Run Slower to Get Faster

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

This one is primarily for beginning runners out there, but is the number one biggest mistake I see runners of all levels make!

Slow down.

For most of your runs, run slow. No, slower. Slower.... yes, that’s slow enough. You should feel like you can run for hours. It should feel conversational, like you could talk a friends ear off while running. Or sing your favorite song. Your breathing will be faster than when you’re stationary, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re gasping for air if you miss your rhythm while you’re talking. When in doubt, slow down further. Many runners may need to walk hills or even predefined intervals in order to keep their effort low enough.

Easy running is where many of the physiological benefits of running happen, including higher cardiac stroke volume, increased capillary growth and aerobic enzymes, mitochondrial development, and research suggests it can possibly even gradually change muscle fibers from fast-twitch to slow-twitch.

Easy running also allows your body to recover from your harder efforts, increasing the adaptation (benefits) from that training. It also lets you run more with less stress on your body, and strengthens your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments with minimal injury risk. It allows you to run higher volume, which means you reap even more benefits.

How slow should you go? A lot of people will scream “Zone 2” until they’re blue in the face, but that only works if you have reliable heart rate zones and a reliable chest strap. If you’re using a heart rate strap (not optical) my advice is to subtract your age from 180, and use that as an approximate cap for your easy runs. If you like perceived exertion, it should feel very easy, and you should be able to talk or sing almost normally!

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