Tuesday, April 27, 2010

why running slow makes sense ...

So, pretty much everyone has been asking me why we would run slower to run faster. And here's why it works. (By running slower, I mean 80% effort. For most people, this is 1-2 mins slower than race pace for the distance you are running.)

Let's just begin by stating that you do not need to run slower ALL THE TIME. Unless you are working on building your base mileage, you can and should be adding faster runs (i.e. speedwork) into your training routine. Basically, neither slow long runs or fast short runs stand alone.

OK, back to why it works. The ultra simplified reason is that slow long runs increase your endurance and increased endurance is the key to running faster. Basically, slow running allows you to run MORE (often with less chance of injury than fast running) and running more now and having a stronger base helps you to run faster later.

But, there are more benefits than that:
  • The thought is that running too hard every day will cause over training. The body needs time to get stronger and adapt to the stresses you place upon it. By slowing down, we aid the body in adapting and recovering.
  • Slow running improves your aerobic system, which also improves your ability to run harder paces.
  • Running at a slower pace will help improve your capillary system which improves the rate at which blood gets to your muscles when you do run fast.
  • Slow running trains your body to use fat as a fuel helping to spare your glycogen stores.
  • Slow running simulates race duration, building your mental strength.
  • You recover quicker from an "easier" effort, allowing you to have a better quality workout when you do speed up.

Did I convince you to try it? I know, probably not. Slowing down is a hard pill to swallow. But really, what's the worst that can happen?

43 comments:

Liz said...

I'm training for my first marathon (less than 4 weeks to go!), and I've been building up my mileage each week. On the last LSRs (18-20 miles) I've really found that keeping a slow pace at the start means I feel a lot stronger at the end.

Besides, when I'm running that far, I have no choice but to run slow!

Your post is really interesting and helpful, thanks!

ajh said...

I have no problem running slow. Thanks for posting this!

Jen said...

I am not officially training for my marathon yet, but I do run slow on my long runs and run fast on my miles under 5. I can totally see the difference already.

Thanks for entering my giveaways... I have 4 more days left of them too.

Karen said...

Our long training runs are usually slower! Thanks for posting this! It really makes sense! :0)

Anabela (Bela) Neves said...

Great post! My hubby keeps telling me slower is faster in training so I have been training slow at times. Makes sense in teh long run! Good luck going slower ;)

Erica said...

slow is sexy....I have been saying it all along.....haha maybe because I am just slow!! Just teasing this is great information! Look at you certified running coach!!!

Anne said...

I'm still working on trying to go fast :) ...kidding aside, I understand that slow is relative. Thanks for the info!

Alison B., "Runbuggy" said...

Great reasons to run slow, especially once per week on the LSR. I look forward to taking it a bit slower... I actually need to start getting the speedier runs in!!

Katye said...

this actually makes perfect sense. Back when I was an exercise science major (before I realized I like working out much more than I like learning about it) we learned alot about this kind of stuff. Does this mean my 10 min average pace can translate to a 9 min race pace? haha can't wait to read your post on speed work

S Club Mama said...

being slow takes absolutely no effort from me. LOL when that's what you are, that's what you are. LOL I don't know that it'll help me gain miles though bc I'm not slowing down like you speedy!

jamie @ sweatyhugs said...

Thanks for this post Tonia! I'm already turtle running over here LOL, but I do it with the purpose of building a strong base and working on my endurance. I have never done speedwork before (yikes) but will get to incorporate some of it in my training plan next week!

Stormee.M said...

I like this. I am by no means a fast runner. I need to build my milage up, so Im going to try this. thank you for all the great information :)

Kim said...

That is exactly what I do. I stay at about 2 minutes per mile slower than my target pace for long runs. I do run faster for shorter runs, though, but usually not quite at race pace. Great post!

Barefoot AngieB said...

I have always heard this to be true and especially in the barefoot running world I have been told (and now know to be true) That slow and steady distance comes first, then speed. This clarifies why that is! Thanks for posting!

Staci Dombroski said...

That is great advice!! I do not know if I can go slower!!! I am not a fast runner anyway. I am always running at my comfort zone :)

Holly said...

Interesting concept. I believe the endurance part for sure. I am one of those slower runners as I am building up my endurance with each run.

However, I heard you burn more calories by running at a harder pace. I believe it was even in a RW article.

That would be my only question.

Hannah said...

I think it is brilliant and I buy into it 110%!

Marlene said...

Thanks for sharing... definitely insightful! Hubs is always telling me to slow down on recovery runs.

shellyrm aka jogging stroller mama said...

