Why is it so hard to get easy runs right?
Attention always goes to the high flyers. The threshold runs, the VO2max intervals, the long runs, the hill repeats, they hog the limelight. What about the easy run?
Is it too basic? Too run-of-the-mill? We do more of these easy runs than any other type.
Since it is the most common type of run we do, shouldn’t we pay it some respect?
The easy run is subtle, but it packs a massive amount of power. That power builds up over time when combined with consistency. It provides the support to launch your hard training. On a smaller scale, the easy run has the power to influence your next hard session. It can help you be ready for it, or it can take away from your performance.
I’ve made the mistakes on easy runs. The number one mistake is pushing too hard and fast. It is all too easy to go too hard. Over the years I’ve experimented with different approaches. I’ve let my ego get in the way plenty of times. Not everything has worked, but some has. Now I’m back to chasing some big and challenging goals. To reach them I have to get a lot right in my training. One of the biggest influences on this are the easy runs.
Time to share what works.
Setting The Base With Easy Runs
When a long way out from a race and trying to develop a simple to base fitness, most of the runs will fall in the easy category. At this time the easy runs are relatively harder than later in a training program. Because the key hard sessions are not crazy hard at the time, you can afford to allow the easy run speed to creep up a little.
My main focus is on run form. Making sure I am developing good technique. Focusing on a proper range of movement, some snap at the ankle and proper knee lift. While working on improving running form I find the intensity needs to be raised a bit until the form changes become more natural. Remember the body is inherently lazy and will take what it thinks is the easiest way in the moment. This doesn’t always mean it’s the best way in the long term.
To ensure the runs aren’t too hard, the best guide is that you are able to repeat the exact same run the next day without fatigue carrying over.
Increasing Workload With Easy Runs
After setting a grounding with some base training we start to push the key runs a bit harder. Yet we still want to keep increasing volume and the ability to handle more training. This is the time the easy runs start to become tricky. This is where we really have to pay attention to the effect of these runs. As we start including faster running in the training mix, it is often easy to inadvertantly run the easy runs too fast. It just starts to feel natural to run faster. During the run it doesn’t feel like it’s too much. Yet it encroaches on the your recovery. It adds a load you need to recover from, and it puts a hold on recovering from the harder runs. This tends to be subtle, but it accumulates and reduces your ability to extend your key runs.
This is the time to put your ego away. Drop the pace on your easy runs to what may feel ridiculously slow. To push up the workload, gradually add a little bit of distance to a couple of the easy runs each week.
Closing Down On The Race
As we get closer to race day the key runs tend to become harder and more specific. It becomes important to be fresh enough to hit your marks in the hard runs. As a result the easy should be even easier. Personally I find they vary a lot during this time. Completely dictated by how I am responding in the key hard sessions.
This is no longer the up the volume. Some of the runs will be very short, maybe just 30 minutes at a ridiculously slow jog. If there are a few days between extra hard runs, then in the middle I may move the pace up to something that feels quick for easy. Making sure it doesn’t take away from the next run.
Respect Easy Runs
I’ve kept clear of providing exact pacing guidelines. The speed of an easy run shouldn’t some preset arbitrary number. It be guided by the effect you are aiming for. Focusing some effort on taking notice of how you respond to the easy runs reaps a lot of returns. It is a great opportunity to develop a feel and understanding on how your body responds to training. This is part of the power of easy runs.