Did you know you can run faster by training slower?
Imagine no more intervals and tempo runs to build your speed…
I certainly didn’t know that after thirty years of constantly training harder to get faster and lose weight. What did I get for all that? I still weighed the same, got a little faster and spent half my time with some sort of injury.
So I dedicated the last two years implementing the latest in training techniques for running, building strength and fueling my body. As a result, I lost that extra 10 pounds I’d been carrying around for the last 20 years, got stronger and faster. In my last race, a tough skyrunner marathon, at the age of 62, I had the second fastest time in the 50 year old bracket!
What I found was that by training slower, I could finally lose those extra pounds.
Specifically, I found three areas you can improve by running slower:
- Burning Fat
- Running Faster
- Reducing Injuries
While there are several steps to the process, here is a 10,000 foot view of how you can burn fat, run faster without injury by running slow.
#1: Fat Burning 101
When you run, you use two types of muscle fibers, aerobic and anaerobic, or as some people say, “slow twitch” and “fast twitch” muscles. Both muscle types use fat and sugar(glucose) for energy. The difference is, the aerobic muscles burn more fat for energy and the anaerobic burn more sugar. You have a lot of slow twitch muscles, your body depends on them for activities of long duration, such as running for multiple hours.
As you run slow, if you have a healthy diet, your muscles will burn more fat than sugar(Your aerobic zone). As your run faster, your fat burning goes down and your sugar burning increases. Once your muscles burn more sugar than fat, you enter the anaerobic zone. If you’re like most runners, you probably spend a large percentage of your training outside of the aerobic zone. Eating a high carbohydrate diet along with training too much in your anaerobic zone hampers your fat burning ability and is one of the reasons why even though you run a lot, you can’t seem to lose those last few pounds.
By utilizing your slow twitch muscle while you train, you will build up your aerobic engine, burn more fat while you run and finally drop those pesky extra pounds!
#2: Your Aerobic Engine
In the last section, you learned that running in your aerobic zone is the best way to burn more fat when you run. But there is another advantage to training more in your aerobic zone. This is where it gets interesting. You see, even when you run a fast 10K, 90% of your energy is from your aerobic engine. You see, if you can already run faster than your race pace, your problem isn’t speed, it’s endurance. Aerobic capacity and your lactate threshold are the reasons you can sustain a fast pace for a long period of time. The higher your aerobic capacity, the longer you can run at maximum speed.
Here’s how it works, as you continue to train in your aerobic zone, three things happen.
- You develop more of the small blood capillaries that surround your muscles, feeding more oxygen and nutrients to your muscle cells.
- This allows increased myoglobin content in your muscle fibers. Myoglobin is the protein that binds with oxygen and releases it to your mitochondria.
- This increases the size and multiplies the number of mitochondria in your muscle cells. The mitochondria breakdown the carbs, fat and protein into usable energy for your muscle cells. More mitochondria means more energy for your muscle cells and faster running for you.
So running slow in your aerobic zone increases the power and endurance of your muscle cells, allowing you to run faster, longer.
#3: Reducing injury
It’s pretty obvious that running slower leads to fewer injuries. Most running injuries are caused by exceeding our body’s limits, either by over training or by over stressing our muscles, tendons and joints by going too hard. The no pain, no gain approach does not work. Every time you run, you develop micro tears in your muscles. With a well developed aerobic system, you have plenty of small capillaries to deliver nutrients to your muscles for quick repair. If not, these small tears slowly build up an create more problems down the road.
And that’s a problem, you aren’t instantly hurt, it accumulates over time until one part of your body gives up.
We all know that one of the best ways to improve your running is to increase your weekly mileage. The beauty of running slow is that you can increase your weekly mileage without adding stress to you muscles and joints.
Ready to learn more?
So you just learned how running slower, improves the efficiency of your aerobic engine, allowing you to lose weight and run faster without injury. This means that it’s possible for you to finally lose those last few pounds and increase your mileage without worrying about injury.
But of course there is a lot more to it. The specific heart rate you train with is critical to your success. Also there are some specific ways to train for speed without going anaerobic. Running with poor form can still cause injury problems even as you run slow.
If you want to change how you run from now on, check out my new Run Slow to Race Fast 4 Month Base Training guide and start building a better base for your running.