If you’ve followed along with my journey this past summer, you know that I’ve changed up my approach to training and I’ve decided to go coach-less for right now. The biggest change in my training approach is that instead of doing practically all of my runs at intensity with my former coach, I now have easy runs in my schedule too. I do about 3 harder effort runs a week and all of the rest are easy. Today was a fartlek run, which is a harder effort, but tomorrow, I’ll be back to easy to let my body recover.
It’s been a bit of a transition for me to embrace and understand what truly feels easy, but it’s starting to feel more normal. And get this, I’m a lot happier. My weeks don’t feel like they drag on from workout to workout (every single day), and I have margin to be flexible and run with the stroller or exchange a run for cross training if I feel like it.
Practically every training book will espouse the value of the easy run. One of my favorites is Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running. He backs up all of his reasoning with research, and he gives a really great explanation for how to determine zones based on rate of perceived effort or heart rate.
Here’s a really great article by Runner’s Connect discussing the merits of the easy run. Check out the table at the end of the article where it discusses the paces where capillary development, mitochondria production, and myoglobin content increase.
For a summary, easy runs:
- help build up the aerobic system to utilize glycogen for energy more efficiently
- allow the body to adapt and repair from hard runs
- give the mind a body a break from stress and high impact
- increase the number of capillaries surrounding muscles to transport oxygen more easily
- increase myoglobin and mitochondria, which help provide more oxygen and energy
If you need further convincing or a good reminder (like me sometimes) about keeping easy easy, check out this podcast interview of David Roche on TriSpecific. Roche describes an athlete who wasn’t reaching her potential, and they couldn’t figure out why until they strapped on a HR monitor. As soon as she slowed down her paces and let her heart rate drop, she started seeing results.
What’s your philosophy on easy runs?