‘Go slow to go fast’ sounds counterintuitive. You mean we can actually increase our speed dramatically if we slow down a bit? It’s hard to echo that sentiment in a time where everything seems to evolve faster and faster, and we get stuck feeling that we need to hurry all the time. In a world where every instinct is telling us to run faster, we need to slow down and check that we are running or cycling in the right direction first!
The low and slow philosophy has been around since the 60’s. Very popular amongst roadies and it makes sense. According to certified personal trainer Joseph Beckert, “mitchondria are the building blocks of a great athlete”. Mitochondria are what help you turn the pedals and stride the miles. “When you go low and slow it allows the heart to increase its capacity to pump more blood per beat, lowering your heart rate. By slowing things down, you also build more capillaries in your legs which deliver oxygen and nutrients to the mitochondria.”
Going slow produces the best results to clear lactate acid. The better your type-I slow-twitch fibers can flush the lactate, the longer you can go faster and harder. And that’s the goal! During the winter is a great time to build your base. Doing longer, slower endurance rides, your heart pumps more blood per heartbeat, your muscles fibers develop more capillaries, and your oxygen transportation to your muscles is increased. In coaching terms, you’re building your aerobic engine. If your body becomes superior in this regard, how do you think it’s going to affect your performance when it’s time to lay down the hammer….you’re going to have a HUGE advantage.
“Go slow to go fast.”
I have been working with professional and amateur endurance athletes that are runners, triathletes, and cyclists for the past 10 years. This low and slow philosophy is essential to improve performance, no matter what your time constraints. Most of this type of training is done in Zone 2, 81% to 89% of LTHR, 50% to 70% FTP or about 4 to 5 RPE. This does not mean that I think you should focus wholly on going slowly, but make it a key part of your winter training. To be a successful cyclist you need to work all the systems. So make sure you go slow, go at what feels just right, and go too hard. Just make sure to do it in the right amounts.
If you can this winter, find the time to fully embrace being slow and establish the basic fitness abilities of endurance, power, and pedaling efficiency. You will be more durable to go the distance in the spring and have the foundation to make those hard workouts count!