5 ways to slow down on long runs

Old runners and new runners alike can struggle to slow down when they really do want to. Newer runners have a tendency to go all out on every run while old runners can struggle to do their long runs as slow as they would like to. We’ll get into that and whether you just want to go slower or hit a particular slow speed I got you! Slowing down can be just as hard to do as speeding up and it’s a special skill in and of itself. Your slow runs can be the most enjoyable, you get to take in the scenery, really think through things that are bothering you and enjoy the time spent on the road or trail. Going slow also helps you get through those rough runs that happen from time to time in training. So here are some really effective ways for you to slow down if you want to.

Why would you want to go slower?

For a lot of reasons really. You might want to slow down a bit just to make running more enjoyable overall. Running all out or too fast too often is also thought to put you at greater risk for injury. Ideally, we would all run at one speed for our training runs, a bit faster for our weekly speed workouts and really quite slow for our long runs. You also might like to have a few well-rehearsed slow it down strategies should you happen to go out too fast with race day nerves. 

Why slower on long runs

Long runs are best done really, really slowly compared to your regular ‘just out for a run’ pace. That’s because for a few reasons. One is they have the potential to wipe your energy for days just because they are so long. When you’re in training not only do you have a long run in your week you have a bunch of other workouts scheduled too. If you do your long run too fast you take too much out of the tank and won’t be able to perform for those runs. Another reason to slow down the long run is looking at what you really want to accomplish. Long runs aren’t about going fast and practicing exactly for race day. Instead, they are really about racking up time on your feet. If you’re doing it right you’ll spend more time running your longest couple of long runs in training than you will the race on the big day. These are all about building endurance and not speed.

How exactly to slow down

So hopefully I’ve convinced you to slow down at least some of the time but how do you do that? Here are some concrete tips on how to slow your roll:

Specific playlist

No one says you need an hours-long playlist full of songs that are exactly 140 beats per minute. But group together those running songs that you’re often skipping over for failing to push you to that next level. This really goes a long way to slowing you down. Plus it gives you a reason to download yet more music you love!

Walk breaks to reset

I find that it is almost impossible to slow down your running pace while running. It’s much more effective to walk for a bit and then aim to start back up slower. We’re also not talking a mere few steps. I would suggest walking for a whole minute when starting to get good at this strategy. Use the break to think about keeping your breathing slow and your pace slower especially as you return to running. As you get better at this strategy those walk breaks can get shorter. But to this day when I need to slow down during a race, I make it a point to walk for longer because I know with all that race day adrenaline means it has to be a bit longer of a walk break!

Perceived effort

I literally just wrote a post all about perceived effort so I’ll keep this section short and sweet. If you are currently going faster than you want to take a moment to notice the physical sensation that you are currently most aware of. It might be your breath, your burning muscles or lungs or even how much you’re sweating. Aim to target your pace to minimize that sensation while running, maybe after a little walk break. 

Wear ‘extra’ clothes

This isn’t always possible at every single temperature. For example, in the summer if you’re already crushing it in a sports bra the weather doesn’t really allow for more to be worn. But if you could run in shorts or capris or a lightweight or heavier top at a given temperature opt for the warmer choice. If you go too hard you’ll get too hot and be reminded that it’s time to slow down. Sometimes I’ll just refuse to make adjustments to my outfit to keep my pace low. If I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt for example I’ll opt not to roll up the sleeves to keep going slow. 

Sing along

Most runners now run with music but I find how ‘into’ it I am has a lot to do with my pace. After a hard race I can’t really even tell you what songs I heard. On a harder run I don’t really have the headspace to keep track of the lyrics but on a slow long run done right I’m fighting the urge to actually sing along out loud. If I want to slow down I try to keep myself mouthing along to my favorite songs at least because that means I’m going slow enough. If you’re worried that it makes you look crazy don’t. I choose to believe that it squashes the notion for passersby that all runners are miserable, so it’s actually kinda a public service, sort of.

Slowing down is actually a really tough skill to master. When you have a long run scheduled but you’re full of energy and spunk it can be damn near impossible. Speeding up is what we’re often after but slowing down can bring it’s own set of rewards. Do you ever practice going slow? What situations lead you to go faster than you wanted to? Leave it in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “5 ways to slow down on long runs

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  1. I struggle with this one constantly. I appreciate the good advice! The other thing I try to do is pick the right running buddy. I have some buddies that we can’t help but speed up when we run together and others that keep me relaxed and easy.

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