Almost every runner has finished a run and thought, “Wow; I ran slow today.” This notion is often coupled with dissatisfaction, disappointment, and even frustration. After all, most of us strive to be the best runners we can be and our brains are inclined to mean “best” means running fast.
However, running fast shouldn’t always be the goal, and pushing the pace can even be detrimental or counterproductive to your overall fitness. Indeed, slow jogging can—and should—be part of an effective training program, even for competitive runners.
Slow jogging capitalizes on the concept of “going slow to go fast,” meaning that we can run faster by slowing down some of our training.
In this guide, we will cover the benefits of slow jogging and hopefully help you shift the perspective after a slow run from a disappointed, “Wow; I ran slow today,” to an excited “Wow! I ran slow today!”
We will look at:
- What Does It Mean to Run Slow?
- Slow Jogging: The Benefits Of a Slower Workout
- How Often Should You Run Slow?
Let’s get started!
What Does It Mean to Run Slow?
What exactly is slow jogging? The adjective “slow” is subjective and relative to each runner based on fitness level. “Slow” running can be thought of as an easy conversational pace that you feel like you can maintain for quite a long time while chatting with a running mate.
We can attempt to quantify slow jogging in the following ways:
- A running pace where you can comfortably carry on a full conversation or sing a song.
- An effort level on the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale of 5, where 1 is no effort and 10 is all-out sprinting.
- Heart rate in upper Zone 1 or in Zone 2, where Zone 1 is 50-60% of your max heart rate and Zone 2 is 60-70% of your max heart rate.
- Roughly 2-3 minutes per mile slower than your 5k race pace
Slow Jogging: The Benefits Of a Slower Workout
So, what are the benefits of slow jogging? Why do running coaches urge their athletes to ease up on the pace even when they feel good? Here are the benefits of running slow:
#1: Running Slow Adds Variety to Your Training
Many runners head out the door and run at nearly the same pace every day. However, the research shows that the most successful approach to getting faster involves what is known as polarized training—running both very slow and very fast rather than just sticking at one constant pace day in and out.
In other words, it’s more effective to vary your intensity from workout to workout rather than push yourself to the same “medium-hard” pace day after day.
#2: Slow Jogging Reduces the Risk of Musculoskeletal Injuries and Overtraining
Not only does falling into the trap of running almost every run at the same pace limit your overall progress, but it can also lead to overtraining and overuse injuries because the same stresses and intensities are placed on the body stride after stride, run after run.
In contrast, when a runner is constantly changing paces—running speed workouts and slow runs—they introduce more stride variability and stresses on bones, muscles, and connective tissues. This can reduce the risk of injury and increase overall strength.
Additionally, slow jogging places less impact stresses on the joints, so the risk of injury is inherently less.
#3: Slow Jogging Improves Your Aerobic Fitness
Slow jogging is aerobic exercise, so it strengthens the heart and lungs. As the heart gets stronger, stroke volume increases, which means that the heart is able to pump more blood—and thus oxygen—out to the body every time it beats. This can effectively reduce heart rate because the heart becomes more efficient.
Slow jogging still affords many of the aerobic benefits of moderate-intensity exercise, such as increasing capillary density and mitochondrial density in muscles and increasing blood plasma volume.
#4: Slow Jogging Is Good for Your Health
Studies show that low-intensity, slow jogging can reduce the risk of mortality even more so than very vigorous exercise.
#5: Slow Jogging Burns Calories
Any run burns calories, so if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, a slow jog can help you expend extra energy. Although you’ll burn fewer calories per minute jogging slowly compared to a faster run, if you run slowly, you can usually run for a longer duration.
#6: Slow Jogging Helps Your Body Become More Efficient At Burning Fat
At lower intensities of exercise, the muscles are able to burn fat to generate ATP (cellular energy) rather than rely more heavily on stored glycogen (carbohydrates).
Our bodies have a limited capacity to store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, whereas even the leanest runners have enough body fat to fuel hours upon hours of exercise.
Slow jogging causes favorable adaptations in fat metabolism, allowing you to run faster while still burning fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates. Ultimately, this can be hugely beneficial for marathoners as well as those looking to burn body fat.
#7: Slow Jogging Improves Recovery
Slow jogging allows your body to reap some of the aerobic benefits of running without causing significant stress on your musculoskeletal and metabolic systems.
A slow run increases circulation so it allows your body to fully recover from hard workouts. This not only reduces the risk of injury but allows you to be ready to attack the next speed workout with more energy and intensity.
By keeping your easy days easy with slow jogging, you can actually make your hard days hard. In this way, slow jogging enables polarized training and more intense hard workouts.
If you run a fast interval workout on the track on Monday, and head out for a moderately-intensity run the next morning, your body will carry over more accumulated fatigue to a Wednesday threshold workout than if you have taken your Tuesday recovery run as a true recovery workout.
As a result, your performance on Wednesday’s threshold effort may suffer and your risk of overtraining increases. In this way, slow jogging helps you maximize the benefits of your speed workouts by helping your body bounce back and recover after hard workouts.
#8: Slow Jogging Can Improve Your Running Form
When you run nice and easy, you have the mental bandwidth to focus on aspects of your running form, which can make you a more efficient runner. Think about things like your cadence, arm swing, and core engagement, and work on one aspect that might allow you to run more economically.
#9: Slow Jogging Allows You to Enjoy the Run
Remember the saying, “Slow down and smell the roses?” While you certainly don’t need to stop dead in your tracks and sniff fresh flowers, running slowly allows you to take in the surroundings and enjoy your run.
If you’re running with a friend, you can have a great conversation, and you’ll reap all the wonderful mental health benefits of exercise and head into the rest of your day in a good mood.
How Often Should You Run Slow?
Depending on your overall training program and racing goals, the bulk of your training volume should consist of slow jogging or workouts that take place in your zone 2 heart rate.
Slow jogging helps build your aerobic base, so most running coaches recommend at least 60-75% of your weekly running volume should be slow or easy runs in Zone 2, including recovery runs, base runs, and long runs.
To take a deeper look into all of the different types of running workouts that can make their way into your training plan, read our All Types of Running Explained: Guide to Top 10 Running Workouts.