I hate running. Whenever I do it, it never feels natural and when I run, I feel ungraceful and run like a cow- it can move quickly but it just doesn’t look coordinated. The only bit I like about running is the bit afterwards when I get to take a bath! But you know, running is something I always wished I was better at.
So enter a great book called, “80/20 running”. In it, the author explains that the majority of people who run are moving too fast. When we run at too high an intensity, the body does not have time to adapt to exercise and bad habits can form such as wrong gait, imbalance etc. The key point though, is that the runner does not feel they are going to fast and feels normal because they are used to it. The issue with running too swiftly is not that the performance goes backwards, it’s just that improvement is slower than it should be.
To combat this, you are encouraged to perform the majority of runs slower than feels comfortable. When a runner does this their performance accelerates. A smaller proportion of the training (20%) is then pushing your body harder to grow.
The first time I tried this it felt very uncomfortable going so slow, as though I might get overtaken by a pensioner and I had to stop myself speeding up a couple of times (no metronome for running). But you know what? I felt much more joyful and it was a more mindful and not a torturous run.
How does this fit with piano?- one of the issues with beginner and intermediate piano players is they play too fast too often. Just like with running, you feel you are playing at a comfortable speed but it is still too fast and potentially causing incorrect technique or sloppy playing. Slowing down allows time to learn the nuances of playing and to get a feel for the music. Also, it allows you to see and feel where the issues are with playing and hopefully eliminate any problems. For example, when slowing down whilst playing a piece I know well, I realised I was playing awkward fingering and transformed it into a more natural playing style.
This is where it is vital to have a teacher or guide to help you find this “80/20” mix in your playing. Too much intensity and you won’t enjoy it and will pick up bad habits and yet not enough in the right areas and you won’t develop. It’s about balance.
Anyway, back to running. I am never going to be the best runner in the world, but when I do it now, I enjoy it much more and I can run further than I have for years.
So the moral of the tale is, go slower to get faster!