Whether you're attempting to improve your heart health or beat a race time, slow, easy running is the cornerstone of every running programme. Here, we've outlined the advantages and provided advice for maintaining your preferred speed. What if you are simply unable to run that slowly?
We'll presume you've already tried running more slowly by taking smaller strides, not looking at your watch, and attempting to take in the landscape or listening to audiobooks. However, it's possible that you can't run for more than a few minutes without stopping to catch your breath. There are a few extra considerations to make if that applies to you.
Running-like fitness gains can be achieved by fast walking.
Slow running has the advantage of striking the ideal strenuousness balance: it's challenging enough to force your heart and muscles to adapt while being manageable enough that you can run for long periods of time without becoming exhausted. This is around zone 2 if your heart rate zones are calibrated correctly; if you're going by feel, it's a speed where you can comfortably speak in complete phrases.
The nice part is that you can still benefit from zone 2 in any method you may enter it. For a zone 2 workout, you could use an elliptical or spin bike, for instance. And if you want to work out outside but find it difficult to jog in zone 2, a brisk walk will do.
Remember that walking is not the inverse of running, despite what the phrase "couch to 5k" might have you believe. It's the same same thing, but a little less intense. It is therefore acceptable to do part of your "jog" as a walk if your goal is to maintain a heart rate around 70% but an easy jog causes you to reach 80%.
You might need to move more quickly than you would normally when moving around. If you're on a treadmill, try setting it at 3.5-4 mph and see if you can reach the 70% number or the conversational-but-still-working effort level. Most of us will transition from a walk to a jog around four miles per hour (or around a 15-minute mile). Another approach to increase your walking pace is to walk uphill or wear a weighted vest or backpack (a technique known as rucking).
Walking will help you develop your cardiovascular fitness over time to the point that one day an easy jog will truly seem effortless. It's alright if it takes you longer than a few weeks to get there; for some of us, it takes months. You'll succeed if you put in the effort.
What will your workouts look like in the interim? Here are several choices that are all appropriate, commendable, and acceptable:
Walk for long periods of time during your workouts. The widely popular 12-3-30 exercise routine is really quite useful for this, but be sure to adjust the settings to your current level of fitness.
combine running and walking. Couch to 5K is fine if it appeals to you, but depending on how you feel, you can also come up with your own run/walk intervals.
If you become aware that you're moving too quickly, don't beat yourself up. Just take it slowly and take a short stroll. Nothing about your workout has been ruined.
Run quickly occasionally! Even though maintaining your zone 2 speed is not physically demanding, it requires a lot of mental effort. You can occasionally let your legs have some fun while giving your brain a break. Perform a high-intensity run or a few sprint intervals. Don't do all of your runs that way, though.
You might want to start at the top of this list and focus more on walking than running when you first start out. But there is merit in each choice. Whatever you decide, as long as you persevere, you'll develop the fitness necessary to run slowly, and eventually, running will actually feel effortless.