Why You Should Embrace Running Slow

Mark Kennedy
Founder of None to Run
June 21, 2023

No pain, no gain - a common approach to fitness.

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, when it comes to running, slow is often the way to go.

Sure, you definitely need to practice running hard if you want to get faster.

Intervals, fartleks, tempo runs - they can help improve your speed.

But this point of this post is to help you realize that running slow is not a waste of time - far from it.

If you've always thought you should run to lose weight or or have been derailed from a running program after your first couple of runs because it hurts too much, learn to embrace slow.

Benefits of slow running:

  1. Less intimidating to get started on a running program.
  2. Builds aerobic fitness.
  3. Enhances muscular endurance.
  4. Body becomes more efficient at using fat as an energy source.
  5. Prepares the body to better tolerate more intense workouts.

Whether you're running newbie or a marathoner, you should be spending most of your runs at a slow, easy pace.

Of course as your fitness improves and when you feel ready, do one of your weekly runs at a slightly faster pace. Head out for a run and start at a slow pace.

Then, slow it down a little more. Go so slow that you think you could keep running all day long.

It may feel like there's no way possible that anything good is coming from running at such a slow pace, but there is magic happening inside your body.

Heart Rate Training Zones Basics

There are 5 different heart rate training zones that increase in exercise intensity as you move from zone #1 to zone #5.

Here is a breakdown:

  • Zone 1 - 50-60% max HR
  • Zone 2 - 60-70% max HR
  • Zone 3 - 70-80% max HR
  • Zone 4 - 80-90% max HR
  • Zone 5 - 90-100% max HR

Focus on zone #2 - especially in the beginning.

If you don't want to bother with monitoring your HR, here is a rule of thumb to gauge whether or not you're in zone 2. (Sidenote - There are ways to turn your iPhone or Android smart phones into expensive heart rate monitors, for a fraction of the price. iPhone users - purchase the a Wahoo heart rate strap and link into to many of the top GPS tracking apps. Android - purchase a Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor. It's also compatible with lots of great fitness apps.)

In zone 2, you should be able to hold a conversation with a friend. You'll be only slightly short of breath. If you can't hold a simple conversation, slow down!

Give it a try

If you're a new to running, try this out for a month. Run 2-3 times per week for 30-40 minutes at a SLOW PACE.

Avoid looking at your watch as much as possible and simply enjoy the fresh air and scenery.

If you're a more experienced runner, but feel burned out.

Try focusing on zone 2 running for a while.

You will find you start to enjoy your running again while still improving both your running economy and health from running slow.

You know what to do.

Put those running shoes on and forget about pace, burning calories and distance.

Enjoy slow because your body will as well.