The Importance of RUNNING SLOW

Ain’t nobody got time to run slow.

Some of you might say-dang I run slow, so I must be slow.

Running slow is important to every runner. Everyone’s slow may be a bit different. But there is strong science backing up the importance of slowing down. Did you know your speedy runs should actually only about for about 10-20% of your total running? Say what?! That meaning fast and medium fast and about 80% of your mileage should be EASY!

Okay okay…I hear you. But what does easy mean? I mean some days easy feels different. If I’m sore, easy is much slower, if I’m stuffy, easy is definitely different. Well, it comes down to one very important factor-HEART RATE.

Heart rate is simply the amount of beats per minute our heart is pumping blood into our body. Something important to note, is blood carries oxygen to the rest of our body. Distance running is an aerobic sport-aka it requires oxygen. It’s really important our heart rate is working efficiently to pump the blood and oxygen to our muscles when running. Therefore, you’re not going to be running in an anaerobic (w/o oxygen) state when you’re running distance (aka anything longer than a 400 m run). So what that means, our heart rates must stay in a non-anaerobic level (above 170 is considered hard-either anaerobic or close to it).

So enough of the science talk, let’s get back to what all of this means…what is easy? So there are 3 main zones we talk about with heart rate zone 1 (easy) is below 140 bpm, zone 2 (moderate) is 140-169 bpm zone 3 (hard) is 170 and above. Quick side note: these are general zones-depending on age, fitness level, overall health and your V02 max these can all be a bit different, but these are generally good averages to follow. These zones are indicators of how hard we are working. Our heart rate let’s us know the effort we are putting out to the work we are doing.

Translate please.

You want to be spending about 80% of your running is zone 1! That means your heart rate is below 140! Say what?! Yes. Studies have shown that spending too much time in zones 2 and 3 actually cause overtraining and make recovery much harder. Moderate and hard should each be about 10%. So what that means. Make your hard days actually hard and make those easy days actually easy. Your body will reap the rewards and you’re going to see you performance improve. As you get stronger and fitter easy will become faster, but if you don’t let yourself ever enter those easy days, you’re not going to improve much or you will and then crash and burn.

Okay you’re not an elite athlete running 80-100 miles a week. I get that, but even if you’re only running 10…only 2 of those miles should be in the moderate and hard zones. Slowly add a little mileage. I know it’s hard. Trust me. This is one of the hardest principals I struggle with-but this is also why I often peak mid-season training and crash and burn when it counts at the end of my season. I’ve learned the hard way and I will tell you when you take time to slow down you’re going to see results. Let your body heal and recover so when you need to work hard-YOU CAN!

As you’re running this week, think of this. Think-is this really easy? You should feel like a turtle. Seriously, easy should really feel EASY-it should feel slow. Why? Because that’s what easy means and you’ll find that’s where your low heart rate zone is.

No go for a run! 

RunningJo Butler