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WHY do long, slow runs help improve pace? (Read 569 times)

    I understand that it's important to use long runs at an easy pace to help build endurance and pace but I don't understand, and can't find the answer to why. It's like saying lifting lots of light weights make you able to lift heavy weights. It seems counter intuitive to me. Can you explain or point me to an article that does?

     

    Thanks,

     

    Doc


    Muddling through

      That may be answered in a slightly older thread in this forum - How does slowing down my fast runs speed up my race times?

      2014 Goals: Run first trail ultra, first 100K, and see what I can do in a 24-Hour race

        I understand that it's important to use long runs at an easy pace to help build endurance and pace but I don't understand, and can't find the answer to why. It's like saying lifting lots of light weights make you able to lift heavy weights. It seems counter intuitive to me. Can you explain or point me to an article that does?

         

         Shameless self promotion:

         

        An excerpt from what I just linked:

         

        ...Many athletes make the mistake of thinking that what training is supposed to do is make them faster. It’s no wonder: we’re always talking about how we want our next race to be faster. How we want to run 5k faster, or 50k faster. Yes, of course, we do. 

        But what limits your pace in endurance running is almost never your speed. What limits your pace is your ability to maintain your speed for the length of the event. Whoever runs a 5k faster will be able to sustain a speed closer to their top-end for longer. Watch the start of your local 5k. There will always be one or two young kids shooting off the front, but fading quickly. They’ve got plenty of speed, but no endurance.

        So, the problem of the mile: I can run 400 meters in 75 seconds. How can I train my body to hold that pace for 3 more laps? The problem of the marathon: I can run 10 miles at 7:00 per mile. How can I teach my body to hold that pace for 16 more miles. It is, essentially, the same problem. The problem of training is how to build endurance....

         

        But really, you can't find the answer to this question in articles or explanations. You have to find it out there ON THE ROAD. That's how it was found the first time, and how it continues to be found, on and on.


        Not dead. Yet.

          I understand that it's important to use long runs at an easy pace to help build endurance and pace but I don't understand, and can't find the answer to why. It's like saying lifting lots of light weights make you able to lift heavy weights. It seems counter intuitive to me. Can you explain or point me to an article that does?

           

          The most important point I have taken away is that slowing your pace will allow you to run more miles than you would be able to run at a faster pace.  If you run all of your runs fast, your body will start to break down at some point and you wont be able to extend your runs.  So for it to apply you have to run slower and increase your mileage.  If you just keep your mileage the same and run slower it won't help.  Well...if you are running so hard that you can't recover from day to day, you will be better able to do your hard workouts on fresh legs, so you will get more out of them if you run easys slower.

           

          People often just say slow down, but neglect to mention you need to run more miles to get the real benefit.

           

          MTA.  I'm a noob.  Still trying to figure it out too.

          How can we know our limits if we don't test them?

          MrNamtor


          DON'T TREAD ON ME

            I wonder why new runners are told to run slowly and not instead told to run long? The whole "run slowly" thing has probably caused more confusion among newbie runners *raises hand* than the "no pain no gain" mantra of the post 1970s.

             

            If you just tell newbies to run 5 or 7 or 10 miles or whatever distance seems astronomical to them, they will automatically run slowly, won't they? And isn't that the point of all this "slow running"? To be able to  run MORE miles and build the stamina necessary for effective speed work? Well, isn't it? I know at least half of you veterans and coach types say it is.


            A Saucy Wench


              If you just tell newbies to run 5 or 7 or 10 miles or whatever distance seems astronomical to them, they will automatically run slowly, won't they?

               

              No.  They wont always.  The number of time I have seen a new runner say "I just cant make it past X miles"  by someone who is running hard every run is pretty high up there.

               

              But you are right in that it should be phrased, run as slow as you need to to run more.

              I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

               

              "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

                I wonder why new runners are told to run slowly and not instead told to run long? The whole "run slowly" thing has probably caused more confusion among newbie runners *raises hand* than the "no pain no gain" mantra of the post 1970s.

                 

                If you just tell newbies to run 5 or 7 or 10 miles or whatever distance seems astronomical to them, they will automatically run slowly, won't they? And isn't that the point of all this "slow running"? To be able to  run MORE miles and build the stamina necessary for effective speed work? Well, isn't it? I know at least half of you veterans and coach types say it is.

