How to Improve Your Outdoor Running Pace

There’s a reason they call it “runner’s high.” After all, how good does it feel to get back after a long run, drink some cold water, stretch, and simply appreciate what you can do with (and what you can do for) your body? Check out these 3 ways you can improve your outdoor running pace and achieve that feel-good feeling.

But getting the most out of your run often requires getting to know your body a little better. You do this by pacing. Learning how to pace yourself appropriately (that is, not starting off at a sprint and ending up at an awkward and painful “hop walk”) can reduce your risk of injury, maximize the physical and mental benefits you get from your workout, and, in the case of road races, keep you much more competitive.

No idea how to run at a consistent pace? Do you start like the hare and finish like the exhausted tortoise? Conversely, do you start and stop like the tortoise–then are left feeling like you’ve got way more left in the tank? Keep reading for 3 helpful ways to improve your ability to self-pace on your runs.

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3 Ways to Improve Your Outdoor Running Pace

1.  Plug in. 

Outdoor Running PaceThere’s nothing like good music to ramp up your workout. Listening to up-beat tunes can actually help your body at a faster and/or more consistent pace through a process called entrainment (they’ve actually used music to improve the walking speed of people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological problems). Need some inspiration? Check out this curated selection of running music from Runner’s World. You can also download metronome apps for a more exact pace, which experts note at around 180 footfalls per minute for optimal efficiency.

2.  Unplug.

Okay. So this is the complete opposite of point #1, but believe it or not they are not mutually exclusive in your overall training plan. On some days, maybe once a week, hit the road without your go-to playlist. Instead, focus on the way your body feels–specifically your breath, your legs muscles, and your mental/physical state overall. Learning how to rate your perceived exhaustion (how hard it feels like you’re working) can help you learn how to maintain a more consistent pace throughout your run. Plus, it can offer you some much needed quiet time and mindfulness, too.

3.  Check your pulse.

If you’re new to running, every run might feel super hard, so rating your perceived exhaustion on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 feeling like an all-out sprint) may not be completely accurate. While running then (with or without music), periodically check your heart rate so that you have a number to reference for your pace (e.g., “When I was moving at a hard/easy pace, this is how fast my heart was beating, so next time I just need to run fast enough to reach that same rate again”). Easiest way to do this? Invest in a quality heart rate monitor–they’re not as expensive as you may think. Running on a treadmill is a similar way to extract “hard data” from your run that is independent of the feel of your run–though to be clear, both objective and subjective information are critical for becoming a better self-pacer.

Are you a running-lover? Got some pacing tips to share? Let us hear it in the comments below, and be sure to share this article with your fellow running friends.

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