Slow and Steady Wins More Than the Race

Monday, March 9, 2015

When Resolute Running clients achieve their personal best time during a big race they pin their bibs to this wall at the fitness center. This year I'm determined to see my name on the PR wall!

Yesterday I ran 9 miles and afterward actually didn't feel as if I'd been hit by a car. And I really do know how that feels, but that's another story for another day. For a little over a month I've been following a training plan developed by Coach Ann Thomas of Resolute Running Center. Yesterday's run was a strong indication that Coach Ann's plan is actually working. 

Sure, I've run more than 9 miles before. I've completed two half marathons. But each time I pounded the pavement for those 13.1 miles I felt terrible by the time I crossed the finish line.

My hope is that after my next big race I'll be able to enjoy a celebratory brunch with my hubby (who's always waiting for me at the finish line) instead of just collapsing in his car.  

When Coach Ann gave me my first running plan I was confused. You see when it comes to running I am definitely the tortoise, not the hare. I'm so slow that sometimes I feel like I shouldn't even call what I do running; it's more like jogging or better yet slogging. 

So imagine my surprise when Coach Ann told me she wanted me to run slower! In fact, she wanted me to run at a pace that's even slower than my walking pace! 

We need your body to make certain physiological changes that only occur when you are running at about 65-79% of max heart rate," Coach Ann said when I asked her why she wants me to run slower even though I'm already slow as molasses. "Running slower (sometimes, substantially slower) than race pace elicits this response.  Muscle cells increase in number, size, and distribution of mitochondria.   Your body also builds more capillaries in the exercising muscles which distribute more blood, meaning more oxygen.  Both of these changes enable the muscle to fire efficiently, so you can run farther and faster with less effort." 

Coach Ann constantly says to me and other clients that she's not just training us so we can run a race this year. She's training us so that we will be able to continue to run 10, 20, even 30 years from now. 

"Runners often think that if 5 miles is good, then 10 is better, and that if running at a 9min pace is good, than 8min pace is better; this is not necessarily true," Coach Ann said. "Increasing mileage too quickly greatly increases the risk of injury.  High mileage can yield great results, but the increase needs to be done slowly and with care.  Running all of your runs at race pace just burns out your legs.  For best results, you need a variety of paces, including slow runs to achieve the cellular adaptations and speedwork to increase VO2 max (a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use)."

If you're a runner in the Birmingham area looking for a coach to help you train for next big race (and a running lifestyle), visit to find the right trainer for you. 

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