Slow & Easy Running

Over the next few weeks, you are probably going to get sick of hearing us say “Slow Down” and “It’s the long haul that counts (I.e. “time on your feet”) and that “most injuries and dropouts occur from going out too far, too fast and too often.”


Why do we desire to push so hard?

Westerners (or maybe just Humans), especially us types that set out to train for things such as Half or Full marathons, have a “No Pain, No Gain” mindset and we feel the need to try the hardest and push the furthest. We want that instant gratification of “Wow, that was an awesome workout”. And we have it ingrained in us that the harder we train, the better the results.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true and many of us will no longer be on the road to crossing that finish line.

You may be next one to drop out!  

We are being brutally honest because we’ve had our share of witnessing many drop out. And I know it’s not due to lack of motivation on your part, lack of support by your coaches and/or fellow runners, or lack of training informational.  Why do runners dropout from training?

  • Injury
  • Beginner’s Burnout (Suck Factor)

An injury is obvious, but what is Beginner’s Burnout? It’s that point when your mind and body has had enough of “this sucks” mentality and you drop out. I can bet that these runners simply were trying to do too much, too soon and didn’t allow their body (and mind) to adjust.  Remember, it takes months for this transformation to happen.

I recently added “Beginner's” to this statement because there are other types of Burnout that can occur with even the most elite/advanced runners. This is totally different.  “Beginner” here refers to ANYONE RELATIVELY NEW TO LONG DISTANCE RUNNING (and that include run/walkers through faster crew) . . . if you’re new to long distance running, this is for you. Also applies if you have been off for more than 4-6 months, though assuming you finished a training program, you know what to expect and how to better prepare for it.

Simply Too Fast

Running Coach Jason Karp, PhD, has written the following [1]

One of the biggest mistakes runners make is running workouts at speeds that are either too fast or too slow to obtain the desired result.  Problem is, they don't know what the desired result is. To determine the correct speed, you must know the purpose of each workout.  Is it to improve lactate threshold?  VO2max?  Anaerobic capacity?  Muscle power?  Technique?  Each one of these variables requires a different speed that will optimize the workout.  While most athletes, especially the young and inexperienced ones, always want to run fast, remember that the goal of training is to obtain the greatest benefit while incurring the least amount of stress. This means that you want to run as slow as you can while still obtaining the desired result.

Long, Easy Runs

The purpose of easy and long runs is to stimulate the physiological, biochemical, and molecular adaptations needed for endurance, including the storage of more fuel (glycogen) in your muscles, an increased use of intramuscular fat at the same speed to spare glycogen, an increased number of red blood cells and hemoglobin, a greater capillary network for a more rapid diffusion of oxygen into the muscles, and an increased mitochondrial density and number of aerobic enzymes to enhance your aerobic metabolic capacity.  Since many of these adaptations are volume-dependent, not intensity- dependent, the speed of easy runs is not as important as their duration.  The single biggest mistake competitive runners make is running too fast on their easy days. By doing so, they add unnecessary stress to their legs without any extra benefit and they won’t be able to run as much quality on their harder days.

Why Slow Down

Slowing down your easy runs has at least three benefits:

  • Decreases the chance of injury
  • Allows you to get more out of your harder days because there will be less residual fatigue, and
  • Allows you to increase your overall weekly mileage.

Remember that it is the volume of aerobic running, not the speed, that represents the major stimulus for adaptation.

Try It!

If you are nearing either injury or burnout, please do yourself a favor. Make a promise to yourself to at least try to slow down, practice patience and allow your body time to really love running (most do) At least love it to the point that you’ll make it to the end of this training!

We will continue to pound this “Easy Slow” stuff into our coaching. We cannot stress enough how important knowing what your slow, easy running style should be and it DOES WORK!  Keep up a good easy base for 6-8-10+ weeks and you’re chances of success go way up!  

Congratulations again for being here!


[1] Dr. Jason Karp - running & fitness coach, consultant, freelance writer

Director & Coach, REVO2LT Running Team

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