Many new runners feel self-conscious about their pace. They may think they’re moving too slowly, or that they ought to be working harder. That’s simply not true. Running and/or run-walking at a comfortable pace strengthens your muscles, your lungs and your heart, no matter what the clock says. In fact, if you’re new to running or coming back after a long layoff, it’s best to forget about time entirely and focus on starting and finishing your run feeling good, no matter how “slow” you go.
Why take it easy?
Doing your regular, weekday runs at a slow pace reduces the risk of injury dramatically while still contributing to your fitness. A weekly long, slow run will improve your endurance, enhance your fat-burning ability, improve bloodflow to your muscles and build mental toughness. Failing to do the majority of your runs at a comfortable pace will lead to burnout – and possibly worse. Comfortable runs deliver all of the joy of running and none of the pain.
Just how slow?
To make sure you’re running slowly enough, be aware of your breathing. If you’re huffing and puffing, you need to slow down or take more frequent walk breaks. If you’ve done an easy run too fast, you’ll likely notice it the next day – your legs won’t have their usual energy, and you may notice aches and pains. If you have a tendency to run too fast on an easy day, try running with someone slower than you are. Avoid fast friends – save them for a speedier day.
Most runners can do all their runs at a comfortable pace with no downside. Runners with time goals, however, ought to add one day of speedwork each week to improve their performance. One day of training at race pace can be added with little risk of injury, but the rest of your week’s runs should be comfortably paced.
Q & A
Q Will I ever get any fitter if I run slowly all the time?
A Long, slow runs build your endurance while strengthening your musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory systems. Short, slow runs help maintain that fitness. Consistent running, no matter how easy, will make you fitter, while going too fast, too often can lead to injury.
Q If I’m supposed to be running easy, how do I deal with hills, which are hard?
A Shorten your stride down to “baby steps,” run on your toes, and make sure your arms are swinging to help propel you. Don’t try to maintain the same pace you held on the flats. If you start to breathe more heavily, add more walk breaks on uphill portions.
Q How can I distinguish between a normal ache or pain and the start of an injury?
A Some overall achiness, tightness and muscle soreness is to be expected when pushing your body farther than it’s gone before. You can expect to feel fatigued in the one to two days after a new workout, especially in the quads. But if you have a sharp pain, one that’s only on one side of the body, or one that persists or worsens during or after a run, see a doctor.