I wouldn’t run so much if it wasn’t fun, and for the most part it can stay fun. You can make a lot of progress running at a nice steady pace, maybe even enjoying yourself.
You can make a lot of progress running even slower than that, especially if you can mix in some trails and some hills.
However, for some ethereal reason, I’ve decided that it’s important to be fast. For that reason, at least once a week, I run in a way which hurts.
There’s no two ways about it, interval day is painful. It’s important to differentiate between the kind of pain which comes from working hard and being injured, the kind of pain I’m talking about is a good pain. It’s a pain that I go looking for. Alongside the work I’m putting in at the gym, it’s a pain which is making me gradually quicker. If, and when, races return and I get some on the calendar, it’s a pain which I might get after two or three times a week.
This week the pain came in the form of 2 x 1k (1 minute recovery), then 5 x 200m (45 second recovery), plus a light warm up and warm down. It was the nicest morning for running in a while: bluebird skies, a strong breeze to blow away the cobwebs, but still hot enough for the muscles to feel loose and fast. I hit the 1k reps in 3:28 and 3:24, then knocked out the 200’s averaging 32 seconds a rep. With such short recoveries between all the reps, this was a hard breathing workout.
If you like training data, my Garmin 645 gave me a training effect of 3.3 aerobic, and 3.1 anaerobic. Heart rate topped out at 192.
If you prefer more subjective analysis, in the last couple of 200’s I got that classic lead leg feeling, and my lungs felt about on the brink of bursting.
Was it fun? Definitely not in the same way that a nice adventurous run is, or a playful easy run with a good album. It was fun in the way that it felt really good to finish, and it still feels good now knowing what I did.
That’s the difference between the right pain, and the wrong pain. The wrong pain stays with you, and can ruin the rest of your day (and beyond) if you don’t manage it. The right pain stays with you too, but it improves your day, and has you coming back for more.