If you’re like me, then you want to know how to run faster.
You want to become a stronger, more efficient, and all around better runner, right? I mean, who doesn’t?! I know I want to!
Of course, there are lots of things a runner needs to do in order to improve performance. From nutrition and sleep habits to a strategic training plan and a healthy recovery routine, each piece of the puzzle comes together to create a full picture of increased performance.
But the one thing about learning to run faster that’s not talked about often (except for by the real experts, like Jason @ Strength Running) is the fact that in order to do so, you have to spend more time running slower.
That’s right, the truth is, if you want to run faster (i.e., perform better overall) you have to run slow.
What exactly do I mean? Obviously you can’t run every workout slow and expect to improve your speed. That’s not logical. But in between your faster workouts you do need to have designated “easy run” days that will allow your body to actively recover.
I’ve talked about this a lot in many other posts, but I wanted to bring it up again, because as silly as it sounds, personally sometimes it’s really hard for me to adhere to this training technique, and I know many other runners can say the same
Learning to Run Faster … By Running Slow
Do you ever go out for a run that you’re planning to keep nice and easy, only to find yourself speeding down the street, for whatever reason: you wanted to prove you could beat that other guy up ahead, you want your final average pace to be faster for when you post your workout on Instagram (guilty), you saw a super cute dog you hoped you could pet if you caught up (also guilty).
Whatever the reason, sometimes we find ourselves running faster than we should be on our easy days, and while it might feel good to pick up the pace, in the grand scheme of training it’s likely to do more harm than good.
I’m especially guilty of wanting to run faster so other runners will think I’m “fast.” I want to feel like more than a “back of the pack runner,” as we’re sometimes referred to. But when I think like this it all too often crosses over into the comparison game, meaning I start comparing myself to other runners who are more advanced than I am, runners whose easy paces are faster than my top speed. That never feels good and it’s never productive or effective, which is why I’ve been actively working on letting those kinds of thoughts float away and focusing going my own pace.
In other words, just worry about where YOU are right now and building from there. It won’t happen overnight and trying to run at your fastest speed ALL of the time won’t get you there either.
When you have a tempo run, a Fartlek workout or an interval run planned, that’s the time to run faster (while also adhering carefully to the recovery intervals of the workout). When you have an easy workout planned, it’s imperative that you do just that: Take it easy. Stay relaxed. Keep at a conversational pace, meaning you could comfortably hold a conversation talking out loud while running.
This will only be to your benefit and it’s an important part of preventing injuries.
To take it even further, I’m going to try to explain how Dr. Andy Rosen, a top sports orthopedic doctor in New York City explained this concept at a recent injury prevention clinic for Team For Kids. He used a chart to explain how running injuries happen when we break a certain training threshold that’s beyond what our body was ready to handle. It really helped me to understand the importance of not just taking it easy when necessary, but also increasing your training slowly and progressively.
Basically, he explained that our bodies have a certain threshold, and if we push too hard or run to far before the body is ready to take on more stress, that’s the point where injury is most likely to happen.
So keep that in mind as you continue training or even as you start to pick up running for the very first time. It’s a gradual process and even though our bodies are incredibly strong, it still takes time for our muscles, bones and joints to adapt.
But most of all, remember not to compare yourself to anyone else! Most likely it’ll only get you into trouble, especially if you’re like me and want to keep up with the speedsters! Just remember, every runner is on their own incredible journey and we’re all at different spots along the path. As long as you keep setting new goals, mapping out smart plans, and putting in the hard work you’ll eventually get to exactly where you want to be.
Let’s chat! Do you struggle with keeping your easy days easy? How do you remind yourself to maintain a relaxed, steady pace? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. You can enter to win a pair of Perfect Running Shorts from Brooklyn-based running company OnlyAtoms on my Instagram page and on Facebook this week! Just click here to find out how to enter for a chance to win! We’re giving away multiple pairs of shorts so be sure to share with your friends too!