I know that this works and believe in it! Pace is personal. Slow to me may be fast to others so we shouldn't get caught up on the numbers and comparing BUT most on my mileage runs are done at a comfortable pace, a I could run this pace a looong time pace. Not so easy that I could run it all day long pace. Than when I get a sans stroller run I push my pace but I rarely get race pace runs in outside of a race. (rarely not never) To be honest, I don't like to run that fast. But I do want to be able to run faster during a race and stay injury free (toenails aside).
Great explanation! I hope your explanation helps others to try to slow down and ease the pounding on their bodies.

Sarah said...

Makes sense. Plus now I don't have to feel bad when my cousin paces my slow pace on some runs, maybe it's good for her training. ;)

Lisbet said...

I fully support running slower on long runs. My husband has a different philosophy (run fast at all times or die) but I think long, slow runs are a plus and help you more than you think. Great post.

jacqueline said...

i can do slow. thank you for all the info.

Katie A. said...

Nice job on the info.
I have trouble slowing it down that much, it just changes my gate and kick too much for me to do it. But I don't run at race pace or faster unless it is usually for that specific day. There really is knowledge in all that madness :)

Laurie said...

Great info thank you. I always get so caught up in checking my pace and trying to get faster. Its good to be reminded to slow it down every once in a while, especially on longer runs.

Emz said...

totally diggin' the concept.

Thanks!

Deenie said...

Katye: YES! I run a 10 minute mile while training, and both races I've done so far, I've finished at a 9 min mile place (one was actually less than 9!). So keep going, sister! It works.

MCM Mama said...

I know I ran my last long run too fast. I could totally tell the difference - not just at the end of the run, but the next day as well.

I wonder how slow I can manage tomorrow. ;o)

Melissa said...

I try to run slower and sometimes I do and sometimes I just can't slow down. :)

fitandfortysomething.com said...

thank you for confirming that some days can and should be slow!

the dawn said...

This actually helps me solve a mystery I've been dealing with. I'm training with a first time marathoner, so all of my long runs have been intentionally slow. So I was completely shocked to run a PR in my last half marathon! But I believe that it's the combo of shorter runs with speedwork and slow long runs. Makes perfect sense now!

I agree that it is hard to make myself go slow when I'm out running alone. So it helps to have a training partner. The talking and whatnot distracts from the slow pace.

LOVE the info! Can't wait to learn more.

AM-GoalsfortheWeek! said...

my new training program that i've been working with now for the past ~10 mo's has had me working on this...(along with the other stuff)and I def can tell it has improved my overall endurance, mental strength, training my body to use fat as fuel and I recover quicker.

oh, and also just saw that my pic is on your follower list twice...hmm...lookin' a bit like a stalker...i'll look at that!

Miriam said...

I love running at a conversational pace. For me that's about a 10 minute mile, which is about 2 min/ mile slower than my 5k pace. I find that by running at a mostly slow pace I have been able to stay injury free for longer and have incorporated Speed work (Tempo and interval) whenever I need to find speed).

And your slow pace changes with time. My husband's slow pace is my 5k pace.

Another advantage to conversational pace with a friend: Gossip. Man I love to gossip with my friend L when we are doing 10 milers. Actually after a while we run out of gossip and start getting into intellectual conversations. I would think it should be the other way around.

Judi said...

Enjoyed reading this post today! Thanks! I need to share this with my running partner :). I think she was surprised when I ran my 5K in the 8 minute range but our long runs are always mid 9's! I want my runs to be challenging but I also want to be able to have a conversation and have fun. Races are different I really can't concentrate on anything except running!

kilax said...

I'm happy you wrote this! My husband and I have been talking about this, so I shared it so he could see it on google reader.

momof3 said...

I am stoked to start this right away... oh wait, I DID start it right away, on todays 'not flat' run. I cannot wait for the great things that wait for me in 2010 with this new plan. Thanks for sharing this we known "secret"!

Keri said...

Hi there :)
Stopped by from misszippy. Thank you for explaining. It does make sense and it is encouraging to hear that slow running makes you faster!

Candice @ I Have Run said...

I'm going to try it on my long run this weekend. Wish me luck!

Kate said...

i'm an Turtle on Automatic without a doubt. but, i'm finally adding speedwork thanks to Hal Higdon's spring training schedule. it's kicking my botty but i'm all about the slower runs for all the right reasons you listed!

H Love said...

So helpful. Thanks for sharing your expertise! I am still trying to process everything.

H Love said...

So helpful. Thanks for sharing your expertise! I am still trying to process everything.

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Leanne said...

I have been beating myself up lately over how slow I am and on my runs i am constantly changing the speed. I remembered this post but could not remember the rational. Thank you for the info and reminding me that slow is relative.

Sara said...

I am definitely a slow runner. I don't think I could run fast if I wanted to. So I guess I'm all set right? Haha.