Taking it easy to get faster

Slowing down to speed up seems like an oxymoron at first. How in the world am I going to speed up if I’m slowing down? The answer wasn’t immediately obvious to me until one day when I did it by accident. It was a rough day. I didn’t feel well, had no energy, was more than a little cranky. In short, it was the perfect day for taking it easy on the couch.

I’m still not sure what got me up and going. I wasn’t training for a race, and at the time it wasn’t uncommon for me to go more than a week without running. For some reason, this day I got off my butt, got dressed, and headed out the door. Since it was a dreary day and I wasn’t crazy excited about pounding the pavement I took it really easy. It would be just a quick run around the neighborhood to dust off the cobwebs before taking up residence on my couch once again.

The easy pace meant I was able to run up the killer hill that always did me in. Usually, before I could reach the top, I was gasping for breath and had to finish the last few feet sucking wind, bent over with my hands on my hips. Not this time. I was still sucking wind, but I was over the top and heading down the backside before it dawned on me that I was still running. This phenomenon happened a few more times during my easy run. Several points along my run are standard cues for me to walk, but I didn’t need to this time. I was still tired, still dragging, and still hadn’t taken a walk break.

Back at the house, I stopped the clock on my watch. I was shocked to see that I had shaved several minutes off my usual time. This was pure craziness. Instead of my usual all-out effort followed by multiple recovery walk breaks, I had run slowly – a pace that makes me feel like I’m never going to finish. Instead of taking longer to get back home, I was there faster. Slowing down really did speed things up. Definitely an oxymoron. It’s still baffling to me some days that taking it easy means I’m actually running faster. Whereas running faster adds a couple minutes to my time because I have to take walk breaks, catch my breath, and give my legs a minute to recover.

Maybe these slow runners are actually onto something with taking it easy.

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