Go Slow to Go Fast

By Garmin Pro Ben True

How do you get faster?  Many people think that to continuously improve, they need to work harder, run faster, and increase their intensity.  While to a point this is correct, it is only so if done in proper balance with recovery.  Because this mindset of needing to do more— more volume, more intensity, more, more, more— I advise a slightly different approach to improve.  Instead of focusing of the intensity, focus on the recovery.  In essence, go slower to go faster.  Let me explain.

We all know the fundamental way to improve is through stressing the body (namely through intensity) and breaking down your muscles on a cellular level.  Then through recovery, you allow your body to rebuild and make adaptations.  This layering of stress, recovery, adaptation is how to keep improving.  So how do we use this knowledge to better enhance our training?  By focusing on the key elements: high intensity, and proper recovery.  This approach is called polarity.  By making sure you keep your recovery days very easy, you allow your body to fully recover, which in turn, allows your hard days to be of a higher intensity.  All too often I see people go too hard on their supposed “easy” days, making it impossible for them to fully recover.  Because of this, they are not able to reach the same levels of intensity during their workouts and worst of all, they are not able to fully absorb their hard training.  Without proper recovery, those hard sessions aren’t absorbed and instead of helping you improve, only break you down and send you into a spiral of injury and overtraining.

So how do you know if you are keeping your easy days easy and your hard days hard?  Eventually, you can get a good idea through effort levels and reading your own body, but until then, Garmin has many great tools to help you govern your efforts.  The tools that I tend to look at most in my Forerunner 935, are Garmin’s Training Effect and Recovery Indicator. 

With Garmin’s Training Effect, you can see the extent in which you improved your aerobic and anaerobic systems during your daily workouts.  When targeting a workout, aim to get your Training Effect in the 4.0-4.9 range in the desired system you are trying to improve.  If you are constantly failing to reach 4.0 during an intense workout, it probably means you aren’t going hard enough.  On the flip side, when on a recovery day, make sure you keep your training effect low (I like to keep mine below 2.5) to make sure you aren’t unintentionally taxing your body and inhibiting recovery.

Another great tool is the Garmin Recovery Indicator.  This is a number of hours that Garmin calculates your body needs for recovery before another hard session.  This doesn’t mean time before you can train again, it just means an estimated time your body needs before another intense workout.  For example, if after a hard session the Recovery Indicator states I need 48hours, it means I need at least two days of low intensity, easy training before I consider another hard effort.

Please keep in mind that these Garmin tools need access to heart rate to work.  While Garmin’s wrist based heart rate works well for many activities and especially on easy days, I recommend using the Garmin heart rate strap during intense workouts for a more accurate reading.  The more you use these features, the better the device learns how your body works, and the more accurate the results become.

In conclusion, the best way to improve and go faster, is by focusing on going slower.  Keep your easy days easy, so your hard days can be truly hard.  By making sure you prioritize your recovery and use polarized training—high intensity (stress) followed by adequate recovery (easy days)— you can make big leaps in improvement.  Thankfully, Garmin has you covered with many helpful tools to help you along the way.  Train hard, and recover well!