A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Learning the importance of easy runs

on September 4, 2014

Over and over in running articles online and in Runner’s World, I’ve read about how important easy runs are to your overall running. I confess that I’ve always assumed that didn’t apply to me because as a slower runner why on earth would I want to take it easy? My best pace is that “easy” pace they’re talking about anyway, so there’s no way that could apply to me, right? Am I the only one who falls for that logic? I had it in my head that the only way I would ever get faster is to run as hard as I could every time, but for some reason this month I decided to actually look into the whole “easy run” concept and it turns out, it might apply to me after all. There are benefits to easy runs for runners of all paces and everyone’s “easy” pace is going to be different. It doesn’t matter that my fast pace is someone else’s easy pace – I still need to find my own easy pace and use it (often!). Most resources recommend that 70-80% of your weekly miles should be “easy” miles and I know I definitely wasn’t doing that for the first part of this training plan!

Easy runs at sunrise involve taking selfies of my shadow. :)

Easy runs at sunrise involve taking selfies of my shadow. 🙂

– With fast runs, you tax your anaerobic resources more than aerobic. Easy runs allow you to build a strong aerobic base, allowing for changes like increased blood flow to your muscles, increased fat metabolism (which helps you avoid the “bonk” in longer runs) and even increased mitochondria in your tissues! For non-science geeks, mitochondria are little energy powerhouses in our cells. It also helps our muscles learn to store more glycogen more efficiently. That’s a whole lot of metabolic benefit from easy runs, which means they are definitely not “junk” miles!

– If you’re running your easy runs like you should be, you have more energy to devote to your faster and harder speed and hill workouts. Some coaches suggest that the best way to fix your suboptimal “quality” workouts is slowing down in the rest of your week, even though that seems counter-intuitive.

– Easy runs allow your body to develop the musculoskeletal adaptations you need for long runs with less risk of injury. It’s a lot easier to add mileage to your total weekly miles in terms of easy miles with less wear and tear on your body.

– Easy runs can be a great means of active recovery, with increased circulation to your muscles to remove waste products.

– Easy runs allow you to run longer without burnout. I think this has been the most true for me during my experiment with easy running for the last couple of weeks. Even with the humid weather, running has been so much more fun and felt like less of a struggle. My runs have felt really fun this summer, which has been so great! I think a lot of my good feeling about my running for the last few weeks has to do with embracing the easy runs.

I haven't even minded the super early mornings for 6-7 miles on Tuesdays now that I'm doing easy runs!

I haven’t even minded the super early mornings for 6-7 miles on Tuesdays now that I’m doing easy runs!

What do easy runs look like for me? I run when I want, without looking at my pace, and walk when I want, without worrying about set intervals. The miles have been coming easy and actually coming at around the same pace as when I was stressing about pace or intervals or anything like that. I’m definitely a convert!

Do you consciously take easy runs as part of your weekly workouts?

Articles from wiser people than me!

Are your easy runs slow enough?

Why easy runs are critical to your success

Easy does it

 

 

 

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15 responses to “Learning the importance of easy runs

  1. Kristin says:

    Hey!! Great post!! As far as my runs go, I have learned that forcing myself to run slower (like actually making a conscious effort) leads to injuries, so during my maintenance runs (so not speed work, hill work, etc.), I try to keep my body very relaxed and let my body flow into a pace that feels comfortable (whatever pace that may be that particular day). Have a fabulous day!! XOXO!!

  2. Great post! Lots of interesting science tidbits. I confess I have a mindset like you used to…I’m not an elite so why go easier on those easy runs? Well, now I know why! Thanks for posting this!

  3. tricesweet says:

    Tons of good info on easy running… something I have definitely struggled with. Those runs are the hardest part of my training since I’m way too intense for my own good. Actually did an easy run this morning for about 4 miles!

  4. courage2run says:

    “Am I the only one who falls for that logic?” Nope. I think you just read my mind. How could I possibly run easier, when my pace is already super slow? Thank you for this read, I needed it!!

  5. I completely have the same logic about easy runs; I feel like my regular pace is someone’s easy pace (if not slower than that!), but you are absolutely right. Every runner is going to have their own “easy” pace, just like all runner’s have their own “regular” paces. Great tips about easy runs! I will definitely need to start making a concerted effort to go for easy runs. I think it is great that adding in the easy runs has really increased your joy for running! 🙂

  6. Jason says:

    Easy runs are definitely important! I wish there was more time in the day so I could slow mine down a bit more!

  7. […] A lovely, redemptive 6 miles in the morning (69 minutes, a nice easy pace) – I am so glad I went out for this run, instead of taking on a second run to get to 6 […]

  8. […] geek in me needed to look into the science of the benefits of easy running like I did back in this post and once I grasped that there was a real purpose for easy runs, I’ve accepted them […]

  9. […] favorite piece of running advice this year was to embrace the easy run, just because it made running so fun during a really busy year professionally. It was nice to just […]

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