Reflections on the Easy Run
Easy runs may be the most ignored characteristic of a person’s training.
But I get it. What’s exciting about running for an hour easy?!?!
Yet, whether you’re running 20 miles a week or 100 miles a week, miles at an easy effort should make up 75% of your total weekly volume.
If this type of run makes up such a large chunk of your weekly mileage, why is all the focus on tempo runs, threshold workouts, or track repeats?
Probably because a) those workouts are more fun to think about & b) they’re the ones that fatigue you and are thought of as more important.
However, being able to run easy is more important than being able to run hard!
I like the below quote from John Kellogg because it mirrors how I approach my own easy runs.
“The best policy on most regular easy runs is to start extremely slowly (literally at walking speed) and allow your breathing pattern and heart rate to stabilize before attempting to increase the pace any. Never struggle during an easy run. It’s probably best that you do not time your easy runs, as timing every run usually leads to racing against previous efforts, which can be ruinous.”
Generally I only wear a stopwatch and never record the true pace of my easy workouts. There’s something quite enjoyable about running without a GPS, and these types of workouts where the pace does not matter are the perfect opportunities to go sans GPS.
For easy runs I like to use perceived effort, especially if going with a GPS to give you true pace. Studies have shown that most runner choose a 12.5 on a 0-20 scale as their habitual running pace. 12 is equivalent to “fairly light” while 13 is “somewhat hard”.
Imagine if you were to go a bit slower and do as John Kellogg says and take all struggle out of an easy run!
– be able to run farther
– finish your workouts with less fatigue
– run more consistently
– be able to run harder on the hard days, thanks to easier easy days
Afraid to run too slow? Don’t be!
There are countless stories of amateur athletes being able to comfortably run with elites whose marathon race paces are under 5.5 or even 5 minutes per mile! That’s why these elites are able to run 100+ miles weekly, most of their running is done at a very very relaxed pace.
Look at 12:59 5k athlete Caleb Ndiku’s easy pace, which is between 6:20 and 7:15 per mile in most cases! His coach, Renato Canova, suggests that easy training runs are not a method of training at all. The goal is recovery and adaptation, and you must run easy to allow these to take place!
For those who need some concrete numbers, our friends at RunnerConnect.com have crunched the numbers to give you a some pace ranges, suggesting 1.25-1.5 X your 5k race pace for easy runs.
If math isn’t your thing, the McMillan Running Calculator takes care of it for you:
The issue with these type of pace range suggestions is that they do not take into account your recent workouts, your weekly volume, stress level, the heat, or the terrain.
If last year you averaged 55 miles weekly and did most of your training on flat terrain but now train 65 miles weekly in the mountains, you’re going to be averaging much slower during your easy runs, and that’s ok! This is where perceived effort can help.
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