When we begin to run, we just run hard and fast.
Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the sport. Or maybe it’s the way we’ve been taught to run.
Our ancestors either ran to catch their prey or to save themselves from becoming one. And remember the races in school when teachers would line up all the kids and shout, “Go!”. It was terrible – during the race and after the race.
Most beginners still make this mistake. I sure did. Whenever I went for a run, I tried to beat my previous day’s record. It took me only a couple of injuries and some reading to realize it.
I wish I knew about easy runs before I started. Let’s explore the wonders of easy running in this post!
What is an Easy Run?
The easy run means running at an easy effort level. The pace should be comfortable.
Runners also call it “conversational pace“, which means you should be able to talk to someone running with you. Your breathing should be in control; you definitely shouldn’t be gasping for air.
Who needs to run easy?
Everybody. No matter what your experience.
In fact, easy running makes the biggest part of the training of experienced runners. Even the top-level athletes. Of course, their easy pace is much faster. And yours will also improve as you continue to train properly.
How to Run Easy?
One thing I’ve learned about easy running is – running easy isn’t easy.
Running easy means, you have to run slower than you can. Why would you run slow when you can actually go faster?
It takes control and effort. You need to learn it.
One thing that’ll help you is asking yourself, “Why am I running today?”
There are different types of running workouts. And each has its own purpose. (We’ll discuss the purpose of easy runs shortly.)
Asking this question will help you to stick to the plan and not get carried away. At the end of an easy run, you should feel like you could run a lot more.
Focus on good running form. One thing at a time. So you can ask yourself, “Are my shoulders relaxed?” Or, “Am I looking ahead or down at my feet?”, “Am I running smoothly or pounding on the ground?”
It may seem a lot of work but doing this will help you get better. And over time, the good running techniques will become a habit and you’ll not have to worry about this later on.
How to Calculate Easy Run Pace
In the beginning you should run by “feel“. As mentioned above, your effort level should be easy.
There are several ways of determining your easy run pace. If you use a heart rate monitor, the proper heart rate zone for easy runs is between 65 to 78 percent.
There are also some great online tools that can help you with this. They are actually designed for determining training paces for your goal race pace. One popular tool is Mcmillan’s running calculator.
So you can run a mile (1.6km) as fast as you can and use that time to get an idea about your easy run pace. It will give you a range that you can run between.
What Are The Benefits of Easy Runs?
let’s take a look at the amazing benefits you can get by just running easy:
Improved Cardiovascular and Muscular System
To become a better runner, you’ll need a powerful heart that can pump out more blood with each stroke. You’ll need vessels that are able to carry more blood to the working muscles. And you’ll also need more efficient muscles that can use the increased amount of oxygen in order to produce energy.
Easy running helps you achieve all this.
Later on, you’ll also do other types of training like VO2 max to improve these qualities further.
Running is a demanding activity. You need to carry your weight with you. And whenever your foot hits the ground during running, this weight increases three times because of the impact.
That’s a lot of load!
So you’ll need strong bones, joints and ligaments to handle this load.
If you don’t have those, you can easily get injured. Easy running helps you with this. Also, supplementary work like strength training and plyometrics can help you big time in this regard.
Easy running not only helps you avoid injuries but also prepares your body for the hard training you’ll do in the future.
Increased Use of Fat For Energy
When you run, you mainly use carbohydrates and fats for energy. Our body stores carbohydrates as glycogen. Unlike the huge fat stores, these glycogen stores are limited.
What’s interesting is, it’s your speed that determines which one of these two gets used more.
When you run at a slower speed, you use more of the fats. And as you start running faster you start using more of the limited glycogen.
Easy running teaches your body to use more fat which is a great advantage for distance runners.
Achieve Higher Weekly Mileage
One of the most important things you can do to become a better runner is – run more. You’ll need a higher weekly mileage. How much? Well that varies highly for each runner.
Easy running helps you achieve this without putting extra stress on your body.
Recovering from the hard workouts
Hard workouts put extra stress on your body. And you need to recover properly after performing them. Easy runs are great for this.
It Makes Running Enjoyable
Last but not least, running easy is fun. It makes running enjoyable. You can enjoy your surroundings while getting all the amazing benefits listed above.
When to Perform Easy Runs?
Before a workout – Before starting a demanding running workout (e.g. tempo run, intervals), you need to prepare your body. The warm up depends on individual runners and the workout they intend to perform. Generally, a total of 10-20 minutes warm up is recommended which includes easy running and some dynamic stretches.
After a workout – Finished the hard workout? don’t stop at once. End your workout with 10-15 minutes pf easy running to let your body cool off.
Between intervals – Easy running also plays an important role in interval training. You need to run easy or jog (even walk sometimes) between the interval workbouts. So you warm up with easy running. Do some more of it between the intervals. Then finally you’d cool down with it again.. That’s how important it is.
On Alternative Days – According to the hard easy principle, you should alternate your hard training days with easy training days. This allows your body to recover from the previous day’s hard training. And you’ll be fresh when starting the next day’s hard training.
Beginners Should exclusively do Easy Running
All these things should make it obvious that beginners should start with only easy running when they start. They should avoid hard running as they don’t have the kind of strength required to handle the stress. You can read the beginners guide to running. It goes into more detail about how beginners should approach training.
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