How to Run Slower to Run Faster

How to Run Slower to Run Faster
Photo: antstang, Shutterstock

Amazing news: You’re probably running too fast. We’ve previously covered why you need to run slower (we know it sounds counterintuitive), but the gist is that you get faster by running more, and you run more by running slower.

But even if you know you’re running too fast — as I consistently see posted in r/running, where many runners struggle to hit a comfortable easy pace — you might not be sure just how to slow down to the right speed. Here are tricks to run slower now so that you can run faster later.

Ditch the running playlist

Do you have a killer playlist called something like “Motivation Mix” or “Pound That Pavement” or “Running-Is-Pain-Love-The-Pain-Live-For-The-Pain?” Well, save those hype tracks for race day.

Opt for chiller soundtracks on your easy runs so you aren’t tempted to pick up the pace with those heart-thumping beats. You can also take the opportunity to catch up on your favourite podcast or get lost in an audiobook. Personally, and shamelessly, I listen to a lot of musicals that make my relaxed runs fly by. Look: It works for me because the storytelling keeps my mind occupied, while the music keeps my muscles motivated. All I ask is that you do not ask to look at my Spotify Wrapped this year.

Find a running partner

The classic rule of thumb to know if you’re in the best “easy run” zone is whether or not you can hold a conversation without huffing and puffing. Just make sure that everyone is on the same page about taking it slow. Otherwise, if you’re anything like me, you risk turning a friendly jog into an unspoken competition of Cold War proportions.

So grab a pal, lace up your shoes, and shoot the breeze. Or vent about your kids. Or have a heart-to-heart. Just try to avoid any sort of confessions of unrequited love, since the goal is to keep your heart rate down.

Focus on yourself, away from other runners

If you’re someone who can’t help but pick up the pace around other runners, try to find a time with less foot traffic on your running route. These times will vary from area to area, but a safe bet is to aim for the earliest of the morning runners or the tail end of the evening crew. Make sure to take safety measures if you’re going to run in the dark.

This tip is also about the mental perks that come when you recalibrate running as a time to turn inward, rather than simply a way to get exercise. By focusing on yourself, you might find it easier to shift your mentality away from tough pacing and towards some quality “me-time.” Start running slowly, and see what sort of epiphanies come your way.

Ignore the numbers

Changing your running mindset isn’t always easy, especially if you’re used to logging metrics like distance, time, elevation, calories burned, and so on. Consider intuitive running, and turn off any sort of pace alerts during your run. If you’re going to use apps or gadgets to measure anything on easy runs, focus on heart rate.

Take in the sights

As corny as it sounds, my love of running is less about the act of running and more where my runs take me (physically, mentally, spiritually, you name it). When you don’t concentrate on pushing your pace, you find yourself able to more fully appreciate your surroundings. Incorporate walking breaks and snap a few pics of your run — I know I have an irrational amount of nearly identical photos of the same tree. (To be fair, it’s an awfully pretty tree).

For mental and physical benefits alike, running slow is the gift that keeps on giving. Do it right, and you’ll see the payoff in longer and faster runs down the road.

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