Couch to 5K
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Wondering about speed, is slower always easier?

Am I alone in feeling that when I try to make sure I run very slowly I struggle more with my breathing than if I run a bit faster (around 9 minute miles)?

I feel like I should be slowing myself down to help with endurance, especially as I'm far from super fit, and I am finding the program challenging. BUT, when I let myself go and just zone out to my music, I speed up naturally and my breathing seems better.

However, this all goes out of the window the second a hill is thrown into the mix, then I have to drop my speed because I simply don't have the fitness levels to do hills at that speed. But the change in pace seems to put me off, makes me feel like I'm flagging and want to stop.

So, I'd like advice on which approach is best. Keep my faster natural pace and work on being able to do it up hills too with shorter runs on hills until I get my incline.

Or, work on slowing my flat pace so that it matches my hill pace, practise being able to breath properly when I go slower, and this will help me pick up my distance faster?

I'm half way through week 5, with a 5K on May 20th I'd love to jog, but would be happy with walk/jog intervals if I haven't made my target.

However, my main goal is being able to keep the jog up for the 5K, not about doing it in a fast time.

THanks in advance for reading my ramblings!

7 Replies

Aaargh! Not a question that can really be answered by anyone else!

I absolutely empathise though - on the flat, or the downhill, I can plod on, but the slightest incline is a challenge. It's as if my fitness is on such a knife-edge balance all the time - I can do this, but only if I hold a bit back.

But, there is always a point in the run, however short, where it just becomes natural, I can lengthen my stride, stop counting paces (my own personal comfort blanket), and it all just seems to fall into place... until the next hill :o)

I'd say, jog at whatever pace feels good, take each hill as a separate challenge, and drop down to a geriatric shuffle if it gets you up the slope. Personally I'd try to avoid going back to walking unless there was really no alternative, but that's because it's part of the mental game-play, don't want to start giving myself excuses to give up!

Sorry this isn't more concrete use, hopefully someone who actually knows what they're talking about will be along in a minute!


Good question, I was going to post the same question (amongst others), I tried to slow my pace yesterday to concentrate on my running technique because I have had some shin pain, I wanted to makes sure my heel was hitting the ground first and also count breaths...I'm sure it was so much harder! I even came back this time with hip pain too, which I've never suffered from before with any type of excersice.

So I'll be interested to hear an answer to this as I was thinking of just running next time, at a pace that just feels right..

Good luck :)


someone who knows what they talking about might one to pop in but... I've read and spoken with friends who run and they advised go with what my body wants for foot fall I'm front/mid foot I think, the heel first hurt and apparently there's a science argument on what's best, heel first more injury etc also Bare foot running technique been discussed on here before somewhere... A pace that suits you is just fine.


I find I have a 'natural' pace that I run at when I am zoned out. This is a bit slower than my optimum pace but the one at which my body seems to want to go.

If I slow down from that then everything feels all clunky and lumpy and much less comfortable.

Though naturally your speed will be slower up a hill. I don't think it's reasonable to feel you have to slow your whole run down to match the pace of the slowest bit of the run.

Just run naturally, which will be faster downhill and slower up hill but use it as a chance to work on your uphill strength.


Thank you for your answers. I am doing W5D2 tomorrow, and am not going to 'wuss out' and change my course to avoid all hills. Instead, I will keep to the course I have made in my mind, and challenge myself to just do whatever feels right and see how I go.... I guess these things will start to come together the more practice I have! I'm definitely not going to enforce a slow pace on the flat though, as that seems to be when all goes wrong! Playing around with flat/hill speed seems to be the key. I'll certainly let you know how it goes :)


You can also do specific work on hills (if you seriously like pain) - my local running club do hill sessions every week and other running websites explain how to do it (er - run up a hill, jog down it again. Run up a hill, jog down it again. Run get the picture). BUT I'd save that little treat till after graduation. Just think of any hills you come across now as little gifts that will help improve your fitness - I just focus on getting up them without actually dropping into a walk and then compensate on the downhill stretch!


W5D2 was awesome this morning! So much easier than the last run, and nothing changed physically, but clearly things are finally moving in my head, whooop!

I set off slow but relaxed, not paying much attention to my pace, just my breathing and keeping it easy and steady. The funny thing is, by the end of the 8 minutes, I was in almost exactly the same place as the last time I tried 8 minutes. So, perhaps a pace has just found me and I should go with it....!

The second 8 up a hill (gentle incline really!) was harder, but as soon as I focussed on taking deepr breaths, it was absolutely fine, and as soon as I got to the top of the hill and back on the flat I was comfortable again.

I now have everything crossed that 20 mins straight is actually possible for me on Tuesday!

Juicydee - on my way home (I have a 20 minute walk) I had a go at running up a hill full pelt, and nearly killed myself ha ha ha. But, I've definitely stored your hill training tip for after graduation, thanks :)


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