Are you a regular runner who has been struggling to get quicker lately? Are you feeling like you’ve plateaued? Do you have heavy legs when you head out for your usual run? Lost your mojo?

We all go through this. Normally for me, it’s a week or so after a marathon or an ultra, when I’ve pushed my body really hard, and then forget to respect it by giving it adequate rest. But sometimes it happens when I’ve been training too much. And I don’t necessarily mean doing loads of long runs, or speed sessions; I just mean if I’ve been making every run a bit too much of an effort.

It’s easy to do isn’t it, in this age of online of sharing we inhabit. Many runners don’t like to post ‘slow’ runs on Strava as they like the kudos from runs they smash. So they push themselves hard, on every run. It takes its toll.

Think about it: if you push yourself hard on every run, do you really get the benefit of the true speed endurance sessions you do? Can you push yourself as hard as you would have liked on those? Probably not. So why not treat those one or two sessions a week where you focus on picking up the pace as your chance to do your very best, and give yourself a rest day in between. If you really need to keep mileage up, say if you’re marathon training, then put a nice gentle recovery run in there instead. Take the dog and go and enjoy a nice view on a local trail, but don’t push the pace at all.

On your weekly long run, increasing distance automatically makes a run hard, so when you’re starting out upping the miles, don’t fall into the trap of running them too quickly. A long run pace should feel like you can maintain it forever. There is a time and a place for putting some pace into longer runs, and that is closer to a race when your body is used to distance, and I would normally put some longer tempo sections into a long run, or run some midweek tempo sessions. There is absolutely no need to attempt a marathon PB during a training run – whether we care about kudos or not!

So I’m asking you all to be more responsible, to yourselves, and to everyone watching. Let’s give our bodies the recovery runs and the rest days we have earned, and get the most out of our speedwork by taking adequate recovery when our bodies need it. Training smarter will help to reduce injury and illness, and increase your chances of improving.

If you need more structure in your training, head over to my coaching page to see what I offer.

8 thoughts on “Why you might need to slow down to speed up

  1. I’m super guilty of this. At the moment I’m doing quite a few lunchtime runs with a colleague who is naturally faster than me. So my ‘easy pace’ runs become tempo runs as I try to keep up with his easy pace. I need to try and set the ego aside for the sake of my legs!

      1. Strava has largely destroyed the institution of the Sunday social club ride. It’s all about segment bashing now. (It’s no coincidence that the default setting on Garmin devices for cycling activities is to autopause when stationary – heaven forbid that stopping at the lights should interfere with the average speed you’ll show on Strava!)

        And don’t get me started on Strava segments on multi-user trails…

  2. I relatively recently started working with an online coach and the two big shocks at the beginning were how slow most of my runs were and the idea of the regular recovery run. But the process has yielded dividends. I’ve knocked almost 4 mins off my 10 km since Christmas.

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