Lately I think that I have developed a new-found appreciation for the easy runs in my training cycle. I used to think of easy runs as boring, slow, annoying, extra miles…or on the other hand there was a time when I wasn’t really doing “easy” runs so I was really just adding another run at whatever pace my body felt it could handle that day. This meant that sometimes I was pushing the pace too much on what was supposed to be an easy run.
I think that two things have changed recently that have led me to see these easy runs in a new light. First, I’m alternating hard workouts with easy runs or rest days. My hard workouts are HARD. I need the easy runs to recover. I appreciate the days when I can go slow and relaxed. The other thing that has changed is how I think of the easy run and what I have been getting out of it.
This post isn’t meant to be all “informative” with reasons why easy runs are good for you. The research is certainly there and perhaps that can be a post for another time. To me, the best proof that something works is seeing for yourself. I had learned about the benefits of easy running over the past few years, with the RRCA coaching training really driving the point home. This summer I FINALLY learned to run easy and get the most out of those runs.
I think somewhere between running without a Garmin and my super relaxed vacation runs I finally started to let go of my need to hit a certain pace during each run and just run off of feel. Some days “easy” may be an 8:45 pace and other days its a 10:30 pace. It’s actually kind of mind boggling to see the different paces but know you felt about the same.
During my easy runs I am learning to relax- both mentally and physically. I try to think about which muscles are tense and I tell them to relax (yes sometimes I talk to my muscles- don’t judge me). I let my mind go where it wants and remind myself how nice it is to not have a workout that requires my attention. I think about what has been stressing me out lately, try to work it out in my head, and just let it go. I usually get random songs stuck in my head too. This morning it was “Young and Beautiful” from the Great Gatsby movie- no idea why but I just went with it. By the end I find that my mind is more clear and my body feels better than when I started. I think that may be the goal of these types of runs but like I said I’m not here to share research, just personal experience.
If you are struggling with easy runs- feeling like you don’t want to do them, like your body feels worse after, or you’re not able to relax- take a look at your training. Maybe you need an extra rest day… Maybe you aren’t running them easy enough… Maybe you aren’t letting yourself relax. One way to measure your effort is by wearing a heart rate monitor. I also just listen to my breathing and make sure it’s slow and controlled. Another way to make sure you are running easy enough is if you can hold a conversation while you are running. At the RRCA training we were told that if you can sing “The Brady Bunch” song while you are running then it’s a good conversational pace.
After all my complaining yesterday about running in the humidity I though I owed it to running to show some appreciation. And lately I’ve been loving the easy runs. (I’ll love them even more when the weather gets cooler!)
Do you enjoy easy runs?
Do you find it easy to relax (mentally and physically) while you are running?