Run Slow to Run Fast: How Running Slower Will Make You Faster

run slower

There is a new piece of running wisdom that is being used in the running community. It seems counterintuitive and I will admit it took me a while to catch on to this trick: Run slower to run faster.

A common goal that many runners have is to improve their speed and run faster. They may want to set a new PR in a race or simply improve their pace over time.

It seems unconventional, but many elite runners and marathoners support this method of running slower to run faster.

You may be wondering how this is possible.

Why run slow? How does this work?

I will explain a bit more of the science behind why this method is becoming increasingly popular and why it is effective.

After reading this article, hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of this method and you may want to give it a try to improve your running speed!

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training

In order to understand the concept of running slow to run fast, it is important to understand the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic training is when you train at a lower intensity level with a lower heart rate. This zone of training is done at a comfortable pace and can be done continuously for a long period of time.

Aerobic running is when you run at an easy pace and you stay at below 80% of your max heart rate.

Running in the aerobic zone improves your overall fitness and maximizes your ability to burn fat as a fuel source. Your body uses oxygen to fuel your muscles.

When you run in this zone, it feels like you can go on forever.

Anaerobic Training

Anaerobic activity is when you raise the intensity of your workout and run at a harder, uncomfortable pace for shorter periods of time.

This includes running at a speed that is hard to maintain over a long period of time.

Anaerobic running is when you run at an intense pace at above 80% of your max heart rate.

Training in the anaerobic zone raises your heart rate, increases the waste products that your body produces, and makes it so that your body doesn’t use oxygen to power your muscles.

Your body starts to use glycogen as its main energy source instead.

Training in the anaerobic zone cannot be maintained for a long period of time because you will eventually run out of glycogen.

This feels like “hitting the wall“, or coming to a point where you are no longer able to continue on.

Which Zone Should You Leverage On Race Day?

Because of the two different ways that aerobic and anaerobic zones burn energy, runners should try to stay in the aerobic zone as much as possible on race day.

You want to be using fat as your energy source and not glycogen stores.

Because of this, we want to train mainly in the aerobic zone and learn to go faster by burning fat rather than glycogen.

When you are training for a race, it can be most beneficial to focus on being in one zone or the other. Train your easy runs easy and your hard runs hard.

It is common for elite runners to run 80-90% of their training runs in the aerobic zone and only 10-20% of their runs in the anaerobic zone.

Using the 80/20 Rule In Training

You may have heard of the 80/20 rule when it comes to training.

This means doing 80% of your training runs at an easy, aerobic level, and only 20% of your training at a harder, anaerobic level.

This may seem like a lot more easy-running than you are used to.

A lot of athletes find it hard to stay in the easy zone 80% of the time.

Making a concentrated effort to slow down can really benefit you in the long run and make your training much more efficient, even if it’s different to execute at first.

What Are Some Benefits of Running Slow to Run Fast?

Decreased risk of injury

Doing the majority of your training runs at an easy pace decreases your risk of injury.

Training at a higher intensity more often results in getting injured more often.

Running at a slower intensity will put less strain on your muscles and will make it so that you’re able to run more sustainably over a long period of time.

Improve Your Aerobic Energy System

As I mentioned earlier, athletes want to target staying in the “aerobic zone” during long races because that is the zone where you can continue going for a long period of time.

You want to work on improving your aerobic energy system since that is the system you want to utilize in races.

The more you train in the aerobic zone, the more efficient your body will become at it.

This will help you to build endurance and become more efficient at burning energy.

Burn Fat as Fuel

Running in the aerobic zone will enable you to burn fat as fuel.

Once your glycogen store is depleted, your body will turn to fat as the energy source.

Burning fat will make you a more efficient runner, promotes higher calorie burning, and promotes weight loss.

How Slow Should You Be Running To Stay in the Aerobic Zone?

As I mentioned above, aerobic running should be done at less than 80% of your maximum heart rate. You should aim for 60-75% of your maximum heart rate.

Running in this zone should not make you feel breathless or like you are depleting all of your energy.

You should be able to maintain the pace for a long period of time.

When in doubt, slow down.

Run Slower to Run Faster

Trying to run slower in order to run faster can seem counterintuitive.

Implementing this technique into your training can make a huge difference in how you are performing on race day.

It will decrease your risk of injury and improve your speed and efficiency over the long run.

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  1. It makes sense, but I know for a fact that it is hard to do. I am trying it now and I find it difficult.

  2. Lorie Jamison-Phillips

    Thanks for all this amazing information. It makes a lot of sense, but it is hard to do. I am very guilty of not slowing down. I’m going to try to work on it moving forward.

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