Why you should run slow to run fast
Jakob Ohlsen 13th March 2018
Competitive running is all about running fast, so it is not surprising that when most people train, they train fast. After all, isn't training all about doing things repetitively that you will need to do in the competition? But the reality is that you need to spend most of your training time running much slower than when you compete. This article will discuss reasons and methods for slowing down your training runs to achieve maximum results.
You should only do fast running during training once or twice a week. Those days, you will do intervals or a short sustained run at or above race pace. You should spend the rest of the week on slower runs. The slow runs will fall into three categories: base mileage, long runs, and easy days. All three are essential, and to derive the most benefit, need to be done at a slower pace than you are probably doing it now. Once you get the hang of it, most of your running will not only be more pleasant, but you also will find your race times dropping and your injuries less frequent.
The base mileage is the most critical part of any running regimen. These are the medium runs where you pile up the miles week after week and year after year. These runs, which help lay the base on which you build everything else, are also where most injuries occur outside of races. The sheer volume of accumulated miles puts a constant strain on your system, which, in turn, is what makes you stronger and faster. For this reason, you should do them at a much slower pace than when you're racing, typically at about 70% of your maximum ability. To determine this, you can either track your speed carefully. Better yet, invest in a heart monitor, which will help you run harder and faster when you need to, but more importantly, will force you to slow down when you are supposed to.
You should do your long run every week or two. What constitutes "long" will depend on the kind of racing you do. If you mostly run 10Ks, then your long run should be about 10 miles. If you are a marathoner, you should be getting in a 20-miler once every couple of weeks. No matter how long the run is, you should maintain a comfortable pace, around 60% of max or less. The first few miles should feel ridiculously easy, but you need to resist the urge to speed up. These runs are not about the time, but the distance.
Most people neglect their easy days, but these are just as important as the other phases of your training. You should be doing one of these at least once a week, or ideally twice. Easy runs should be effortless and almost fun, at a comfortable pace and shorter distance than your base mileage days. You can wear your heart monitor and keep it close to 50%, but leave your watch at home. These days give your body a chance to rest, while still stretching your muscles and keeping them from tightening up. These are the runs you will look forward to and think about at the end of a long run or during grueling intervals.
Running slow to run fast may seem counter-intuitive, but you will reap the benefits almost immediately. If your training consists primarily of hard, fast running, then incorporate these slow days into your regimen. Your body will thank you and your race times will drop.