One of the biggest mistakes we see in training programs for beginner and intermediate runners is running too fast on their easy days. By running too fast on easy training days, you inhibit recovery, increase the risk for injury and overtraining, and slow progress and development. By being mindful of the specific benefits of easy running and knowing how to incorporate this into a program, you may significantly improve overall performance and race results.
What is easy pace running?
“Calm, relaxed, conversational pace”
Easy running is running at a pace at which you can comfortably carry on a conversation or sing a few lines of a song. Your breath rate should be calm, relaxed, and manageable through nose breathing. In this aerobic zone, your heart rate should remain 70 - 80% of its max, and you should rate the effort 5 - 6 on a 10-point scale. In this zone, your body can readably convert oxygen into fuel and expel the bi-products of exercise such as carbon dioxide and water through respiration. Be mindful of the route and conditions you're training in due to the potential to affect effort levels.
What are the benefits of easy runs?
Allows your body to slowly and safely adjust to the increased workload
Spurs cardiovascular developments by improving the body's ability to transport blood to muscles
At a cellular level, easy running promotes red blood cell production and increases the size of mitochondria
Increases strength in muscles, tendons, and ligaments stressed during training
Improves running economy and efficiency
How much of your training should be easy pace miles?
“Regardless of where you are in your training, create a plan to avoid pitfalls and maximize results.”
In general, approximently 70 - 80% of weekly mileage should be run at conversational pace. If you're new to running, consider increasing to 85 - 90% easy mileage. To avoid injury and to maximize performance gains, it's essential to adhere to this principle. If you run five days a week, then four of those sessions should be at conversational pace. If your weekly mileage total is 25, then 20 miles should fall into this category. As you progress, the percentage of easy miles may fluctuate, but regardless of where you are in your training, create a plan to avoid pitfalls and maximize results.
Easy pace running is a necessary part of any build-up, whether you're training for a 5k or a marathon. Running takes patience and discipline to master. Cutting corners, such as running too fast on those easy days, won't get you to that next PB.
"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." - John Bingham