Slow DOWN to Run Fast

Slow DOWN to Run Fast

Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS

One of the biggest mistakes we see often is a runner running all their runs at the same pace every single time. It may sound counterintuitive but slowing down overall can actually help you get faster. Additionally, variety in pace can decrease your risk of injury and help maintain consistency in running.

A big challenge with slow running is that it can look different from day to day.

For example, if you get 9 hours of sleep and start your run well fueled and hydrated, your easy effort may be slighter faster than a day when you’re fighting overall fatigue. Whether you’re monitoring heart rate, keeping a set easy pace or using rate of perceived exertion (RPE), there will still be some variety of what this looks like on easy runs. I would recommend picking one of these methods and sticking with it for a few runs to see if it works for you. Since GPS can be so crazy in NYC and heart rate tends to be less accurate on your wrist (unless you have a chest strap on), using RPE tends to be my favorite way to make sure I’m sticking to an easy pace. If I can keep a conversation going, either with a friend or myself, my pace is easy enough for that run.

Still not convinced? Here are 3 ways slowing down will help you speed up:

  1. Improve your aerobic system: aerobic exercise, as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine is “any activity that uses large muscle groups that can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature”. Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use at one time, also known as your VO2max. Slowing down on your easy runs will allow your body to deliver more oxygen to your working muscles because you aren’t breathing very hard. Doing this over time will improve the efficiency of your muscles’ use of oxygen for longer distances as well as faster paces.
  1. Faster recovery: running hard ALL the time makes it more challenging to hold faster paces during a workout because they aren’t much faster than your normal runs. Building in easy runs between a workout will allow you to recover more efficiently and make those hard paces a little more attainable next time. Speed and tempo runs cause small microtears to occur in your muscles from contracting so rapidly which can result in soreness the 1-2 days following. An easy run the day after a hard workout promotes increased blood flow to your muscles allowing them the nutrients they need to recover faster.
  1. Decreased risk of injury: fast running is hard and takes a bigger toll on your muscles, tendons and joints. Building in easy, slow runs to your week allows you to have more weekly mileage with less overall stress on your body. Slower runs also help strengthen the ability of your muscles and tendons to withstand load over time. You’re less likely to get injured when you add in faster workouts if you’re mixing in slower runs to build up this strength.

Like everything else in running, this takes practice and will feel easier to do on some days than others. If you’re having trouble building easy runs into your routine, schedule an appointment to come see us!

By Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS

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