How A Slow Start Can Help You Win

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Those lucky enough to visit a Kenyan training camp on the edge of the Great Rift Valley report an interesting phenomenon. Although the local runners outrun them by a wide margin, tourists can actually run with the local runners for a while. When a group of people start running in the morning, they start out at a very slow running pace -- the pace an average American runner would use for a simple workout. They jog for a mile or two, then slowly pick up the pace. Before long, the tourists found themselves alone while the locals cruised ahead, not seeing them again until they flew back to training camp.

Lifetime competitors -- runners who remained competitive from young to master -- reported a similar pattern of very slow starts, especially with age. "The first mile -- I don't really look at it -- but the first mile is easily a minute slower than the rest," said Dave Dunham, a national runner since high school who has run more than 140,000 miles. In a half marathon in his fifties, he broke the mile in 1:20.

Why is it important to start slowly?
Is there some slow warm-up that most of us don't know about? A comprehensive 2009 study by the University of Western Ontario suggests that a thorough warm-up should not be optional. The study concluded that an appropriate warm-up routine should serve as an important strategy for improving performance and preventing injury. A solid warm-up is especially important for older runners to counteract many of the negative effects of aging. "The slowdown in muscle contraction and power generation in older adults can be altered by increasing the temperature during the initial low-intensity exercise phase," Van der Voort said in the study.

Dr. Jonathan Dugas, a triathlete, coach, exercise physiologist and co-founder of exercise science, agrees with Vandervoort on the primary importance of temperature. "It's mostly changes in muscle temperature and body temperature. That means all the biochemicals that make your muscles contract faster," Dugas said. "If you change the temperature of the reaction, it will speed up. If you do a warm-up, you can raise the muscle temperature, which will change the way different enzymes work."

In addition to temperature, Dugas says the connection between body and mind is important for good running. "You're actually preparing your neuromuscular system for different dynamic movements," he said, adding that the faster and harder you move, the longer you run. Need to warm up. "We underestimated the mental bandwidth needed to keep us at a certain intensity."

Failure to relax your nervous system makes it harder to run well, even late in your run, when your muscles and joints are warming up. "You don't warm up at the beginning, and that changes the way you activate your muscles, which sends specific signals to your brain that change the effects later in the exercise," Dugas said. "Now that the feedback says you're not ready, now it's going to change the way you do the rest of your run."

How to easily get into every run
People usually start too fast because they are watching the speed on the device and want to keep it at some minimum level. Others get up very fast, and because they don't know how to judge the speed, they keep pushing until they have to slow down. The key to jogging and an easy start is to ignore the watch and listen to your body's signals about how much effort it takes to run at the moment. Start slowly in Kenya - a minute or two slower than your average training pace. Let your brain and body decide when you can speed up. Don't force your efforts to match your normal or target speed.

"Your brain is saying, 'I'm not ready for you to walk at an 8 minute pace. I'll get you to walk at a 9 minute pace. For this level of effort, this is what you're going to get. When the brain gets In feedback, it would say, 'I can see it's okay. Yes, now the muscles are warmer and more capable of doing work due to changes in the neuromuscular and muscular system. Okay. We can turn the volume up "I can make you activate more muscles, I can turn on more exercise units, I can change the speed of contractions."

Aim to maintain the same effort throughout the run. While you'll be slow at first, soon you'll pick up the pace effortlessly, and you'll find that a faster pace will flow more easily than if you didn't have a slow start. You may still not run as fast as the Kenyans, but you will run like them and you will find that you enjoy running more and perform better physically.