2 July 2020

What is pacing?

Pacing could have multiple meanings and definitions, but for context regarding this discussion, the simplest way it can be defined is, sustainable and repeatable efforts.

Pacing often has connotations associated with being slow or tedious, however I would like to stress again, that when I refer to pacing, I’m not implying those things but rather something that is “sustainable and repeatable.”

Why should you care about pacing?

Think about the words sustainable and repeatable for a moment. What do those words mean to you? Now think of the opposite, which would be Unsustainable and Unrepeatable. What do they mean to you? Does it make sense to strive for something that’s unsustainable or unrepeatable? Does anybody have goals of an unsustainable income? An unsustainable relationship? What about unrepeatable decisions or lifestyle? In fact, almost universally the one thing everyone strives for is to make everything in their life as sustainable and repeatable as possible. Training should absolutely be no different.

People train to improve their health and wellness both physically and mentally in order for longevity in their lives. Does any part of being unsustainable align with that concept? I would say that it doesn’t.

The potential in pacing.

Recently Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour mark for a full marathon. Based on the numbers he ran each kilometre in 2:50 minutes which breaks down to roughly a 1:08 minute per 400m time. But he only ran over 100 of those consecutively, soooo whatever. The question is was he “pacing”? Was he running at a pace that was sustainable and repeatable? Yes! He didn’t collapse over the line and need to be air lifted to hospital, in fact all he did was merely slow to a walk with his hands in the air in celebration. He was absolutely running sustainably and repeatably, for him.

There in lies the key that we all miss. That was a pace that was sustainable FOR HIM. Doesn’t matter if no other human on earth can sustain it, it’s still sustainable FOR HIM.

So, the key to this pacing game becomes recognising and identifying what YOUR pace is. Its important to establish that baseline, so you can improve and build upon it. If you never train sustainably, you can never improve it.

To begin with, people will complain that this is to slow or to easy and that they are just not working very hard. This is not an indicator that pacing means slow and easy, this is a HUGE indicator in how underdeveloped your sustainable systems are! We confuse high power out puts and unfathomable performances with extreme suffering and discomfort, when in many cases these top performers are actually working with less effort then the rest of us. They wouldn’t be able to do the things they do if they weren’t.

So how do you pace?

Pacing is a skill and like any skill we must practice it. So, the first place we start is by starting. Genius right! Or we can look to last week’s post about developing skills also.

In any intelligently designed program, there will be dedicated pieces with the intent to be on pacing. At CrossFit Light we call these SUSTAIN. These are opportunities to shift awareness to the skill of pacing. Finding and establishing a rhythm that is both sustainable and repeatable. Again, the key is finding YOUR pace, not trying to match someone else’s. We can use the clock, rep schemes, wattages and movements along with internal awareness and dialogue to guide this process, the key is that we bring these things, along with the intent to mastering pacing, to the forefront of our minds.

To put some hard numbers to it, as a general guideline, for any repeated efforts, I would expect to see no more than a 5% deviation, in either direction, based off of your first effort. So very simply if your first round of a piece is 2 minutes, then 5% would be 6 seconds. So regardless of the number of rounds or rest to follow, all of the subsequent rounds would be no more than 6 seconds in either direction of that first round. This grants us some wiggle room for error or standard deviations, but guides our thoughts into the realm of what pacing should look and feel like.

Remember practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent! Sustainable and repeatable needs to be something we desire to achieve and we need the discipline to follow through on mastering the fundamentals and the skill of how to execute on it.