Thursday, January 8, 2009

Running Slow, Running Fast

It seems intuitive -- the faster, harder, longer one runs in training, the faster, harder, longer one is able to run in a race. Therefore, on a daily basis one should run as fast and hard and long as possible. After all, that's what we do with other skills -- when practicing to type, one types as fast and accurately as possible -- once one learns the keyboard, slow typing doesn't have any benefit.

Well, not so in running. It turns out that running slow helps you run fast.

Earlier this week, I came across an interesting article on the Runner's World site, Slow Down to Speed Up. The journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise published a study that was done to determine how hard competitive endurance athletes train and how that relates to their running performance. As a group, the runners in the test trained 71% of the time at a low intensity (60% VO2 max or at heartrates <140 bpm), 21% of the time at a moderate intensity (60-85% VO2 max or 140-171 bpm), and only 8% of the time at a high intensity (>85% VO2 max or >171 bpm). The results were interesting:
...the runners who had logged the most time training in the low-intensity zone fared the best. The reason why low-intensity running yields such great dividends is that it is aerobic conditioning at its best: It improves heart and lung function while it puts less stress on the ligaments and tendons that are vulnerable to injury at higher intensities.
I'm using a Runner's World Smart Coach training plan to get ready for the Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K at the end of March. This week's plan, the first week of 12, calls for these miles and speeds -- a rough correlation to the training patterns (not the speeds) of the fast guys and girls:
• Monday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Tuesday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Wednesday: Tempo run -- 1 mile warm up, 3 miles @ 7:26 mpm, 1 mile cool down
• Thursday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Saturday: 9 miles @ 8:53 mpm
It's hard to run @ 8:53 mpm. OK, yes, and it's hard to run @ 7:26 mpm, too. My most comfortable and natural pace is somewhere in the 8:00-8:20 mpm range. Every single person is different so what feels comfortable or hard for you may be faster or slower. The article was a great reminder of the value of making myself run in the lower intensity zone even when my body feels like stepping it up.

By the way, because of weather and schedule, I changed up the days a bit on the training plan. I did the tempo run today (Thursday) after having run 4 days straight. My 3 fast miles averaged about 7:36 mpm -- not my target but considering a 14+ mph head wind and the fact that I haven't done any speed work since October, I was pretty pleased:
• 1.00 x 08:47.43
• 1.00 x 07:56.54
• 1.00 x 07.41.12
• 1.00 x 07:11.52
• 1.26 x 10:18.29
Run well, y'all, and slow down sometimes,
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