The Benefits of Long, Slow Distance Runs

There are several benefits to long slow distance running: from strengthening muscles, to training your respiratory system and more. It’s time to mix them up with your sprints.

The Benefits of Long Slow Distance Runs

Whether you’re new to running or are a seasoned professional, it can be difficult building up the stamina required for a long-distance run. One important thing to remember is your speed: you shouldn’t be reaching the same average time per km in a 5km run as you would in a 25km run.

For some people, running is all about going as fast they can, and maintaining the same speed. However, there are many benefits to long slow distance runs, and we’d definitely encourage you to give it a go, so you can start feeling those advantages.

What is Slow Running?

Slow running is subjective, because each person will have their own pace. However, a good way to determine whether you’re running “slow”, is to see if you can have a conversation with your running partner. If you can, then that’s your slow running speed.

Another way you can determine what your slow pace is, is to check your heart rate. If you’re running at a gentle pace, then your heart rate should be somewhere between 110 to 140 beats per minute.

Essentially, if your breathing isn’t too heavy and you don’t feel like you’re putting in too much effort, then you’re running at a slow pace (and by taking normal breaths, you’re able to hold a conversation).

What Are the Benefits of Long Slow Distance Runs?

There are many benefits to going on a long slow distance run:

  • They promote an efficient running form
  • They help to strengthen your muscles – especially in your legs, arms and torso
  • They train your respiratory, cardio and muscular systems to be more efficient
  • They improve your ability to handle physical discomfort, whilst making you a more patient and disciplined runner
  • They effectively adapt your ligaments, tendons, bones and joints to the stress of running
  • They increase the quantity and size of mitochondria, which help you to improve your use of oxygen, and glycogen storage levels

Ultimately, there are many health benefits of going on a long slow distance run, which is why it’s so important to mix them up with your sprints. These type of runs will help you to become a better runner, as you are training your body and mind to withstand longer distances.

You may not realise this, but long slow distance runs burn more calories than higher intensity activity (such as a sprint), which will help with weight loss. Plus, by adapting your muscles, joints and bones to the stress of running, you’re preparing your body for high intensity training.

How Often Should You Go for a Long Slow Distance Run?

Like most things associated with running, this is subjective, as it depends on how often you go for runs in the first place.

A long-distance run is typically categorised as 50% further than your typical runs. If you go for three runs a week, then make one of them a long slow distance run – you’ll really start to notice a difference in terms of how you feel when you run.

When you first start doing long distance runs, it can be tempting to track your distance. However, what you should do is track your time. If you do a distance run once per week, you can increase your time by 10-15 minutes each week, and you’ll soon notice that you can run further, more effectively.

If you’re a newbie to running, then start your long slow distance run at 45 minutes. This is beneficial as not only does it help you to build strength and improve recovery, it will also help to flush any waste from tired muscles.

Long slow distance runs that are 45-90 minutes long help to increase your body’s ability to transfer and use oxygen, whilst building up your strength without using too much physical and mental stress.

Alternatively, if you run for over 90 minutes, then the added benefit is that you’re teaching your body to improve its glycogen storage levels, whilst increasing your ability to handle the discomfort that comes with running.

If you’re worried about being a slow runner compared to everyone else… then stop comparing yourself! If you’re running and feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort, and are losing your breath, then you’re not running slowly enough.

The final benefit of long slow distance runs is that you’re reducing the risk of causing yourself injury – of which there’s a higher chance when you’re running faster. That alone should be reason enough to start giving slow running a go-to help your body adapt to running further, and enable it to withstand higher intensity exercise.
For more advice on running, head on over to our blog, where you can find out how to build your endurance,mental strategies to help you keep on running, the benefits of running with a friend, and more.