Easy runs (ER) are supposed to form a majority of workouts (~80%), but what exactly are they? ER’s can be rudimentary defined as a low intensity workout (RPE 2-4). The exact pace is subjective based on many factors, but the general consensus is while running, you should be able to hold a conversation (AKA a ‘conversation pace’)
Easy runs are important for a myriad of reasons. They contribute to our ability to complete distance runs and aid in recovery; they promote the development of mitochondria, capillaries, and blood flow to our muscle—adaptations which can help enhance oxygen utilization—a crucial precursors to high intensity running.†
Yet the ironic thing about ER’s, is that they can be very hard to execute. Here are my thoughts on why…
I) We’ve been conditioned to believe that if a workout doesn’t feel hard, then it’s not effective. So when we bring our pace down substantially, perhaps we don’t feel like we’re we’re putting in the effort, leading us to naturally bring up the pace again. Yet this is completely false.
II) With platforms like Strava, our runs stats are available to everyone—we’re put under a microscope. We may feel that others will perceive us as a slow runner if we go easy. One of the main gripes I have with the platform, is the encouragement of competition, which can detract from the joy we derive from our running. As Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy”. If we’re driven by competition against others, and motivated primarily by our run times, then making runs easy will be exponentially more difficult.
III) In a similar vein, when out for a ER, and we see people zooming past us, we may feel like we’re moving at a snail’s pace, causing us to subconsciously bring up our pace again.
IV) Going super easy can sometimes feel unnatural especially if we have the energy on a particular day to go harder. Holding ourselves back can sometimes require more effort than pushing ourselves.
I’m guilty of all the above, and partially writing this because one of the biggest critiques from my coaches (in my training for Fat Dog) was to make my easy runs easier. I’m now making more of a conscious effort to slow down my ER’s out of necessity. If I don’t include them, I’m not going to be able to maintain my training load.
So if you’re struggling with the east run know that you’re not alone. “Easy” can paradoxically be harder than going hard. It’s important to ground ourselves knowing this is our journey and that every training plan—from beginner to elite—should includes ERs.