Michal Ozogán Smart devices, fitness apps, bikepacking, ultra racing
Michal Ozogán

How I started to run slowly

How I started to run slowly

It is really hard to slow down in running. It is competition after all and even during the training no one wants to be defeated. But this year I was forced to throw away my pride and learn myself how to run at a slow pace.

Fast running requires a lot of physical strength. Slow running is about the power of will. It is very hard to admit that only opponent you can compete with is some family on a trip. Yes, you are right, I exaggerate but that is only because I want to prove a point – keeping slow pace is hard. In every motivational video, runners are running hard and you can see happiness in their eyes. So – why to run slowly?

You can read it almost in every article. Do you want to run faster? Start to run slower. It that really so simple? It doesn’t make any sence. I tried it once or twice, but I was unable to keep the slow pace. That is not proper training when I’m not sweating.

Run fast as a snail

Inspiration in book

This year I read book Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. It kind of long book, a lot of words but I remember only one sentence – when you run not too hard and not too easy, it doesn’t count! What???? Why wasn’t I told before? My lifetime running does not count?

Well, it’s kind of extremist opinion and the truth is somewhere between. But it was impulse I needed it. I was tired of my short running episodes that started with enthusiasm and ended up with total burn out. My strategy was bad – actually it didn’t even exist.

Slow? What does it mean?

It is easy to say – run slow, but what does it mean? How to know that it is slow enough and not too fast? There is one basic rule to follow – run that fast that you can talk without problems.

I’m not a talky person so I invent my own rule. I run slow enough to breathe through the nose without gasping for breath. I got another benefit – cleaner air in my lungs. And health is the reason why we are doing it, right?

Since the feelings cannot be statistically processed I measure my heart rate. I get my data by Fitbit Charge 2. Wrist monitoring is not that accurate as a chest strap but it is good enough for running.

Heart rate zones

There are 6 heart rate zones. They are written with big letter Z.

  • Z0 – no activity
  • Z1 – very light activity, minimal efford, warming up
  • Z2 – light activity, best for endurance training, muscles have enough oxygen
  • Z3 – medium acitivity, “dead zone”, training is not light enough and not hard enough, I heard name zone of happines because it brings the most pleasure.
  • Z4 – hard training, muscles don’t have enough oxygen
  • Z5 – Maximal performance, can be achieve only for a short time

The best endurance training is in Z2. Muscles have enought oxygen, don’t produce lactate – main reason of fatigue. Lower training load helps you to prevent injury and avoid burn out. When I was searching for a ratio between light and hard training I found golden rule – 80 / 20. Me personally I train only light now. Or I’m trying to do.

It is quite easy to set names of zones. What is much harder is to find out ranges of heart rate for each of them. Best you can do in home condition is estimate them. There are several formulas how to count them. Each will give you different results. Great calculator is on http://www.fitdigits.com/personalized-heart-rate-zones.html. You enter your age, resting heart rate and maximal heart rate. It will give you results of 7 different formulas. I’m using „Heart Rate Training“.

It is about listening to you own body. A easy run can be 70% (or up to 75%) your maximum heart rate.

Maximum heart rate

What is maximum heart rate? It is the maximum of beats in a minute which can your heart do without failing. It decreases by age. The is the simplified formula:

220 – your age

It is best you can do without a lab. I use maximum heart rate that my Fitbit measured in last year. My rate was slightly higher than was the number from the formula.

Running in Z2

After several testing runs, I ended up with running from 130 to 140 heart beats per minute. Last few months I run faster above 140 and I think I’m softening my will.

I want to compare my training zones from 2016 with zones from 2017.

My heart zones are followings:

  • Z1 79 – 118
  • Z2 119 – 148
  • Z3 149 – 168
  • Z4 169 – 188
  • Z5 189 – 198

Let’s look at 2016 year. I was running without thinking, fast and hard.

Training zone Spent time (2016)
Z1 1.64%
Z2 9.39%
Z3 65.17%
Z4 23.12%
Z5 0.68%

As you can see, the biggest part of trainings I spent in Z3. It is perfect example how to NOT do it. And in harder Z4 I spent almost quater of training time. In light zones Z2 I was less than 10%.

Let’s see how it is going this year

Training zone Spent time (2017)
Z1 2.35%
Z2 69.14%
Z3 21.31%
Z4 7.10%
Z5 0.10%

Much better! 70% of my training time is in Z2 It could be even better but I started to running slow in March.

And results? I don’t have a deep analysis but I can say a few things:

  • I’m running whole year without burning out
  • At the begining my pace was 7:30 min/km,.
    In August my pace was 1 minute faster and was still in the zone
  • Since last month I run even faster but with raising heart rate. I have to calm a little and stay at Zone.

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