile pace. These workouts will challenge you and you may need to rest in between for a 200-400m walk to catch your breath, but as you practice these run or swim sets, you will find maintaining a faster pace while running gets much easier.
Hang in there and keep practicing to learn or muscle memory a pace. Feel free to email me if you have any questions at email@example.com. I will try to answer them all or even create a new article out of them if the question inspires me.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.