It was surprising and disappointing to realize that, at just 31 years old, life was telling me—quite clearly—that running as I’ve always run wasn’t going to work anymore. My body had changed after 16 years of running and two babies, and I couldn’t change that—I could only work with it. After trying everything I could think of, I was finally desperate enough to do what I’d been fighting the hardest—I slowed down. It’s been more than a year now since The Great Slow Down, and what I’ve learned has downright shocked me. It seems all the stigma around ‘being slow’ is wrong.
Slower = stronger?
So much of running focuses on running fast—covering a specific distance in as little time as you can. Runners train to PR and improve their times for their chosen distance(s). With this in mind, of course ‘running slower’ seems like a negative. How can you PR when you’ve allowed yourself to slow down? However, slower can also mean stronger and longer. Upon slowing my long run pace by 1–2 minutes per mile, I found that I could increase that long run in larger chunks each week and – get this – feel the same or better than I used to when I was trying to push the pace the whole time.
Learn your body language
There’s a lot of talk in our culture about ‘listening to your body’s queues’—usually pertaining to eating, but it is helpful to recognize and understand what your body is saying in any situation. Slowing down the pace allows not only the extra time, but a more relaxed mind (because you aren’t as tired and stressed over the pace), in order to focus on your body’s queues and learn what’s normal, what’s not, and what it is asking for.
Wait—doesn’t running slower take longer? Sure, of course it does, but the overall additional time on the clock usually isn’t significant (if you slow your pace an entire minute per mile, that’s still only 10 more minutes on a 10-mile run), while you suddenly have the extra time to do what you enjoy doing while running—think, problem-solve, enjoy the breeze, scope out the scenery, or just enjoy some alone-time. It’s amazing what a slight change in perspective does, isn’t it?
In general, slowing down your pace is easier on your body. A gentler stride and increased awareness and connection with your body will naturally result in fewer injuries. You are more likely to hear—and listen to—your body sooner when it says something hurts or feels out of place. Giving your body a break from constant pushing may surprise you in how quickly it responds and how good you can feel while running.
No shame necessary
Slowing one’s pace does not mean lowering the bar of expectations. When your body is telling you it’s time to slow down the pace, for one reason or another, you are wise to listen. However, you can still negotiate goals. I slowed down, but then I went longer. My body agreed to this, and now we’re both a lot happier.