man running slow

Slow running is the quickest way to build our aerobic base without putting our bodies under too much stress.

Right now we need to play the long game and if improving speed and endurance as a runner is a goal, whether it’s for an event or just to improve, running slow will prepare us for those events when they roll back around.  They will eventually!

We want our immune systems to be nice and strong.  Doing high intensity training may not be the best option if stress and anxiety is present in our world.  Negative and positive stress accumulates in the body which can impact on our training and how we recover.  Adjusting our training plans depending on what else is going on in our lives can be a good thing for our health right now and in the long term.

Most of us, can only leave the house to exercise at the moment.  Training solo is the perfect time to work on building our base endurance.  We can go at a pace that suits us, which doesn’t necessarily happen if we are training in a group.

Plus think how amazing our races will go when they come back on-line, and we have turned ourselves into a strong, endurance running machine.

How to run slow

One would think this intuitive but so many people find it super difficult.  It’s this in-built thing in our brains that to get faster we need to run as fast as we can at all times.  Over training and injury is where we can get to if we keep doing that for a long period of time.  We might be fine to start with, but gradually it all falls apart and injuries and illness can start popping up.

Running super slow means running at a low heart rate.

Low heart rate training will improve aerobic fitness which equals winning at life and winning at running.

How low should your heart rate be?

Read on!

The Maffetone Method

If you have ever entered the world of endurance events you have probably heard of MAF training developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone.  Developing the body to run at maximum aerobic function (i.e. running faster at low heart rates) will burn more body fat, improve performance, increase energy and reduce the risk of injury.  Whats not to love!  Now of all times with zero events on the horizon for who knows how long, is the best time to embrace MAF and all that slow running.

180 Formula

The MAF method is based on heart rate.  The magic heart rate to run at can be calculated using this formula:

180 minus age, plus adjust as per the following:

  • recovering from illness or on medication? Subtract 10
  • Frequently sick or regressed in training? Subtract 5
  • Been training regularly for 2 years with no problems? Add 5

Your target MAF heart rate will change over time depending on your circumstances.  So I’m 40.  My MAF heart rate is 180-40.  I have had a cold, I am fully recovered but I will subtract another 10 for my training at the moment.  So my MAF running heart rate is 130.

Which is pretty freaking low.  Some runner’s can struggle to slow down to a pace under the MAF heart rate. For other’s it’s perfect!  MAF training is an awesome way to start running or get back into running.  It is also awesome for the experienced runner looking to do a base training block to get ready for race season.  Patience is definitely the name of the game!

How often to should I run and for how long?

This is what I love about MAF training.  There is no specific program or recommendation to run by distance or pace.  Running by time targets, which gradually increase over the weeks depending on fitness levels is what it’s all about.

Beginner’s can start with run/walking 30-40 minutes at your MAF heart rate, 3 – 4 times a week.  More experienced runners can start with a longer time running.  The key is to think about where you are starting from and where you want to get to.

The results will start to show after 3-4 weeks of MAF training.

More info on personalizing your training can be found on Dr. Phil Maffetone’s webpage here

Track your progress

To track your progress The MAF method incorporates the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test.  The test involves regularly tracking your 5 Km run time at your maximum aerobic heart rate.  Definitely do this before you start and after a few weeks. This will give you a good indication if you are improving or if you need to tweak your MAF training heart rate.

You will be surprised at the results!

Running Slow to Run Fast Is The Way To Go

Running slow most of the time is the way to improve endurance, boost the immune system, reduce the chance of injury and become a fat burning machine.  There is plenty of time to add higher intensity speed and stamina sessions closer to when we want our bodies to be at peak performance.

The MAF method is the perfect way to make sure we are looking after our bodies so we can be at out best, which is more important now more than ever.  Think big picture and play the long game, especially when tempted to sneak in some sprint sessions.

MAF training might seem a bit tedious at first, but if we run mindfully and with gratitude for our health and our environment, the slow boring runs will bring us to that happy, joyful place that running brings.

If you are just starting out or getting back into running read my tips here