Run Slow to Run Fast: But Why Does Slow Running Help Get Faster?
Are you constantly pushing your pace to try and become a better runner? You may be surprised to learn that sometimes, slower running can make you a faster runner!
As counterintuitive as it may seem, slowing down during training could take your speed and endurance up a notch.
So why is running slowly so important? Let’s take a look.
What Makes Slow Running So Effective?
Slow running is an effective way to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance because of its low-impact nature.
By jogging at a slower pace, you can reduce the stress on your joints.
A gentle pace also gives you more time to practice proper form. And proper form improves your efficiency and reduces the chance of injury.
Running slowly allows your body time to adapt and become stronger, thus making faster runs easier over time.
But it’s not just about the slow pace, it’s about the variety!
How to Use the 80/20 Rule in Running
The 80/20 rule is a training strategy that emphasizes slow and easy runs most of the time (80%) but also encourages dedicated effort intervals (the other 20%).
This 80/20 principle is based on research showing that interval training, when performed consistently and intelligently, leads to greater gains in performance than steady-state aerobic work alone.
The idea is to have most of your weekly mileage at a low intensity, allowing your body to recover and adapt.
During the remaining 20%, you make more strenuous efforts like tempo runs or intervals to help further improve performance.
It is a pretty polarized training rule, isn’t it?
But the idea is great because it reminds us about the benefits of those slow runs, minimizing injury risk and maximizing our fitness by adding variety.
However, the 80/20 rule is a simplified form of training that only talks about training at a low intensity and then at a high intensity (polarized, yes).
A less polarized training plan may be more effective.
For example, 75% at low intensity, 10-15% at tempo intensity, and the rest at 10-15% at high intensity.
But in any case, remember to include those slow runs in your weekly schedule.
How Slow Should Your Easy Runs Be?
Your easy runs should be run at a comfortable yet slightly challenging pace. You can carry on a conversation but still, challenge your aerobic system.
This pace can vary from runner to runner depending on fitness level, but most find that an easy pace of 8–11 minutes per mile works well.
The general recommendation is to keep your easy runs at roughly 50-75% of your max heart rate or a pace between 60%-70% of your max speed.
When you run with a low heart rate, you can maintain a conversation without getting winded.
How to Run at a Much Slower Pace?
To run much slower, you should focus on taking relaxed strides with your legs and arms as you run.
Aim to take longer but softer strides that don’t require much effort.
Work on your breathing technique. Ensure your inhales are deeper than your exhales and run with a rhythmic pattern while keeping your body relaxed.
You should also go for light warm-up runs and stretching before heading out on the main exercise.
Focus on making small goals, such as completing two miles, instead of worrying about reaching certain speeds early in the process.
Why You Should Run Slow to Run Fast
As a result of all these adjustments and adaptations, it will feel much easier when it comes time for you to increase your speed.
1. Running Slow Reduces the Risk of Injury
A gentle pace can reduce the risk of injury by gradually allowing your body to adjust and adapt to the running motion.
Running too fast or with too much intensity can strain your body unnecessarily, leading to increased chances of muscle or joint injuries.
A conversational pace also gives your body the time to warm up properly before you increase your speed and intensity, which is essential for avoiding injuries.
2. Running Slow Increases Resistance to Fatigue
Jogging slowly increases resistance to fatigue because it encourages slower and more consistent pacing.
When you run faster, your body is forced to expend more energy. As a result, you hit a wall much earlier when it comes to running endurance.
A slow pace allows your body to use less energy with each step and spread the exertion over a longer time.
This helps you increase your overall stamina and resist fatigue for longer (which makes sense for all kinds of physical activities).
3. Running Slow Helps Your Body Become More Efficient At Burning Fat
Running slow causes your body to rely more heavily on fat as an energy source. This helps increase the efficiency with which your body burns fat for fuel and can help boost weight loss over time.
Keeping your runs at a moderate-to-slow tempo also saves muscle mass, reduces joint strain, and reduces fatigue.
If you are just starting out, run at a pace that suits your fitness level to ensure you don’t push yourself too hard and risk injury or burnout.
4. Running Slow Improves the Aerobic Energy System
A slow pace can improve the aerobic energy system.
When you run slowly, your body has to draw on its aerobic energy system – fueled by oxygen – for more sustained and longer-lasting energy during exercise.
It can help increase your body’s capacity for using oxygen more efficiently and helps build the endurance capability of your heart and lungs.
This type of aerobic training also allows your muscles to use oxygen faster and burn fat more effectively compared to when running at higher intensities.
5. Running Slow Reduces the Risk of Overtraining
A conversational pace can be a great way to reduce the risk of overtraining.
By running at a slower pace, you are not putting as much strain on your body, making it easier to recover after each workout.
Slow training runs allow you to increase your training volume and intensity gradually. That helps prevent burning out or overloading your body too quickly (which is a problem with many athletes).
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been running for a while, you know that sometimes it is hard to run that slow!
You need actually focus on keeping a steady and relaxed pace. It is so tempting to increase running speed from week to week.
Next time you hit the pavement, don’t hesitate to slow down and try if the 80/20 rule (or 70/15/15) works for you.
Read more: Did you know the average human running speed is around 6 miles per hour?