Why Run Fast?! 5 Ways to Slow Down

I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running, Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower.  In a nutshell, for peak performance, 80% of your training volume should be slow easy runs.  According to Fitzgerald, average recreational runners do one easy run for every hard run while a typical elite runner does four easy runs for every hard run.

Running too hard too often is the single most common and detrimental mistake in the sport.

However, what defines EASY?  In the book, the author described ‘Easy’ or low intensity to be below your ventilatory threshold, the point when breathing rate is deepened.  Ventilatory Threshold lies at the boundary between low and moderate intensity.

Many of us may find it a challenge to run slow.  Research has shown, a recreational runner’s normal habitual pace falls on the side of moderate intensity rather than below the ventilatory threshold point.

So how do you slow down?  Consider these five ‘hacks’ I’ve recently put into practice:

Breathe only through your nose

Keep your mouth shut when running. The second you open your mouth to draw in more air indicates you’re running harder than you should.  When you’re running at a slow pace, you should be able to breathe only through your nose. With greater exertion, your muscles require more oxygen.  You’re inclined to open your mouth to breathe in more air.

Run by Feel

Perceived effort is running by feel.  Matt Fitzgerald suggested to use perceived effort to ‘establish intensity at the start of a run’.  Effort should be between 1 and 4.  Pay attention to the cues outlined on the table below to know you’re running slow enough.

Image from 80/20 book – A slow, easy run is between 1 and 4

Run by HR

To establish heart rate zones, I did the Talk Test on a treadmill to determine my lactate threshold heart rate.  I warmed up with an easy run of 10min/mi (6.0 speed) then increased my speed  by .1 every minute.  After each minute, I recited – One hundred twenty one, one hundred twenty two, up to one hundred twenty five.  When I had a more difficult time saying the phrase, I noted my heart rate and speed: 170bpm at 8:06/mi. To stay at a low intensity, my HR should be under Zone 2, 134-148bpm (81-89% of LTHR) .

The trouble with heart rate is that it is dependent on a number of other variables: how much sleep did I get? Is it warm out? Was I mentally tired being a referee between my kids?

This is where perceived effort and breathing comes in the picture.  As I already pointed out, run with an effort between 1 and 4 and breathe through your nose while tracking your HR.

Run on a Trail

I don’t know about you but when I run on trails, my pace significantly slows down.  There is no way I can run fast on a trail.  I have to keep my balance in check and be totally aware of where my feet lands.  

Run with a Friend…

…whose natural pace is slower than yours.  I say this is a guaranteed way to slow down.  Your friend dictates the pace and you obviously can’t leave her behind.

Do you run slow on your easy runs?  What’s your approach to make sure you’re running at the right intensity?

Linking with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday Five 2.0 – this week’s topic is ‘Running Hacks’