Not Another Running Blog

Williamstown Health + Lifestyle Myotherapist Stu has some thoughts on changing your running routine and your mindset in our new blog.

Have you been running more this year whilst working from home? If so, you may have read our previous blogs including Strength training for runners and Injury management for runners. So why do we need another one?  Well, read on to find out my personal journey this year and what you could do differently.

You may have tried interval training previously and realised that, even though it’s great for improving fitness quickly, it’s actually pretty hard work. It can seem like a great idea, especially if you’ve been sat at your desk all day long, as you don’t need to run for as long as you do in a steady state-run. However, unless you warm up properly, there’s an increased risk of injury associated with shorter bursts of effort. 

Well, maybe there’s a way that you can still get out there to run AND reduce the chance of picking up injuries and burning out? Sound too good to be true? Well, read on for the concept of “Running Slower to Run Faster”.

A lot of runners (including myself) tend to do their fast-runs too slow and their slow-runs too fast. I’ve been a casual runner for a few years now and most of my runs were generally at the same pace and probably at about 85% effort.  Whilst this was great to keep me moving, maintaining my fitness and keeping my 4-legged running partner happy (see picture), it didn’t really improve my speed or endurance as well as it should.

So I thought I’d try something different. I’ve been using the “Maffetone Method” by renowned running coach Phil Maffetone this year. This is a training method where you run slower (read: much slower) than your “usual pace” run. For me, it equated to about 60-90 secs per km slower than my “normal”. If you have a heart rate monitor, the recommended target under this method is calculated as

180 beats per minute (bpm) minus your age

with an adjustment of +/- 5bpm for good / poor training history or recent injuries.

So, say you’re a 40-year-old runner, with good training history and no recent injuries then you would target a training heart rate of 140-145bpm. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor (or even if you do), these runs should be at a nice easy pace where you can maintain a comfortable conversation throughout.

It sounds simple, but from personal experience, it can be a challenge to stay within your target zone without creeping up to your normal pace.  Leave your ego at the door, as it can seem you’re running very slowly, and be wary of changing your running style or cadence (number of steps per minute) with the reduced speed.

So why should I do this again?   From a musculoskeletal point of view, there is a reduced risk of injury and an increased ability to recover from a slow run. Also, when using this method over a longer period, you increase your endurance and running efficiency (i.e. “aerobic capacity”) so whilst maintaining your heart rate at the same level you can run at a quicker pace. And who doesn’t want that?

As with most aspects of fitness, there are few shortcuts and it depends on what your personal goals are. But give it a try, stick with it for a while and see if you can feel the difference, alternatively please feel free to make an appointment to see Williamstown Myotherapist Stu.