Running slow to get faster, for some including myself is not an easy concept. Yes I understand it from a fitness and physiological point of view but my brain does not always agree.
When looking at developing our running we need to acknowledge there are benefits to running slow.
It aids in the growth of capillaries, translating to more oxygen creation. Promoting greater capillary density, so oxygen can move to the cells of your exercising muscles quicker creating physiological efficiency.
It also promotes the development of larger and increased volume of mitochondria in cells. This creates more efficient energy conversion from fat and glycogen to useful running energy.
Slow running also aids fat adaptation, training your body to burn fat instead of glycogen for fuel. Body fat is bountiful and long lasting where glycogen from carbohydrates runs out after 90 minutes on average. If your body is fat-adapted, you’re much more comfortable when you run out of glycogen stores and overall more economical with fuel burn.
Not that we should never run fast – we still need speed work too. But we need to concentrate on building a strong foundation first. Meaning easy runs. This also strengthens muscles, for quicker recovery, meaning we aren’t tired for several days after long runs. This protects from muscle capillary breakdown and injury associated with fast running.
A heart-rate monitor is a great way to ensure easy runs remain easy. Data from our heart rate can reliably tell us how hard we are working. Patiently running in lower heart-rate zones, allows aerobic fitness to slowly grow.
As we see the benefits of running slow to get faster. Sometimes we also need to allow ourselves to differentiate between a fitness run and stress run. We can have both types of runs we just need to be mindful of volume of those stress runs. Although they are a great mental release we need to watch because the body isn’t getting the opportunity to rest and develop aerobically.