Figuring out the appropriate running pace for you is often a matter of controlling your ego: There's a temptation to start running fast, because you want to feel like you're actually moving, but then you end up winded and exhausted after a few seconds. This might discourage you, cause your muscles to ache, or lead you to swear off running altogether.
But the best way to find a reasonable pace that's sustainable is to pay attention to your breath. That might sound like an illusive or heady instruction to follow, but it's actually simple to figure out on your own.
During a run, test your pace by talking to yourself or to a friend. Ideally, you should be able to get out a couple sentences without gasping or stopping. If you can't comfortably get out one to two sentences, then it's a sign that you're going too fast, Zika Rea, lead female coach and co-founder of ZAP Fitness, a Reebok-sponsored training center for runners, told Refinery29. At that point, you should slow your run down a lot — but don't start walking unless you absolutely have to, Rea said. Keep running slowly until you get your breath back.
This comfortable-but-not-too-easy pace is often referred to as a "conversational pace." While you might use a "tempo" pace to get faster, a conversational pace can be used for long training runs or just daily runs to improve your endurance. Throughout your run, it's a good idea to keep checking in with yourself, and make sure you can comfortably talk for about 10-20 seconds (some people like saying the Pledge of Allegiance to test) at a time. And remember: "It takes practice to learn that feedback from your body of what pace is comfortable for you," Rea said.
If you're wearing a running watch, using a running app, or running on a treadmill, you might take note of your pace so you have it for future reference. We all want to challenge ourselves during a workout, but it's way more effective to use your body's effort as a measurement for pace. And also keep in mind that the pace that's comfortable for you may be very different than your running buddy's. So, try not to obsess over the numbers or time, because everyone starts somewhere.
Ultimately, running should feel good, so it's worth it to find ways to make it more enjoyable for yourself — even if that means going slower than you want to.