Why running slow on easy days matters
by on Thursday, June 15, 2017  (4 comments)


I find myself repeatedly talking about the importance of running your easy days slow enough. There's a two part reason for that.

1) It really is that important.

2) Most runners don't run slow enough on their easy days.

Why is it really that important? Let's think about building your running fitness like building an engine. You want both a big engine that can produce a lot of power (aerobic capacity) and one that is fine tuned so it performs at its best (fine tuning for speed).

You build your running engine by running a lot. To an extent, the more running, the better. How do you run more? By slowing down so you don't break down. The cool thing is that the aerobic engine is built just as well at slower paces as it is at faster paces. Time matters more than intensity.

Next, you fine tune the engine for speed on the hard days. Faster/higher volume at speed is better. Any guess how you maximize the speed and volume of those hard days? That's right, by going slower on your easy days so you can recover more completely.

So what does this add up to? Building and fine tuning that engine requires making sure you're not running too hard on your easy days.

Photo credit: Training by Running Across Borders, on Flickr

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Very important to run easy on your easy days, so you can push on your hard days. I have seen guys that train at 7 mins per mile pace as their " easy pace", but in a marathon race their race pace is not far from it. I have always admired you for that, you know how to run easy on your easy days and on race day you just turn the jets on.

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Zach (Guest)

What's the best way to know your easy pace? I've seen a lot of methods: race pace conversion charts, heart rate, perceived effort. Which do you prefer?

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In my opinion, perceived effort is best. If you follow some arbitrary number, it could just mess with your recovery, for example, one day 9 mins pace will feel like a walk in the park, and other days will feel like I am struggling (depending what workout I am recovering from), so in my opinion is better to listen to your body.

Likewise, if you are not too tired, no need to go very slow, you could just put the hammer a bit , in the aerobic zone of course ( I mean at an easy effort).

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Cesar, I've also seen many people like that. One of the things I've found important with the runners I coach is to understand that marathon pace should not be easy. So many people think marathon pace is easy pace. Maybe it's closer to easy pace for a 5 hour marathoner than for a 3 hour marathoner but they should still be different.

Zach, sorry for the late response. I was away on vacation. I believe and some research backs up my belief that perceived effort is the best way to go. I actually also offer a training paces calculator here on HillRunner.com but my usual addendum to that is that, in my opinion, that should be used as an upper limit. Your easy runs should be no faster than that given pace. You also need to be honest with yourself and use a recent race result, not your goal time.

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