Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


3 Reasons You Need to Add Steady Runs to Your Training

I had no idea steady runs were so important! Steady runs are a great way to build aerobic strength, which is the foundation for your best performances from 5k to the marathon, here is how to add them.Steady runs, or steady state runs as some literature refers to them, are a great way to build aerobic strength, which is the foundation for your best performances from 5k to the marathon.

Simply speaking, I define steady runs to be efforts that are about 10 seconds faster to 20 seconds slower than marathon pace.

You will find different definitions of a “steady run pace” on the internet and from different coaches, which is fine. If it is a different pace than I am suggesting here, the benefits will be slightly different, so keep that in mind.

As is the case with all the workouts I assign my runners, I use steady runs to elicit a multitude of performance and fitness enhancing benefits. The exact benefits largely depend on the desired goal of the session and how they’re implemented.

Why is Steady Running Important for Runners?

I use steady runs in my training programs to accomplish three different types of objectives and training stimulus:

1. Starter Workouts

Because steady runs should be about 10 seconds faster to 20 seconds slower than marathon pace, I use them to ease athletes into workouts who might be coming back from injury, planned downtime after a race, or who haven’t done structured workouts before.

Twenty or thirty seconds slower than marathon pace will usually be “comfortably hard”, which is perfect when the objective is to add a little bit of hard running to the schedule, but not go overboard.

2. Building Aerobic Strength

Building aerobic strength is one of the most important pieces of the training puzzle to make you run faster.

The hard part is that developing aerobic strength takes time.

Luckily, steady runs facilitate the development of aerobic strength by challenging your aerobic system, but not making you too tired to run hard the next day.

With some of my more experienced and veteran athletes, I assign a medium-long steady run sometime during the middle of the week, which helps add a new stimulus and an opportunity for increased aerobic development.

3. Marathon Training

Training for the marathon is somewhat unique compared to training for shorter distances. Mainly, this is because you have to train specifically for two additional things – running on tired legs and learning to burn fuel more efficiently.

Steady runs help increase the total amount of quality miles (quality miles being miles run at or near marathon pace) an athlete can run during a marathon training block. In addition, steady runs can be used to add a slight amount of fatigue to the legs before a longer tempo run, which better simulates and practices the tired feeling at the end of a marathon.

If you are looking for more helpful information on how to set up your own marathon training schedule, we have a free 9 part guide that may come in useful to you.

How Do I Perform a Steady Run?

Steady runs should be performed like mini workouts.

As mentioned previously, the pace should be comfortably hard (usually 20 to 30 seconds slower than marathon pace). If I write your schedule, the pace and distance will be assigned to you on your marathon training schedule.

Start each steady run with a mile at normal, easy pace. Keep the pace easy, this mile is a warm-up mile to get the blood flowing to the legs and loosen up your muscles.

After the first easy mile, take a brief minute or two to stretch anything that is tight, sore, or that has been bothering you lately. I like this dynamic warm up sequence to prepare the body.

Ease into the steady pace over the first mile or two.

You don’t have to go from standing start to steady pace in the first 100 meters. Let your body fall into the pace naturally. Some days this will feel easy and other days getting down to steady pace will be a challenge.

Because steady runs are usually a little longer than tempo runs, you’ll have to work on concentrating over a longer distance. Work on staying focused throughout the run and concentrating on your pace and effort.

This is great practice for race day.

Use the last mile as a mini cool down. Bring the pace back down to an easy pace and enjoy the feeling of job well done. The cool down will help your muscles relax and start the recovery process.

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10 Responses on “3 Reasons You Need to Add Steady Runs to Your Training

  1. i’d like to start running steady runs but i need some clarification. my marathon goal pace is 11:26 but my short runs average about 11mm. So, would i do my warm up and cool down at 11mm and my steady pace at 11:45? thanks.

    • Your steady runs in this case would be faster than marathon pace because your target goal is slower than 4:30. In this case, it should be 10:26 to 10:55 pace for your steady runs.

  2. In another post on this website found here it’s mentioned all the scientific reasons why running slow can help you run faster.

    All three reasons seemed to relate to what might be called aerobic strength which you mention in this article is the number 2 reason to do a steady run.

    It’s also mentioned in the other article that pushing to a faster aerobic pace won’t help you much more than a slower pace as far as developing those three traits.

    So I’m thinking aerobic strength must be something different than those three traits. So what is it exactly?

  3. I agree with Rodney. It seems to me that point 2 is obsolete. I have also seen videos with Jack Daniels where he states that training in this zone is only valuable for marathoners.

  4. Hi, the article states that the session should be run up to 20-30 seconds slower than marathon pace. Are we talking about goal marathon pace or current marathon pace here?

    • Hi Matt, thanks for reaching out. It would be best to use current pace, and if you feel good during the workout, you can sneak it down towards goal pace towards the end. Hope this helps!

  5. At the very first of this article, you define steady runs as “10 seconds faster to 20 seconds slower” then marathon pace. However, throughout the rest of the article, you focus on 20 – 30 seconds slower than marathon pace. Can you reconcile the difference for me?

    • Hi Brian, it allows for variation between runners. Rather than giving a specific pace, we would rather you listen to how your body is feeling, which is why we recommend a larger range. The definition of steady running is what it is supposed to be for the ultimate effectiveness, but as so many other factors come into play, even running up to 30 seconds slower than marathon pace will still be fine if you are not feeling great or have adverse conditions. Hope this helps!

  6. Pingback: Muscle Cramps While Running: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

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