The "train slow to get faster" approach, often associated with endurance sports, might initially sound counterintuitive. But when delved into deeper, it offers a science-backed methodology that can lead to significant performance improvements over the long term. Here's some insight into how it works:
Aerobic Base Building: At the core of this approach is the belief in building a strong aerobic foundation. Aerobic metabolism is the primary energy source for long-duration activities. Training at lower intensities (or slower paces) primarily targets and develops the aerobic system, increasing the body's efficiency in utilizing oxygen to produce energy.
Mitochondrial Development: Training at a slower pace stimulates the production of mitochondria in your muscle cells. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses" of cells, where aerobic energy production occurs. The more mitochondria you have, the more efficiently you can produce energy, leading to better endurance and performance.
Fat Metabolism: Training slower enhances the body's ability to burn fats as a fuel source. Fat is an abundant energy reserve. By improving the body's capacity to tap into fat stores for energy, athletes can conserve their glycogen stores for more intense phases of their activity.
Injury Prevention: Training at high intensities constantly can lead to overuse injuries. By incorporating slower, more deliberate training sessions, athletes can give their bodies the necessary recovery time, reducing the risk of injuries.
Mental Endurance: Slow training sessions, especially for longer durations, help athletes develop mental toughness and patience. It prepares the mind to stay focused and resilient during longer races or events.
Lactate Threshold Improvement: By building a robust aerobic base, an athlete's lactate threshold (the intensity at which lactic acid accumulates faster than the body can clear it) can improve. Over time, this means that an athlete can maintain faster paces without going anaerobic.
Recovery: Training at a slower pace allows for quicker recovery. Quicker recovery means an athlete can train more consistently without the setbacks of fatigue or overtraining.
Allows for Periodization: By incorporating slower training phases, athletes can effectively employ periodization in their training schedules. This ensures they peak at the right times and can incorporate higher-intensity workouts when necessary without the risk of burnout.
Technique and Form: Training slower provides an opportunity to focus on technique and form. Proper technique not only improves efficiency but also reduces the risk of injury.
In essence, the "train slow to get faster" approach is about laying a solid foundation upon which speed and performance can be built. Once this foundation is set, targeted high-intensity training can be layered on top, leading to faster speeds with less perceived effort. For many athletes, especially those in endurance sports, it's a strategy that can yield significant results.