Slow Down Grow Up

The Long Slow Run

Running, long run, slow run, marathon training, half marathon, exercise, fitness, nutrition, race

I was thinking of writing about running fashion.

I’m so obsessed with it (as long as it isn’t Lorna Jane or Target) that if I had an unlimited credit card I would have Sarah dressed in a different running outfit every day. Then I thought that didn’t sound very manly so I stopped writing that piece and will come back to it when I’ve secured a sponsored post from Runningskirts or Inknburn. 

Yeah imagine that… a product review for women’s running clothing written by the bloke with a beard who is still wearing the same running shorts he’s owned since 2011.

Anyway talking about other unmanly things, here is the segue into the slow run. 

The slow run goes against every competitive alpha male principle that I hold dear.  These competitive urges have intensified since joining the local running club which is of course Sarah’s fault because she keeps encouraging me to run faster. Who knew it was possible to run 5km in under 20 minutes, let alone do it more than once.  So for someone who loves hearing the Garmin tick off those kms on long runs and smiles when they are consistently below the 5min per km mark the slow run idea is complete madness.

Why would I want to run slower over a given distance when I already know I can run faster over that same distance?

It’s inhumane and humiliating I tell you and should be outlawed.

You should run to exhaustion every time you run and if you’re not knackered then you should have stayed in bed and eaten a doughnut. Oh dear me, how shocked am I to confess that I read some controversial training theories and Sarah has encouraged me to try and incorporate them into my own running.  So last Friday out came the dreaded slow run.

For new runners the slow longer run is about building confidence as much as it is about building up endurance. Proving to yourself that you can run for 90 minutes for example tells you that you have the capacity to run a distance of more than 15kms. Confidence grows in your body’s abilities and in running to unfamiliar surroundings.  I’ve never had this confidence issue being such an egotistical bastard, so for me the slow run is about testing theories for building endurance.
The theory goes that in order to build up your ability to run longer distances (endurance) you need to spend more of the training time converting oxygen and both your fat and carbohydrate stores (aerobic exercise) and less time in the zone that burns just carbohydrates (anaerobic exercise).  You use a slow run to build up your ability to build aerobic capacity, use fat as a fuel source and encourage tissue growth. Ideally the end result is that you are building blood volume so that when you race (or do your fast training runs) and are forced into the anaerobic zone (high heart rate, can’t stop, can’t breathe, must win, crocodiles are chasing me on Mindil beach etc) you have more blood, carrying more oxygen and a greater capacity to run faster for longer. 

So on Friday for the first time I tried to run slow. 

The gurus encourage you to take a particular running time per km e.g. your 5km race time and add a few minutes per km to it as your slow run time. I tried to slow it to this level and couldn’t make myself do it but I did my best to keep it at about 45 seconds slower per km then normal training pace, and a 1 minute slower per km then racing pace. I chose a 14km route that I know and set out. I was going faster than planned and enjoying the sunset and kept trying to slow it down. I got a little distracted and ran off onto a mangrove trail that I’ve been wanting to try but rarely run in daylight, this slowed me down a bit more as it was dusk and I didn’t know the trail. When I popped back out onto the road it took everything I had not to take off. Eventually I settled into a pace that was acceptable to my brain and I just let go. 

This is what I discovered:

  •         Over a 16km / 10 mile distance I was running 45 seconds slower per km slower than normal pace.
  •         My average heart rate reduced from its normal from 172bpm to 150bpm.
  •         My recovery time was just a few minutes and my body temperature reduced to normal very quickly.
  •         I had no lethargy or muscle pain the next day.

Give the purpose of the slow run is to build muscle tissue I made sure that I consumed protein after the run to assist with the muscle repair and building process.
This is the first time I’ve really seen the value in my heart rate monitor as well, it may be that I train to a heart rate rather than a pace for the purposes of getting measurable value from the slow run.
I will update my experience in about two months and see if a regular slow run has any impact on my fast runs and other activities.

Do you incorporate a long slow run into your running regime?

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