                 

                Actually not necessarily...  I actually remember myself asking a similar question; somewhere along the way, I remember saying something about just slowing down and keeping the same distance is not for the right purpose.  Actually...  Say if a beginning runner was running, say, 3 miles a day but trying to run it fast each time.  Let's say this person can "race" a 5k in 34 minutes; that's approximately 11-minute-mile pace.  Some beginners actually think they would have to run 2-3 miles at 11-minute pace, or hopefully faster, in order to improve.  Let's say this person simply slows down to, say, 15-minute-mile pace...  That ALONE will actually increase the total DURATION of the run from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  I will actually predict that that alone would make this person race faster.  Without getting too much in detail, a bad side of "trying to train too fast/hard" is the stress factor.  If your race pace is 11-minute pace and if you're trying to keep that up in your training, your stress level is very much higher than someone who can race at 9-minute pace and train at 11-minute pace.  Under such a stress situation, your body will produce various substances that would eventually damage in the cell-level.  Under such condition, your body can't absorb nutrients properly; therefore, say you're eating enough proper foods but your body is not getting sufficient benefit from it.  Your Central Nervous System would be affected adversely; if you start to feel your daily run too stressful; you don't feel like running; you have a hard time focusing throughout the day...  These are actually symptoms that you are training too hard, not so much of volume because you can always slow down and run more, but because of the workout being too hard (fast).  In other words, doing more volume at easier effort is so much "safer" than less volume but too hard.  A good example is; it is nonsensical to talk about a proper weekly mileage for high school runners.  I often hear so-called experts talk about somewhere around 30-40 miles a week being an appropriate "volume".  I've seen many young kids happily engaging 60 or more miles a week of training as long as the effort is moderate; on the other hand, I've also seen many teenagers training 20-25MPW with tons of hard interval training and they mentally get "burnt-out".  This is the end-result of what I've just listed as symptoms.  Staggering number of young high school runners end up developing mono-neucliosis.  I don't have the statistics but if you check training regime of these young kids who get "burnt out", invariably you'll find lots of hard fast interval type training with very little "long runs".

                 

                What "long slow distance" (I never thought this term, LSD, would actually come back...) develops is your aerobic foundation.  The duration of the run (even if your run distance is the same, if you slow down, you actually go longer in duration) is directly responsible for developing capillary beds and the size and the number of mitochondria which is the power-producing part in your cells.  When the study was conducted on Kenyan runners back in early 2000 by Swedish doctors, they've found that the size and the number of mitochondria of Kenyan runners were quite a bit different (more and bigger) from that of European runners.  Also, their capillaries in their legs (muscles directly associated with "running") are much more dense.  These traits are best developed by long slow distance running.  Actually, even if you run it faster, you can still develop it as long as you go the same duration.  But, as you had pointed out, Namtor, the longer you go, the better; and the way to do so is to go slower.  45 minutes is better than 30--someone who races a 5k in 34 minutes would have very little chance training at 11-minute pace and go more than 30-minutes.  But, by slowing down, even if you're going the same distance, you'll go longer (45 minutes?) and that would benefit this runner.  If you go slower still, then you may go an hour...or 90-minutes.  There has been a study that concluded that, if you can go longer than 120-minutes NON-STOP, your development of capillaries would dramatically increase.  So there's a reason for going somewhere around 2-hours if you can.  Of course, there are lot more "stuff" that happens in your long run--all the stuff about fat-burning and all that--but it's pretty common knowledge by runners and coaches, from their experience, that 1:30-2:00 in duration would be the most effective "long runs" if you can.

                 

