I ran slower on purpose this Summer and here’s what happened: I got faster.
Yeah, you heard that right.
Ever heard of polarized training? Simply put- it’s where you keep the easy days easy and the hard days hard.
Some people call it the “80/20 rule”, which checks out for runners as effectively as in the business world.
Let’s break this concept down, shall we?
Stress + rest = better performance
Let’s define what this means, which is the rationale for running slower.
- stress: hard running days and hard strength training
- rest: easy running, easy cross training, yoga, walks, sleep, complete rest days
- performance: faster, stronger
The importance of rest
You can’t reach your potential without both stress and rest…and most of your training is the rest part of the equation.
50-70% of your mileage, assuming you are utilizing a minimum effective dose program, needs to be easy.
Following a more traditional plan with more volume? Make that 80% easy. That’s where the “80/20” nickname comes in.
Either way, the point is you can’t fully maximize the hard workouts and recover from them if you aren’t honoring the easy miles.
Hard workouts and hard strength training is taxing on the body.
Respect this and take your rest seriously.
The reward? You’ll improve!
Let’s see an example
- 20:00 5K PR (6:25 pace per mile)
- 80% of mileage run is at 8:00-9:00 per mile (2+ minutes per mile slower than 5K PR pace)
- 20% of mileage is run at 6:50-7:30 per mile depending on type of workout
This is my personal example. See what pace range is left out there? 7:30-8:00. That’s what is referred to as the “gray zone” and it’s not slow enough for me to rest but also not fast enough to make gains.
It’s also the easiest pace for me to hit by feel with no technology, so I recognize it as detrimental- I have to be really aware of the intent of my workout if the time spent is to be beneficial.
- 30:00 5K PR (9:39 pace per mile)
- 80% of mileage is run at 11:15-12:15 pace (2+ minutes per mile slower than 5k PR pace)
- 20% of mileage is run at 10:45-8:15 pace per mile depending on the type of workout
See the gray zone pace range there? 10:45-11:15. If this looks more like you, in general you’ll avoid that pace range because it’s just hard enough to delay your recovery but not hard enough to help you improve
But I’m making gains anyway…
If you are 20 years old and sprinting every workout, you probably are getting faster.
You do you, boo.
Just don’t laugh at the folks a decade or two ahead of you when they say they can’t just go faster to run faster.
It sounds ridiculous when I type it out like that, but if I had a nickel for every Coach who has told me that over the years, I could buy some Super Flexy to protect my 40 year old joints!
If you don’t slow down sooner or later you will:
- Get injured
- Get burned out
- Miss your potential during races
Easy runs help you improve, too. They aren’t just for recovery:
- Increased capillary density which means more ways for your blood to make it to your muscles to delay fatigue
- Mitochondrial growth to help you burn fat efficiently which is needed in endurance events