Running Theories: The Right Way to Train?

After reading all about Miss Zippy (who I am obsessed with) and her running plan for her up-coming marathons, I have started to dive head first into internet articles regarding the best and most efficient way to train to not only see ‘time’ results at the finish, but also body results in the form of a leaner, toner you.

Here is a quick run down of the 2 main schools of thought-

1. Run hard and intense (take some rest days…) for most of your runs, with lots of good  speed work, tempos, fartleks, etc.

2. Train slowly. Run slowly. Make lots of your runs loooong and slow…. aka MAF training (Maximum Aerobic Function)

***Basically it is this question: Can running slower make us faster?

This guy definitely thinks so after trying it out first hand!!!

When we run slower, supposedly our body will burn fat rather than glycogen.  We have much more fat stored, so come marathon day, at mile 20 our body will still be using our ample supply of fat to keep us going and not burnt-out carb/sugar storage.

“In other words, long, slow running teaches the body to burn more fat. The wall a feeling of lightheadedness and overall fatigue that hits around 20 miles is the body’s reaction to running desperately low on glycogen. But a body that has learned to burn fat manages to “spare” glycogen, leaving more for those crucial miles from 20 to 26.”

(from Active online and Runners World author Dave Kuehls)



“How slow is slow? According to Watson, the appropriate pace for slow running is the equivalent of a comfortable warm-up pace. In heart rate terms, it’s zone 1, or about 25 beats per minute below your threshold heart rate.”

Anyways… as I try to get a handle on my health, weight, period, fitness, etc, I have become even more interested and curious as to the best ways to train.

I am awful at slow/recovery runs. I always push myself, which i think is exacerbated by the fact that I do almost all my runs by myself. A partner helps slow you down….

I am most definitely a runner that trains in the Theory 1 school of thought… But that is for no other reason than I feel like I get less of a workout when I run slower and I am so competitive that I just can’t stand to run slow and have people passing me.

If we accept Theory 2, it is definitely not an easy path to take. Heart rate monitors are required in order to practice running at a low heart rate (and becoming efficient, over time, at that heart rate). This means on hills, you most likely will have to WALK (for the time being) in order to keep your heart rate down. Walk?!?! But we are runners!!! Yes, everything about this training plan is a very humbling experience, as Miss Zippy points out on her every update.

It is a slow process of improvement… and the question for us is, are we willing to sacrifice our “normal” training of tempo runs, fartleks, intervals, hard days (with some easy) to run slow?? Do we have the patience? Do we have confidence in the theory?

Can running slower help us run faster??

I would love to hear your thoughts!!!!

Which theory are you? Would you try training slower (much slower) than your normal runs?


  1. pickyrunner · · Reply

    I’ve never looked into these training techniques but I think I tend to push myself way more than I need to (and I’m not talking about speed- I’m just working harder than I should on a regular basis). I truly believe slow running makes you faster. If only we could hold ourselves back more! Running with a partner is what has worked for me in the past.

    1. Awesome to hear you say that… I am really thinking that slower runs are more of the way to go… I have done even more research and I am finding lots of things to back it! Yes I need a running buddy to slow down my pace a bit… maybe once I get back to school!

  2. From most everything I’ve read regarding this subject, long, slow runs are the way to go. You should do 1 or 2 days of speedwork, but all of your other runs should be slow–unless you want to end up injured! I’m training for a 16-mi race in September (my longest race to date!) and I’ve been doing a lot of long, slow runs (especially in this heat/humidity!). I don’t really “get” the HR training; just go by the rate of perceived exertion and don’t go above a 7. Anyway, just my 2 cents–hope that helps 🙂

    1. So happy to hear you say this because I NEED to slow down my runs but the way my competative self works is that I need to have other people and websites and trainers tell me that this is going to help me!! haha

      Thanks so much for your input!! I definitely appreciate it!

      1. One more thing–I’ve recently ditched the GPS watch and have started using just a stopwatch (and running for a set amount of time rather than mileage), and I’ve found it to be super helpful in slowing my runs down and not focusing on my pace or trying to run fast. I used to be like you, where every run had to be fast, and I was getting injured and not enjoying my runs much at all. Now that I have slowed down and am not focused on pace, I look forward to going out there and just zoning out 🙂

      2. Ahh this is a wonderful idea!! Ya when I know that the GPS is keeing track of my pace, milage, speed, etc… and when I know my pace on a course from a previous week, I can’t help myself but race!!! Yes it is wearing me down and making runs less enjoyable!!
        Thank you this is a great suggestion!! Stop watch would definitely help remedy that!
        Have a great weekend!! 🙂

  3. Running slowly is all about time on your feet: If you are planning on running a marathon you will be spending a lot of time on your feet and you can run longer….in training… if you run slower. I agree with Emily.

    1. Great way to think about it! Thank you!! Yes I am starting to agree with you (and Emily) with the more research I have done. It sounds like this is defnitely being supported out there in the running world… that tempos ((which i seem to do every run!!)) are the best way to go (with a few speed workouts every now and then)

      you are right… for 26.2 miles the challenge is training your body to be pounding that long!

      Thanks so much for your thoughts!! I like hearing validation for training!!!

  4. I hope slow running is better, because I’m stinking slow! I do try to do as many easy runs as possible, because I want to avoid injury as best I can!

    1. haha Yay for slower-ish runs!! I am learning they are much more enjoyable!! I am sure you are NOT as slow as you think you are… seriously I bet you kill it out there 🙂 But I am really starting to think ((from research and other peoples comments)) that slower running more frequently is the way to go!! this makes me happy because it means more running since I am more recovered!! yay!!!
      And you are right… less injuries!! always a good thing 🙂
      Have a great day!

  5. […] slowww run! — I am working on slow running. It seems the consensus the other day was that slow running was the safest and most effect way to go! Sounds good to me! I need some slow-down in my […]

  6. […] Higdon’s RUN SLOWER idea. (I know I have touched on this many times already (HERE and HERE), but I think yesterday scooting along the running section of Barnes and Nobles and reading […]

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