One of the greatest joys in running comes from pushing yourself to the limits and accomplishing a goal. Whether that means successfully completing an interval at a challenging pace, earning a PR or finishing a tempo run – the satisfaction makes everything worth it.
A common misconception amongst runners is that in order to achieve our goals, we need to push ourselves on every single run. Runners sometimes forget about easy running when striving for a goal – and by doing so they may actually be limiting their progress.
Easy running plays an important role in our progress.
Regardless of whether you’re striving for a massive PR or just hoping to increase your speed – it’s important to slow it down more often than not.
Related: 7 Strategies to Achieve Your Next Race Goal
Easy runs are often referred to as recovery runs, which can sometimes be misleading. A recovery run may sound as if it’s meant to be completed only after a hard workout or long run. However, easy running should be completed multiple times throughout the week, regardless of whether or not you are recovering from a specific workout or distance.
Easy running can be challenging – both physically and mentally. As we start to make progress towards our goals, it’s tempting to want to continue by adding in a few extra workouts and seeing if we can push our bodies just a little more.
Slowing down the pace can sometimes actually feel harder on your body, as aches and pains become more apparent while you have less mental distractions.
However, incorporating easy runs into your training plan isn’t just a good idea – it’s necessary. Many runners understand this and attempt to add in some easy running miles, but don’t actual slow down the pace enough to reap the benefits of recovery running.
So how fast should you complete easy runs?
A general guideline for your easy running pace is to run about 90 seconds slower per mile than your goal pace. For example, if your goal is to set a race PR running a 10 minute mile, your easy runs should be completed at a pace of about 11:30 minute miles.
While this pace might sound a bit too slow, it’s important to remember that you’ll be pushing yourself once a week with speed workouts and tempo runs that are 60 – 90 seconds faster per mile than that goal pace.
These slower, easy runs provide your body with plenty of time to recover, rebuild muscle fibers and save your energy for the next hard workout.
If you’re still not entirely sold on the idea of easy running, here are a few reasons to truly embrace the slow pace each week to reap the benefits in the end game.
5 Reasons to Embrace Easy Running
You’ll be able to truly give it your all during speed workouts.
When you spend a majority of the week running at an easy pace, you’ll enjoy quick recoveries without feeling fatigued and run-down throughout training. Your legs will feel fresh with each run – especially during those hard workouts.
The lower energy that’s required for easy running leaves more left in your tank when you really need it, say during interval workouts, tempo runs or race pace miles. You’ll find that hitting your goal paces during speed workouts feels significantly easier when you aren’t taxing your body during the rest of your runs.
You’ll recover healthier and gain strength each week.
While not every easy run is an actual “recovery run”, you’ll definitely benefit from healthier recovery throughout your training cycle. These easy runs provide your body extra time to rebuild those muscle fibers, helping you gain strength after each tough workout.
In addition, you’ll be less likely to suffer from mental or physical burnout while training when you incorporate easy running. Those easy runs keep your legs fresh and help avoid the physical burnout that comes from doing too much all at once.
You’ll avoid injury and running pain.
Along with a healthier recovery, you’ll be helping your body avoid common running injuries and the nagging pains that come from overtraining. Those easy runs help your body do just that – run with ease.
When the majority of your training is completed at an easy pace, your muscles and joints aren’t under as much stress. They’ll have an adequate amount of time to recover from each hard run, helping you avoid running on hot spots that eventually turn into something more serious.
You’ll provide your body with variety each week.
When you run the same workouts or pace during each run, your body will eventually adapt to that type of stress, leading to a plateau in your progress. Adding easy runs into the mix each week provides your body with a variety of different types of stress, so it never has a chance to fully adapt. Each workout will help you gain healthy fitness and strength, even when the paces feel easy.
Not only does a weekly variety help keep your body on its toes, it also keeps your mind fresh and focused. You’ll avoid the monotony of running the same pace with every single run. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of running at our goal pace with each run, thinking it will benefit us on race day. On the contrary – these easier paced runs help mix things up and keep your mind fresh.
You’ll experience the joy that comes from simply running.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our next goal race or PR during training. Before we know it, running has become a chore, something that we complete each day only to see progress. We focus on getting better, and quickly lose sight of why we started running to begin with.
When you force your body to slow down and take it easy, you’ll be able to take a step back from the nitty gritty aspects of training and head outside for a run purely for the joy of it.
Remind yourself that take it easy once and a while has plenty of benefits – and remember, it definitely is possible to do too much. Easy running on a regular basis helps avoid overtraining, mental and physical burnout and injury, all while helping your body get in peak condition (even when it feels easy).
Those easy runs in your training plan are there for a reason. Don’t try and pick up the pace, no matter how tempting it may be or how great you may feel. Sit back, take a look around and enjoy those relaxed, easy runs.
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