If you've been running for some time, especially at longer distances, you've no doubt heard about the great benefits of slowing down on your easy and long runs. While it can seem counterintuitive to train slower in order to race faster, a mountain of evidence supports this training strategy for elite runners, novice and trained recreational runners alike.
Running slower causes less wear and tear on the body, allowing runners of all abilities to log more training miles than they safely can at faster paces. And more training miles translates to better running performance. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that it also correlates to a lower incidence of injury. The researchers found that among recreational runners, training volume and training pace were inversely related to running injuries. That's right—those who ran more miles got injured less, while those who ran at a faster pace got injured more.
Of course, it's one thing to know that running slow is good for your training and quite another to have the discipline to do it. Many runners are astonished at just how slow they need to run in order to keep their heart rate down around 70 percent of maximum (or 60 percent of heart rate reserve).
But what if you could use a few tricks in order to make it easier to rein yourself in? Here are five tips to help you do just that.
Never Go Out the Door Without a Plan
This might seem obvious, but the first trick to keep your training runs slow is knowing that's the goal before you set off on a run. Get into the habit of sitting down on the weekend and writing down your training goals for each of your planned runs for the coming week.
Then take a moment to review the plan right before you head out for a run. When you get home, jot down a few notes about how well you stuck to the plan. Having this planning-performance-accountability loop in place can keep you more disciplined.
Wear a Heart Rate Monitor
Chest straps can be uncomfortable and having one more piece of gear to put on before a run can be inconvenient. Still, having that continuous visual feedback during a run will make slowing the pace a lot easier. Experienced runners can rely on their rate of breathing and perceived level of exertion to gauge their speed.
Until you've spent a few weeks with your heart rate monitor, don't rely on how you feel to set your easy/long run pace. Check your watch frequently throughout the run to make sure you're staying in your target zone. Many watches can be pre-set to alert you when your heart rate exceeds your desired maximum, which makes monitoring yourself that much easier.
Run For Time Rather Than Distance