How Hard Should I Push Myself When Running?

Running is a very individual sport. The definition of hard when running varies so much from runner to runner, but I will now explain the answer to how hard should I push myself when running.

How Hard Should I Push Myself When Running?

As I have said, the definition of hard varies from person to person, but whatever your hard is, we should only spend about 20% of our time running this way. We should do the remainder of our run at an easy pace. There are many different types of training runs that runners run. I will explain each of these later, but first, I will look at hard runs vs. Easy runs. I will also look at the symptoms to look for that will show us if we are pushing our bodies too hard when running.

Easy Run vs Hard Run

When we start running, we hear people talking about easy and hard runs, but I will now explain the difference between an easy and a hard run.

Easy run

We should do an easy run at an easy conversational pace. Runners should run an easy run at 60-75% of the maximum heart rate. A straightforward calculation of max heart rate is  220 – your age. These runs should be relaxed and not feel labored at any stage. Effort should only be about 3 or 4 out of 10. Keeping running at this pace should not be a problem.

Easy runs are an essential part of our training, as easy runs put very little stress on our bodies. Runners should run at a pace below the aerobic threshold because you use fat oxidation and carbohydrates at a pace below your aerobic threshold for energy production. Running at this pace improves endurance and speed, and it also increases capillary growth to transport more oxygen to our muscles and increases aerobic enzymes.

Hard run

A hard run is a run at a pace where you can’t hold a conversation. You would be only to keep this pace for a short period. After that, you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation. These runs should be between 80 and 95% of the maximum heart rate.

Different Types Of Runs

There are many different types of runs

Recovery Run

A recovery run is a run at an effortless pace. It is generally a short run performed the day after a hard run.
Recovery runs add a little mileage to a runner’s training volume without adding strain or taking away from performance in the more challenging, more important workouts that precede or follow them. But, again, these are all easy pace runs.

Base Run

A base run is a moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural pace (working at 70% of aerobic capacity). Runners will run these runs at an easy pace.

It would help if you spent most of your training time running these runs.

These runs should not be strenuous but regular, as they stimulate significant improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. In addition, they make up the bulk of your weekly training mileage.

Long Run

A long run should increase your running endurance. We build up our long mileage as we train for each race, depending on the distance. We should feel relatively tired after a long run, but we should also think that after running our long runs before a race, we will have no problem finishing the race that we have entered. These runs are also run at an easy pace. The long run is significant, especially for marathon runners.

Progression Run

A progression run is a run that begins at the runner’s easy pace and ends with some faster segments. These runs should be moderately challenging. They are more difficult than base runs but more manageable than interval runs. They are a medium-effort workout.

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are short segments of hard uphill running. It is a hard workout, but the benefits are enormous as they increase leg power and strength, aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, and pain tolerance. We run as hard as we can up the hill for 30 to 40 seconds and then jog back down.


A fartlek run is a base run mixed in varying intervals and sometimes random duration or distance. They serve as a less-structured alternative to a traditional interval training session such as a track workout. These runs start at a leisurely pace, so we must run faster segments.


A tempo run is a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity (also called Anaerobic Threshold AT or simply threshold).

The threshold is the fastest pace that we can sustain for 60 mins in highly fit runners or the fastest that we can maintain for 20 mins in not very fit runners. Tempo (or threshold) work has proven to increase speed for a prolonged period.


Interval workouts consist of shorter segments of fast running, followed by slow jogging, walking, or standing recoveries. This format focuses on injecting some speed into the workout.

How Do You Know If You’re Pushing Yourself Too Hard To Run?

how hard should i push myself when running

We will know if we are pushing ourselves too hard as we will notice some of the following:

We lose motivation and wind up feeling flat and quite irritable.

There will be no bounce on our step.

Our training times are slowing down.

We start to get niggles

Our immune system will get weaker.

We can lose our appetite when we push ourselves too hard

Increased cortisol levels from overtraining can lead to sleepless nights, making us feel exhausted.

Final Thoughts

I hope you now understand how hard we should push ourselves when running, the difference between hard and easy runs, and how hard we should run for each type. We must also know the symptoms to watch out for that will tell us that we are running too hard.

Please feel free to comment if there is anything else you think should be considered when deciding how hard we should run.

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