                As these elements improve, what's going to happen in your body is that now the working muscles receive more oxygen and use it more effectively.  What this means is that now you can run FASTER before you get into "huffing and puffing" state; in other words, aerobically.  This actually does yet another thing that helps your training.  Once you get to the point where you can run faster and further without getting into this breathless state, this means YOU CAN NOW DO YOUR SPEED TRAINING FASTER.  When your aerobic fitness level is low, for example, in the case of this our hypothetical runner (34-minutes 5k), running at 10-minutes pace is challenging.  If he/she tries to run 6X800m in 5-minutes, he/she would be "huffing and puffing".  Now when his/her aerobic fitness improves, then this runner can do 6X800m in 5-minutes and it's not as taxing.  This is because now his/her maximum aerobic speed is now faster.  I think Jeff explained why "speed training is not as helpful as many people think"; but this is the mechanism.  You can go around your city and find many high school kids who can run 5-minute for a mile.  You can have them do all the mile intervals at 5-minutes or faster all you want; but that won't help them run a marathon at 5-minute pace.  Those elite runners can run 5-minute pace and chatting and laughing.  It is because 5-minute pace is still well within their aerobic pace.  For those high schoolers who can run 5-minute for a mile to get to that point is not to improve their mile time down to 4:45; but to bring their aerobic fitness level from 7-minute pace (those kids can run 7-minute pace and stay aerobic) down to 5-minute aerobic pace by doing lots of running to improve some of the developments I had mentioned earlier.  When Bill Rodgers was winning Boston and New York City marathons, training 150 miles a week, he wasn't thrashing those miles in 5-minute pace or faster.  He was doing all those miles at his aerobic speed with "some of them" at faster speed.  This Japanese runner I know whose marathon PR is 2:06:16, he runs 150-miles a week to prepare for the marathon (first 2 months of 3-months cycle) at 8-minute mile pace.  He also holds Japan's national record for 3000m and 10000m (27:3X).  His intervals, by the way, is 8-10 X 1k in about 2:45-50 pace.  Note that is his 10k race pace.

                J-L-C


                  edited. Misread the question. Woops! ^^
                  Newbeerunner


                    So well said Nobby415!   Thank you for that WONDERFUL informational post!  I run because I was forced to run- one of the requirements of my job.  I am required to take a physical fitness test every 6 months with a 2 mile run being one of my requirements.  Because of my gender and my age, I have been afforded alot of time to do the run (22 minutes).  When I tell you, I could not break a 10 minute mile for the life of me, I am not kidding.  The best I have been able to do is a 10.45!   The was even after years of running (never "taught" how to run).  I recently (2 months ago) undertook the challenge of completing a 1/2 marathon in September with the goal being to FINISH the race.  I have been running long and slow and have increased my overall run speed to just less than 10 minutes without even trying (a HUGE feat for me)! One day last week for my short run (3 miles), I did a warm up mile and decided to see just how fast I could run my 2miles in without killing myself.  I was pleasantly surprised when I did it in 18.20!  NEVER did I think I was capable of tbreaking a 10 minute mile let alone a 9 minute mile which I was not training to do.  I am going to continue at my current pace (somewhere between 10.00 and 11.00) and see how much better I can become.  Again, thanks for that informational post!

                      Wow that is some incredibly detailed and incredibly helpful information. It makes a ton of sense to me now. Thank you so much!

                        So well said Nobby415!   Thank you for that WONDERFUL informational post!  I run because I was forced to run- one of the requirements of my job.  I am required to take a physical fitness test every 6 months with a 2 mile run being one of my requirements.  Because of my gender and my age, I have been afforded alot of time to do the run (22 minutes).  When I tell you, I could not break a 10 minute mile for the life of me, I am not kidding.  The best I have been able to do is a 10.45!   The was even after years of running (never "taught" how to run).  I recently (2 months ago) undertook the challenge of completing a 1/2 marathon in September with the goal being to FINISH the race.  I have been running long and slow and have increased my overall run speed to just less than 10 minutes without even trying (a HUGE feat for me)! One day last week for my short run (3 miles), I did a warm up mile and decided to see just how fast I could run my 2miles in without killing myself.  I was pleasantly surprised when I did it in 18.20!  NEVER did I think I was capable of tbreaking a 10 minute mile let alone a 9 minute mile which I was not training to do.  I am going to continue at my current pace (somewhere between 10.00 and 11.00) and see how much better I can become.  Again, thanks for that informational post!

                         

                        Incidentally, there was a guy who found out pretty much the same trend as you did here who turned the training regime for middle and long distance events up-side-down back in 1950s.  Back then, the "norm" for elite distance runners, who were training to run fast, was interval training.  When Zatopek dominated the world distance running scene, some analyzed his type of training (all intervals but with hell of a volume like 70 X 400m), they figured, why run those 400m in 80-90 seconds, why not 65-70 seconds; and why 50 or 70 of them when they can run them faster and less, more like 20, because that's more "RACE-SPECIFIC".  They did and the performance improved just a little.  Then came this guy--Arthur Lydiard--along with, incidentally, a few other coaches around the globe in the different parts of the world, most notably Percy Cerutty and Ernst van Aaken, who went the opposite direction; told their runners to go far--a lot further.  In the case of Lydiard, he had his middle distance runners (800m and 1500m) to run 100 miles a week.  This was based on his own experience that, when he trained for a full marathon in his 30s when most people retired from competition, ALL his track times actually improved.  In other words, he found out that, by training for a full marathon and going far, he got faster.  This is today termed "Marathon Conditioning" and the concept is being used in wide variety of sports including figure skating and kayaking.  If you are interested, you can check it out at www.lydiardfoundation.org and even more detail of this training concept here.

