Isn’t that a nice thing to think about; that you are too speedy? Truth is, you likely are a bit too speedy too often. We live in a fast paced world, and if you are a runner, odds are that you care about your pace. Sure, you want to build speed and increase your pace over time, but slowing down actually plays a large role in this process. When you stop glancing at your GPS at the end of each mile, and stop worrying about making every mile faster, you will benefit in several different ways. Don’t get me wrong, speed work is super important too. But let’s take a look at how some slower runs can make you a better and stronger runner.
Slowing down some of your workouts will help get you out of the rut of doing the same thing over and over. I’m a creature of habit. If I could run 7 miles every day of the week I would be content for the most part. We runners tend to live by numbers in the forms of miles and minutes per mile. But take a look at any solid training plan and you will see varied miles and varied paces. Running doesn’t have to be the same monotonous thing day in and day out.
Slow running helps build your cardiovascular capacity from the cellular level on up. By slowing down for some runs you are helping your cells to distribute oxygen to your muscles more effectively and efficiently. You will not only be able to run longer, but also faster.
Slow running adapts your muscles. By taking that pace down a bit you are helping your body to create stronger and healthier running muscles. This is essential for all runners; from beginners who need to build from scratch to experienced marathoners who are constantly pushing their muscles to do more and more for them.
Slowing the pace decreases your risk of injury. One of the greatest benefits of high impact exercise is that it builds bone density. However, when you constantly run at a fast pace you push your body with that high impact to a potential breaking point (literally). Runners who focus only on speed are at more of a risk for injuries like stress fractures or tears in muscles and tendons.
Slower runs allow you to run more often and longer. By decreasing your risk of injury and taking the pace down a bit, your body is less stressed. Therefore, you will be able to run more often and your body will have more time to repair itself. Less stress on the body allows you to push the mileage a bit more and go for that longer run.
Taking that pace down a bit puts you in a fat burning zone. While it is true that a high intensity interval training session will rev that metabolism up, most fat is burnt during longer and slower sessions. Putting your heart rate in that zone can be a huge advantage.
Long slow training runs teach your body to use glycogen stores more efficiently. This is super helpful for half and full marathoners but can be advantageous to all athletes. The more efficiently glycogen is used by the body, the longer and harder you can train. This is why you want to slow your longer training runs down a bit. One of the most important goals of that long slow distant run is to prep your body for hours out there on the race course.
Because variety is the spice of life. Regardless of how much you might love running, the fact is that at some point you are going to lose your motivation or briefly fall out of love with it. Sometimes we need to take the focus off of training or getting faster, and go back to the reason we first came to the sport. By slowing down, you can enjoy the sights a bit more, try a new route, or chat with a friend as you workout.