The Efficiency Dilemma

The first running workout I ever logged on dailymile was my first leg of my first Ragnar Relay back in May of 2011. The run was 8.2 miles, and it took me over an hour and a half (1:33:00) to finish, making my average pace 11:20/mile. At the time, I was ecstatic. I knew that I was super slow, but I had never run more than three miles at once prior to that–back then I still didn’t even really like running and was hoping an event like Ragnar would finally change my mind–and I had been convinced that I would have to stop or take walk breaks a million times, but I didn’t. So yeah, I was pretty proud of myself. But the thing about that run that made me happiest was that, according to my heart rate monitor, I had burned a whopping 1208 calories!

That’s me in the white shirt next to Matt the Giant. I’m not quite sure what was going on with my neck, but look at how excited I was before taking off on my then-longest run ever!

If you do the math–which you don’t have to do because I already have; you’re welcome–I burned 147.3 calories per mile  during that run, which is a lot of calories! The only problem is that what it actually meant was that I was running incredibly inefficiently. My body was working a lot harder than it should have been (I’m sure that’s probably why I hated running then) and the numbers prove it. I don’t have a very clear memory of that run, but I’d be willing to bet that even at my snail’s pace I felt like I was dying and had been tempted to give up on numerous occasions. But at least I had an insane amount of calories burned to cheer me up, yeah?

Fast forward to yesterday. My training plan (which I’ve barely been following, fml) called for an easy run, and I have a race on Saturday so that’s all I would have done anyway. Would you believe that my average pace during that run was 8:49/mile?

If you tried to tell me two years ago, when I was running 10-11min/miles and thought it was hard, that I would someday run consistent sub-9:00min/miles AND be able to have a conversation (you know, like they always say you should be able to do) AND not hate my life/feel like dying, I would have told you that you were fucking crazy. Sure, that’s what I was hoping for…but I never thought it was something I would actually achieve, and I definitely didn’t think it was something I would ever consider “easy.”

I should be pumped about it, but now I have a new problem: I only burned 525 calories over the course of 5.74 miles, or 91.5 calories/mile. Ugh.

Apparently, now that I’ve become a more efficient runner, I actually get “less” of a workout from each run. I knew this would happen. I’ve read enough running magazines, books, and blogs to know it was coming. In fact, I think I remember reading a little while ago that Kara Goucher only burns about 80 calories per mile, which means that as I continue to run and (hopefully!) get even faster (my main running goal this year is to get closer to 8-minute miles) and even more efficient, I can expect my calories/mile to continue to drop. And that’s just not fair.

(The moral of the story is that there’s really just no pleasing me.)

4 thoughts on “The Efficiency Dilemma

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    1. It will! In the meantime, keep being excited about what you’re achieving now…it’ll definitely help you stay motivated to keep pushing yourself and keep getting better 🙂


  1. There’s only one solution… Strength Training! Yes, I’m sort of a pusher in this regard, but I didn’t become successful in fitness until I finally let go of the concept of burning calories. For someone of your fitness level, it’s just not about that.

    AND… you should be super proud of how far you’ve come! That is pretty kickass.


    1. Gahhhh I knowwww! I did some lifting one day a few weeks ago and it was awful. But I know this is one of those situations where I just need to suck it up and do it anyway. Blargh! :p

      Oh, and thank you!


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