                         

                        That said, however, you still DO need to train to run fast if you really want to run fast; it's a matter of a balance.  It would pay to run fast, and learn to run fast, because this would actually help you eliminate getting injured (to teach economy of action).  To do this, however, it's more effective to do a workout like 5 X 50~100m to learn to run fast and RELAXED; not like 10 X 800m struggling to run HARD so as to teach more bad form with gritting teeth and clinching fists.  Running hills would also teach you to run with good knee lift and push-off as well as strengthening your legs.

                          This is a Great thread.  Nobby is always on point and provides great explanation. :-)

                           

                          Also, Doc Lori, that "twice a year" thing applies for me as well.  (2 times a year times the 1.5 miler for the Navy)  - That was the only running I did ever, up a year up until 2 years ago.

                           

                          As a living example of this "longer runs makes you faster" theme, I can describe my scenario.  When I started running 5K's it would take me 29:00!  But I decided to run lots of 5Ks, and my time quickly got to 23 to 24:00.   But they stayed stuck at about 23:00 to 23:30 for 2 years.   I had been doing alot of "short fast" runs in 2011 and early 2012, but my 5K times seemed stuck at about 23:30.

                           

                          Late last year and into this year, I started to focus on being able to run longer, not faster.  I more than doubled my weekly mileage over a period of months, and there was less of the "all out" fast paced runs in there.   Most of my running was slow, easy long runs.

                           

                          And the Result:  I ran a 5K in early February (on an injured foot no less), same race course I did last year, so I know the length was correct, and I got a 21:54. :-)

                           

                          I too once doubted the idea that alot of increased mileage would translate into faster times at a short distance, but indeed it does!  -- Like Nobby said you still need to "push it" on some days on the shorter runs to balance it out, but having long easy runs as part of your training plan will pay big dividends.   ---  And who knows, you may then get the urge to do a Half-Marathon and many of your fellow coworkers will be like "holy cow!, she is kicking our butts out there now!.  (If that eventually happens, you will know you are hooked on running!)

                          .

                          The Plan '15 edition (big parts)→  /// April '15:  Hampton, VA 24 Hour Run for Cancer  (Goal: >80.1+Miles)  ///   Run streak, at least a mile every single day for 365.  ∞


                          Consistently Slow

                             

                            No.  They wont always.  The number of time I have seen a new runner say "I just cant make it past X miles"  by someone who is running hard every run is pretty high up there.

                             

                            But you are right in that it should be phrased, run as slow as you need to to run more.

                             

                            +1

                            Run until the trail runs out.

                            2014***1500 miles 09/28/14

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                            http://bkclay.blogspot.com/


                            Pura Vida

                              Nobby, I have a question.  Are the benefits from going 2 hours lessened at all if you take any gels during the workout?  Do you need to go over that 2 hour mark for the same benefit if you're adding some extra fuel?  Or is what you're talking about just related to capillaries and mitochondria and therefore not related to energy/fueling?

                              PRs: 5K: 25:35 / 10K: 53:03 / 10mi: 1:26:15 / HM: 1:55:02 / FM: 4:50:35

                              Upcoming: Rest!


                              Mmmmm...beer

                                I know everyone is different, but I'll offer myself as more proof that building your endurance will make you faster.  I don't do any speedwork, almost all of my runs are easy.  Some of my faster runs could probably be considered tempo runs, but the effort on that day was easy, I was just feeling strong that day.  But most of my daily runs are around an hour, with a 1:30-2 hour long run.  My speed has improved quite a bit in the last six months, just look at the 20k and HM times in my sig, and that was with just a lot of base building.  Not saying everyone will see the same improvements, but I think there's definitely something to be said for focusing on endurance.

                                 

                                Edit - Just want to clarify that I'm not saying you shouldn't do speedwork, because I know you should, and I know that I'll see more improvements when I do start adding speedwork to my routine.

                                -Dave

                                My running blog

                                2015 Goals | sub-18 5k | sub-37 10k | sub-1:23 HM | sub-4 trail 50k

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