There's an adage in the running community that proclaims: "run slower to go faster." When I first heard this saying, I was like
It didn't seem to make sense. Isn't slower the opposite of faster? What I didn't understand at the time was that the quote didn't mean "just run slower," Instead, with strategically placed intervals and an understanding of why slower movement can enhance overall times, I learned that a slower pace really can improve race times and overall running fitness.
Recently, my training has dictated that my long runs get increasingly longer. Every week, I'll be running "the farthest I've ever run in my life at one time" repeatedly. Tonight, for example, I have an 18 mile run date with a good friend who is coaching me through the last few legs of marathon training. Previously, I would never have thought it possible for me to actually complete a run of this distance, let alone in any reasonable amount of time. But sitting here writing this, I'm pretty confident it won't take me much more than a few hours to cover the mileage. Why? Because my training lately has used intervals to my very strong advantage.
Here's how I've learned to harness the unexpected power of slowing down to enhance my training and make huge gains (like last Saturday's four minute half marathon PR). It's very simple: every time I hit a mile marker or hear my GPS announce the end of a mile, I walk while I count to 60. When my 60-count is up, I start running again. And, that's it! Doesn't sound like much, does it?
What I've found is that my 60-count (usually less than 60 seconds, since I count kinda fast) is enough time for me to take a swig of water, nibble on an energy chew, or even just take a few deep breaths. It's a mental and physical reset period that I earn every mile. I take stock of my body condition and my performance to that point, formulate my plan for the next mile, and then get right back to the run. My average pace on long runs of 10 miles or more has dropped more than 30 seconds, and I've found myself running some of the fastest sustained splits when employing my run/walk intervals.
I ran half a race with a woman who had a watch set to beep after her run/walk splits set at 3 minutes run, 2 minutes walk. That was actually the race experience that convinced me to add intervals to my regular training! Intensity intervals aren't unique to running, either. High intensity interval training, or HIIT, workouts like Tabata training (see my article in the Active Acadiana for more information) feature periods of maximum effort with set rest intervals worked in between bodyweight or other exercises.
Challenging your body, then rewarding it with rest, can enhance your endurance and strength in astonishing ways. If you haven't tried it yet, I definitely recommend finding an interval training method that you're comfortable with - and I promise you'll see improvements!
How have you incorporated interval training into your fitness routines? Have you tried "running slower to run faster"? What other training tips do you have?