Slow Fitness: Benefits of a Slow Build

There are advantages with starting again.

A clean slate.

A fresh start.

My return to running started with a 3 week block. As unexciting as it is, there were no epic training sessions. No…”I ran so far on no training” type stories.

Instead we take a slow approach to building fitness. I’ll take you through how, why and the result.

Stage 1

I kept a heart rate cap on all my runs. I aimed not to exceed 135 BPM. This was to ensure I stayed well within easy.

My cardiologist had warned me I was likely to have lost more fitness than expected with 10 weeks off. 

He was right.

Turns out this happens to some people from COVID. The reasons why aren’t understood. But a recent study is suggestive there may be problems in the muscle’s mitochondria causing issues with fat metabolism and altered lactate production.

Whatever the reason I definitely felt unfit.

Many of my “runs” included a lot of walking just to keep the intensity under control.

I built these up to an hour over the 3 weeks.

Mixed in some strength training about every 5 days. Each strengthening session lasted around 40 minutes.

I also took days off if I felt tired. Eventually I became used to moving again.

Then I took a few days away camping with the kids. There’s a video on that if you’re interested.

Stage 2

In the next stage I ignored heart rate.

I based my intensity off how I felt. Easy meant my breathing felt well under control… most of the time.

I also wanted my running to feel good. So I wasn’t overly concerned about staying under a set threshold. Rather than forcing the intensity down I let my runs feel natural. At first my breathing spiked higher. But over a few days that settled back down.

But do note I never pushed any run hard.

Over 4 weeks I built my runs up to 90 minutes. And they felt better and better.

Slow Fitness

Can I push the training harder?

I know I can. But there is a lot of risk there.

Given what’s happened this year I don’t trust my body to handle training right on edge to force my fitness up as fast as it will go.

Instead I am training at a level that should still see progress even if that progress is slow. So far I have seen improvement every week.

If we look into the fitness graphs on you can see exactly this.

The purple line is listed as fatigue. It may also be training load. As you can see it wiggles up and down. Has a dip when we went camping. But overall there is a gradual increase over the 7 weeks.

Next look at the blue line. That line represents fitness. There is a gradual increase in this line over the same time period. Nothing spectacular, but if I can maintain this trend over a long period of time… well… how far can we take it?

At the end of the 7 weeks I decided to test my fitness with a 5 km race.

Using my local Parkrun I set out to see how fast or slow I really was.

21:00 flat for 5km.

My slowest 5km I’ve raced, but at least it gives me a reference point.

One great thing about starting again, despite feeling slow (or maybe it is because I feel slow)… Is I don’t have that self imposed pressure on having to be faster, having to push right on limit over and over…

…and you know what?….

I’m enjoying my running a lot more!

Keep on running

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.