How to get fast by running slow, seriously.

If you wanna get fast, you gotta run slow!

I don’t know about you but years ago when I first started running I would go out every day with only two goals, go longer and get faster. I had no idea what I needed to do in order to make that happen so I just pushed myself to run harder than I had the day before, every single time I went out for a run. And guess what? Yeah, I didn’t get all that fast, in fact, I got injured a lot.

Slow down runner

Back then if you would have told me that I needed some slower days, I would have thought you were crazy. How the hell could I become a fast runner by slowing down?

Enter the science between aerobic and anaerobic training and enter my love of all things analytical…Turns out there’s a lot of science behind this thing called running, who knew?

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic running

When you run your body breaks down sugar and converts it to glycogen so it can be used as fuel. When your body has enough oxygen for that process, it’s aerobic, when it doesn’t have enough oxygen, it’s anaerobic.

So, what is running aerobically? Well, simply put, when you run and you can easily hold a conversation without gasping for air, your body has enough oxygen and can produce the energy needed to power your muscles. Your body expels the waste in the form of water and carbon dioxide through your breathing.

Anaerobic running requires more oxygen than your muscles have available so your body begins to break down sugar but it doesn’t produce water and carbon dioxide as waste, instead it produces lactic acid. Lactic acid is much harder to get rid of than carbon dioxide and water. You can’t just breathe it out and as it accumulates, it causes you to become tired.

Dancing Granny

Is this aerobic or anaerobic dancing? Ah, who cares, Granny rocks.

Believe it or not, even a 2 mile run utilizes mostly aerobic energy. Anaerobic energy contributes a very small amount of energy therefore a greater aerobic capacity will allow you to perform better at any endurance event.

So, how do you improve your aerobic capacity? Well, the best way is to train in your aerobic zone just under your anaerobic threshold. For most people the anaerobic threshold is somewhere between 80-90% of their max heart rate so you’d want to train just under that but thresholds vary and the only completely accurate test is one performed by a professional who can test your blood .

rabbit and turtle

Let me be perfectly honest and tell you that when I first started training with a heart rate monitor I was a little pissed to realize that I had been running in the anaerobic zone for a large percentage of my runs and all of the charts told me to slow down, way down. Constantly running in an anaerobic state is probably why I was so tired and suffered from so many injuries. With the heart rate training I was able to find the proper zone and then work on improving it and contrary to what I originally thought, I didn’t get slower, I got faster.

Best Damn Race

When you first begin aerobic training you may feel like I did because you’ll need to slow down to maintain your heart rate and it can be frustrating. However, you are working your aerobic system and increasing your aerobic capacity which, over time will improve your ability to run faster.

If you start out running a 10:00 minute mile, as you train in your aerobic zone, you’ll improve to 9:45 at the same heart rate; eventually, you’ll improve to 9:30 and so on. This increase in aerobic capacity will significantly improve your time and your race paces as well. You’re basically training your body to run faster at the same level of exertion.

During aerobic training your body learns how to efficiently utilize fat for energy. The more efficiently your body utilizes fat, the better you’ll perform. Since fat sources are unlimited, the aerobic system is extremely efficient and long-lasting.

There are many benefits to training in the Aerobic state vs the anaerobic state:

  • Increases in VO2 Max (oxygen consumption)
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Increased muscular endurance
  • Reduced body fat
  • Reduced LDL blood cholesterol
  • Raises your metabolic rate
  • Improves lung functions and strengthens the heart
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves Glucose Tolerance and insulin Resistance
  • Improves the immune system
  • Helps prevent injury
  • Helps you run more efficiently

So, if you haven’t tried training with a heart rate monitor, you may want to. By doing so, you can learn how to train aerobically. I train with a heart rate monitor and have written a post about it here.

Now tell me, how many days do you run hard and how many days do you run easy?

How much slower do you run on your long runs?

Do you use any other methods of training to get faster? Tell me about them…