Friday, January 11, 2013

Slow is the New Fast

                I had really meant to blog daily when I started this, so here is my intention for 2013.  I’m going to blog regularly.  I haven’t even done that yet, so I’m laying it out for the world that I am making this commitment.  I use the word intention rather than resolution because it is a focus on the present and the future, not the past.  Resolutions seemingly are done with the intention of fixing a past behavior. I am trying to bring mindfulness to my presence and add something to my life.
                Anyways, back to the topic at hand.  I made a comment on the Back at Square Zero blog yesterday about slowing down on long runs.  One of the things that I convince many of my new athletes to do is to slow down their long runs.  A lot of runners that are looking to lay out specific training plans with me feel that their long runs need to be at race pace throughout the entire training season.  I even made this mistake during my first marathon training, and I ended up with a horrible case of IT band syndrome.  For more information on IT band syndrome, search for anything related to “searing knee pain.”
                To become a better athlete, not only to do you need to vary your training paces, but you must do so correctly.  Even to the more advanced runners, who will include tempo runs and speed workouts into their training, there are the correct paces and incorrect paces to do these things.  The most accessible way to understand this is to consider the energy systems that the body uses to run and how it corresponds to your training.  Those energy systems are: stored adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creatine phosphate (CP), glycolytic, and aerobic.  The first three energy systems are anaerobic, which means they are fueled without the presence of oxygen.  The last uses oxygen.  All use ATP as the source of energy.
                The anaerobic energy systems have limited output amounts before they need to be replenished.  For instance, the stored ATP in the bodies muscles is the equivalent to get a sprinter out of the blocks and just a couple of meters down the track. The CP system can get the runner most of the way through 100 meters at top speed.  The glycolytic system can carry you through a 400m, give or take a few.
                The aerobic system on the other hand can take you as far as you want it to take you, you just have to make sure that you are using your aerobic energy system.  Some coaches will give you certain heart rates to hit (130-150 beats per minute), while others will tell you that it’s the equivalent to a certain race pace (marathon race pace plus 90 seconds per mile; or if you are a 10:00 minute per mile marathoner, you are operating on your aerobic system at 11:30-12:00 minutes per mile).
                The reason that you train at this slower pace is to exercise your aerobic system. By exercising this system, you are building a stronger base to make your high intensity workouts more effective.  Building volume at this pace will build endurance, while the higher intensity workouts will build your stamina.  The difference between the two is that endurance is the base for going the distance without stopping, while stamina is the base for going the distance at a faster speed (think 5K or 10K pace).
                For an excellent chart on finding your paces, I strongly suggest checking out JackDaniel’s (not that one) Running Formula.


  1. Thank you so much for the information. It's hard coming back from injury because I know I can be faster, heck I once was. However, I think slow and steady will be the plan this race.

    1. I'm right there with you on the injury come back. Finding your right slow and steady is the key!