Running speed: Why doesn’t it matter for health?

Running speed: Why doesn’t it matter for health?

Beginning athletes often think that the goal of training is to learn to run faster, and there’s a stinging shame if they can’t achieve what they set out to do. Coach and sports columnist Jeff Gaudette thinks otherwise. In this article, we share his observations with you.

When I started working with a group of age-appropriate runners and amateur athletes in 2006, I was surprised by the unusually high level of negative thoughts and lack of self-confidence in many of my trainees.

Almost every new group member, instead of greeting me, would immediately start making excuses: “I must be the slowest person you’ve ever coached” or “I guess you don’t train with people as slow as me”. And it didn’t matter what their actual progress was. Virtually every conversation started with a session of self-deprecation.

Alas, the situation has not changed over time. Many runners (both beginners and experienced runners) hesitate for a long time to join the local running community or to compete. When you ask about the reasons, the answer is always the same: they think they are too slow.

It’s time to clear up this misconception once and for all. Here’s what I want to tell you:

“You are not slow at all. And your self-deprecating thoughts, on the contrary, prevent you from realizing your full potential. I also note that the speed of running has no effect on the health effects of jogging”.

And all I will tell you below is proof that a change of mindset and adequate self-esteem are much more important than running speed and training intensity.

The power of thought

Our negative thinking often prevents us from reaching our full potential. Our worst enemies are sentences that begin: “Yes, I know I’m slow, but…” .

But what? What do you mean by that? That you’re not Usain Bolt or Michael Johnson? Everybody knows that. But I can’t achieve their results either, although I’ve been running for almost 20 years. What’s the point of this “but”? Not doing it?

The running speed of jogger is not the most important thing. But by repeating the “but” over and over again, you lead yourself to believe that you will really never learn to jog productively and you will never learn to run fast.

Various studies by sports psychologists have proven the power of positive thinking and invigorating inner dialogue. Athletes who walked to the starting line in good spirits performed more consistently and performed better than those who were dejected.

However, rethinking how you feel about your abilities begins long before the race. If you’re harassing yourself with bad thoughts in preparation for the race, no amount of positive thinking and talking to yourself before the race will make up for weeks or months of self-deprecation.

Positive thinking is how you perceive every aspect of your training. I understand that it’s hard to take one moment and change your perception of your own abilities, so here’s some advice to help:

Whatever the speed, running is always the same!

What does it mean? It means that you don’t need to run fast to improve your health. Moreover, the satisfaction of a hard workout and the disappointment of a poor race result are not affected by how fast you run. That’s the beauty of our sport.

What is the purpose of your exercise? To become an Olympic champion? I doubt it. Most likely you are passionate about the idea of jogging for health. And if so, I’ll tell you a secret: there is absolutely no difference between an athlete who ran 5 kilometers in 30 minutes and one who did it in 16 minutes. The health effects of such a run will be exactly the same.

I run 10 kilometers in 29 minutes. I’m still not comfortable with the prospect of finishing last. There’s still a lot I don’t know about training, and I’ve had a lot more bad jogging, injuries, and bad runs than I’d like. So there’s no need to preface your questions or thoughts about running with “I’m slow”. I’ll tell you sincerely: “I’m fast, but I have the same challenges and fears”. And so it is with all runners.

There’s always someone faster

You don’t have to match someone else in your regular runs. Unless you’re an Olympic medalist like Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah or Galen Rapp, there’s always someone faster than you.

The speed is relative thing. You run a kilometer and a half in 15 minutes and you wonder if you can call yourself a runner, because there are many who do it in much less time. Fast athletes feel the same way.

Here’s a bright example. Former professional runner Ryan Warrenberg once shared with me doubts about whether he should consider himself a running elite. The five-kilometer distance takes him 13 minutes and 43 seconds. I think that’s fast and quite worthy of the title of “elite athlete”. Do you know what his result is in the world ranking? I don’t know either, but it’s outside the top 500!

Why is slow run perceived as something bad?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s perfectionism or the influence of sports advertising.

But it doesn’t matter how fast you run. The important thing is that you do it. You don’t have to fear that you’ll come in one of the last places. Just trust me: no one cares about it.

Runners are the friendliest and most responsive athletes I’ve ever met. And I don’t know a single runner who would refuse to run a little slower if they noticed that their teammate was having trouble keeping up with their speed.

Think about it: Would you have less fun running with a friend if you had to move at a slower pace? I bet you wouldn’t.

Whether you run fast or slow, you’re definitely doing better than most of your compatriots. Today physical activity for many people is barely up to the recommended daily norm, and exercise is often out of the question. So the next time the thought of your own slowness keeps you from joining the company of runners, asking a question or competing, simply just ask yourself: “Does it even matter?”.


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