It’s True… Running slow can actually make you speed up!
When on a training run it seems natural to run with someone who is faster than you, this is because it creates competition and encourages you to run faster. But what happens when you run with someone who is slower than yourself ? Most people don’t think about doing this, but running slower can have a long term advantage in gaining speed.
How do you know you are running at the right pace?
Running slow means that you are running at a pace that does not strain or overly fatigue your body. When running at this comfortable pace you should be able to speak to your running partner and not just with one word answers but full sentences. If you’re more of a numbers person, “you should be running at less than 65 percent of your heart rate reserve [HRR],” or the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate, says Armen Ghazarians.
Why you should include slow running into your training…
Running at an easy paces comes with a variety of benefits. The first benefit being your body becomes more adapted to aerobic fitness. Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy- generating process (Running for a long period of time). In turn this will increase your cardiovascular endurance. This is the ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to your body tissues. The more efficient your body is at doing this, the more efficient your running will be and you will be able to maintain a higher pace for a longer period of time.
Running at an easier pace also allows you to train for longer periods of time and prepares you better for the next session. Guaranteed some sessions must be fast. However, to build an engine to must run further. Most elite runners are on 100+ miles a week and in order to do this most runs need to be long and slow, in fact it can only be two sessions a week that the emphasis is on speed.
Running too fast too often can actually backfire. You won’t develop the fast twitch (type II) muscle fibers necessary to withstand a long race. Fast twitch muscle fibers are extremely important for your last ‘kick’ in a race. Without an adequate supply of fast twitch muscle fibers, you simply won’t have the strength to run at your maximal pace at the end.
Running slower can also minimise the risk of injuries, resulting in less set backs in your training regime. Most athletes get an injury from speed sessions such as your track sessions. This is because you are forcing your muscles to work extra hard and also the impact and shock your muscles go through will increase dramatically when running fast .
Finally, an easy pace will give you the opportunity to concentrate on your technique and in turn becoming more efficient in your running style. When you have worked on your technique within the easy running sessions this can then transfer to your faster runs and also to races. This will then also minimise risk of injury when running fast.
Overall you need a mixture of fast and slow sessions. However running slower actually has more benefits than people think. In order to stay motivated you have to run with a purpose, and the purpose of most sessions should be taking your time.