Parkrun has had a very healthy, positive impact to the local community and the social element it brings is something that should be encouraged and built on. It’s always great seeing friends and family at our local Rutland event.
What is important however is not trying to undermine our
fitness, and the running fundamentals that make us fitter, when it comes to
participating with Parkrun.
Firstly, running a ‘fast’ parkrun every weekend will not make you fitter. Ok, to be more specific, you *will* make fitness gains as you are working on improving your aerobic capacity, but only for a short-term period and up to a certain extent, before you will plateau with speed and ultimately end up actually losing fitness. The main reason for this is because of a very fundamental training principle is not being met; and that’s the concept of progressive training. For speed work to actually make you fitter, it has to be progressive, i.e. it builds//adds/changes off what comes before it. It only does this by being varied week on week, or priorities certain recoveries, length of repetitions and speeds. Doing this continually increased the demands on your muscles in order to make gains in their strength, size and endurance. Running the same distance at the same pace each weekend, does not.
Furthermore, if parkrun is approached as a fast workout every weekend, there really isn’t any difference to this than racing a 5k every weekend. Which again, does not have a long term productive benefit. With no structured speed work you will become frustrated at not seeing your times improve, because of this, the potential for losing confidence and becoming uninterested is higher, and the possibly of not running at all increases.
Now that it looks like I’ve bashed Parkrun (which I’m not) I’m going to suggest some ways on how to approach it to make sure we can keep going and enjoying the benefits it can bring. If you are looking to run Parkrun every weekend I suggest the following:
--Most weeks to treat it as a steady run, or include it within a longer run at a steady aerobic pace. You can always pace somebody you know at a pace that is comfortable to you.
--To get a more productive benefit from Parkrun, it will be
good to use it as a tempo session now and then and run at your tempo/threshold
pace- i.e. a pace you can sustain for an hour at a road race. It should feel comfortably hard but not
exhausting. To add an even greater benefit, you can try 2 x Parkrun at tempo
with 5 min rest in between, or variants like the following: 5k, 5 min rest, 3 x
3 min at tempo off 90 second jog, 5k, 3 min rest, 10 minutes at tempo etc.
(happy to talk through anybody for ideas here).
--If you do want to use parkrun as a measure of fitness and ‘race’ it I would only suggest doing so once every 8-12 weeks.