Almost every time I have looked at the load focus on my watch I am told that my training has a low aerobic shortage. This basically means I never do enough easy, recovery or slow runs.
Going for slow runs was something I never considered doing, despite learning of their benefits. Articles would be shared by the coaches on my running clubs Facebook page and I would read them, take it all in, be amazed that running slow can help you run fast, then not think about it again till the next piece on recovery runs appeared.
I had no intention of doing a recovery run. I would go out running 4 times a week. This would usually mean a couple of training sessions with the club (speed and tempo), a long run and on the other day I believed I would be better off doing a hardish run of 10-12k than a slow 8k. I always enjoyed the hardish run too. It feels good cruising along a little under my maximum effort. Deliberately running slowly actually felt daunting.
This all changed during the summer. I started following a marathon training plan and that meant I had to increase my weekly mileage and the number of days I ran. I had no choice but to add some recovery runs into my routine. It was either that or burn myself out.
The first few slow sessions were difficult. I felt that I was running awkwardly and was just plodding around (but maybe that’s just how I run). As the weeks went on though I felt as if my movement was becoming smoother. I had become better at feeling how my body was moving and making sure I had the right form. It was quite meditative, it was summer, the parks were full of colours and I was loving running slow.
It was hard to decipher exactly how doing recovery runs was benefiting me. I was running faster than ever before but along with the slow runs I was also running more and further than ever before. One thing of note though was my lactate threshold which improved dramatically a few weeks into my training plan.
Fast forward six months and I am back to square one. After abandoning my marathon training after the race was inevitably cancelled I have gone through a few periods of isolation, picked up a few injuries and even fell off a ladder. My running has become more sporadic and my fitness level has nose dived. If I run at the same pace that I was doing my summertime recovery runs my heart rate is 10 to 15 beats higher and the session moves into tempo territory. So I run slower but this again feels awkward and sluggish. This isn’t very enjoyable on the cold, wet and dark streets of winter.
I will keep working at it though. Building your fitness back up to where you think it should be is hard physically but is also mentally challenging. I hope that process is helped along by running slower.