I confess: I had not one, not two, but three different topics on deck for today’s Running Coaches’ Corner post. But when I sat down to start typing, the sentences didn’t flow easily from any of the topics I had previously considered. Instead, I want to talk about running slow and why it’s important and how it will make you a better runner.
This post assumes you’re past the base building phase and are already actively doing speed work.
Running Slower and Racing Faster
It seems like everywhere I look these days, someone’s playing the comparison game. The speedsters compare themselves to the elites. The middle-of-the-pack runners compare themselves to the speedsters. And the back of the packers compare themselves to the mid-pack runners. I’m here to tell you it’s ridiculous. All of it. Why? Because there are literally no two runners alike. Truly, there’s not. And unless you’re winning golds at the Olympics, there will always be someone faster than you and always someone slower. The comparison game, while somewhat natural, is a profound waste of one’s time. Instead, we should focus on our own training and our own accomplishments.
I want to share a little secret with you today. Running slower will make you faster. It’s incredibly easy to get swept up in seeing someone’s paces on social media and think you aren’t running fast enough (Instagram, I’m looking at you). I’ve fallen victim myself. But do too much fast running and you risk injury, peaking too early, and/or performance plateau.
Train With a Well Rounded Plan
Truth: a well rounded training plan includes plenty of easy running days mixed with a few quality workouts such as intervals, tempo, and long runs. There’s no substitute for hard work and there’s really no way to shortcut stressing the specific systems you need to train in order to run fast, but an effective plan includes down days to let your body rebuild itself and rest.
Easy running gives your body a break while simultaneously building your aerobic base. Why is this important? Because hard runs are tremendously strenuous on the body and “easy” runs help heal your stressed tendons, ligaments, and muscles. In addition, running slower on easy days will help you feel rested and ready to go for the next hard effort session. Easy runs will also keep your working muscles and joints safe from injury by not stressing them continuously.
Slow Down, Race Fast!
Easy runs are meant to be run roughly 1-2 minutes slower than race pace. That means if your hard effort race pace is a 9:00 minute/mile, then your easy runs should be about 10:00-11:00 minutes per mile. That might seem ridiculously slow but the slower miles will help your body rest, recover, and be ready for the next hard effort training session.
I want to mention here that, when doing speedwork, it’s important to stay within the confines of your athletic ability. I’ve seen too many runners running much too fast during tempo runs that they miss the entire point of the workout. Yes, it’s an amazing feeling to run faster than you thought you could during a training run and “test” your limits, but save that energy and ability for race day. Don’t burn yourself out on the track during a training session. Trust me, the feeling is much more badass when you cross that finish line with an awesome PR to show for it.
If your coach prescribes you paces for your workouts (as opposed to effort based), it’s in your best interest to stick in the ballpark of the paces. Those paces are there for a reason. They predict your race times based on previous races, they shape your quality workouts, and they’re there to help you achieve your personal bests.
Today’s takeaway? Slow down to race fast. Your hard effort days will be more productive and your easy days will be more relaxing.
TALK TO ME!
Be honest, do you run your easy runs slow enough?
Does your coach prescribe paces or do you run by effort?