Steady runs should be slower than race pace, a pace at which you can hold a conversation for the duration of the run. Apart from the obvious reason of getting the miles in your leg, other benefits include:
- Running at a steady and slower pace helps to facilitate the development of aerobic strength. Over a long run you will still push your aerobic system but it won’t completely exhaust your body meaning your following training session won’t be compromised.
- Spending more time below threshold will encourage your body to increase the lactate threshold and you will be able to go faster for longer without entering the “red zone”.
- Training for long distance runs, for example a marathon, means getting used to running when your body is fatigued. Running at a steady pace over a long distance will add a certain amount of fatigue to your body. Complementing a long run with a tempo session the next day will stimulate the tired feeling of the end of a marathon.
- Steady runs teach your body to use fat as fuel more effectively. Your body has a limit as to how many carbs (glycogen) it can store, but its fat store will be much higher. When training at a lower intensity for a long period of time, your body uses more fat as a fuel than glycogen. In an ideal world you want to use fat stores first and then use glycogen as intensity increases. The more you train at lower intensities the more effective your body will become at using fat for fuel and saving the glycogen for when it gets tough.
- Running slower will help your ligaments, tendons, bones, and joints to adapt to the stress of running, so when you go to run faster you are at a lower risk of injury.