Steady running rather than fast running has been the recommended way of running for years. You should run at a pace at which you can hold a conversation.
Perhaps because I started as a track athlete running 400m and fast running was all I did.
I always end up pushing myself; up hills or along boring straights.
And then I end up having to slow down and walk.
I noticed this today when I went on one of my regular short runs. It’s one I use when I don’t feel like running or I’ve been off for a while for whatever reason.
I currently use Strava to track most of my runs, so I’ve got a record stretching back of 10 matched runs over the last year or so.
I am trending faster, today being one of my fastest. The trouble is that today I had to drag myself out and I certainly did not push it.
Steady running at it’s best.
I also added about a quarter of a mile to avoid a path that is overgrown with long grass and nettles, so is a bit of a challenge just after rain when everything is soaking wet.
So why did I run faster on a day when I was trying to run slower?
I think it’s because I was running slower.
You see, I cut out the grassy path, which slows you down dodging nettles and ducking under bushes, and I did not stop at the top of the hills because I was running slower. So my total time was reduced.
Now the question is, which is better, fast running or steady running?
Normally I would run fast for the first couple of miles and try to get to the offending grassy path in under 15 minutes. Then I can take it easy and recover while picking my way through to the road because there is a hill there and I usually push it to the top and have a walk for a couple of minutes. The next mile is a slow one because it takes me through several gates, over three styles and up a couple of short, sharp hills and is mostly through fields and woods, so fast running is out.
I usually push up the hills and have a short walk at the top. This means my average time for this particular section is usually well over 9 minute miles. Today, because I did not stop, my average steady running pace was 8:20. This is what makes the overall average pace so much faster.
As far as health and fitness go though, this is probably not the best thing to be doing.
If you have read anything about high intensity training you will know that it is now fashionable. It never wasn’t for me because all 400m training is high intensity.
But it seems that high intensity activities are better for your health. It produces the right sort of hormones to help you to burn fat and improves VO2 max. The only downside, as mentioned in the linked Wikipedia article, is that it’s hard work and most people tend to avoid it!
But you wouldn’t be a runner if you were scared of hard work, would you?
If you want to run faster, I’m afraid you’ve got to work a bit harder. So forget trying to have a conversation while you’re running. Well, on some of your runs anyway. Cut your distance, increase the time it takes (anathema to runners all over the world!) and hammer up the hills and along boring, flat straights and stop and have a walk and a talk (and smell the roses) more often.