Following up to last week’s post about Why You Should Follow Your Training Plan and Run Your Easy Runs Easy, now we are going to talk about how to do that! There are 3 ways I am going to describe to make sure you are doing this correctly. As I said in last week’s post, you don’t want to run too hard on those easy days and risk injury or burnout!
But first, welcome to the Runners’ Roundup linkup! I’m co-hosting this linkup with Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy, and Faux Runner! Each Wednesday link up to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas. I hope you will join us!
3 Ways to Make Sure You Are Running Your Easy Runs Easy
Run by pace
It’s common to hear that you should run your easy runs 1-2 minutes slower than your race pace. While this is a great guideline, I think it’s a little broad and we need a little more guidance for those easy runs. If you are training for a half marathon, your easy pace should be on the slower end of that range, especially when you are in the harder weeks of training. During marathon training, you may be able to get away with paces on the faster end of that range, at least in the beginning.
The problem with doing these easy runs by pace is that there are many factors that can affect whether or not a pace is actually easy that day. Let’s look at an example.
Example 1: You are in week 2 of starting to train for a marathon. Your goal marathon pace is a 9:00 minute mile. You have an easy run on the plan to start off your week, following a rest day. The weather is a cool, comfortable 50 degrees, and you’re running a flat route. You end up running your easy run at a 10:10 pace.
Example 2: It’s your peak week of half-marathon training. Your goal half-marathon pace is a 9:00 minute mile. It’s the day following a hard tempo run and your legs are feeling dead. It also happens to be very hot and humid, and your have a couple of tough hills on your course. You run your easy run at an 11:15 pace.
It’s pretty obvious that example 1 is going to be a faster easier pace than example 2. However, in most cases you probably have a few things working in your favor and a few things working against you. So it’s tough for a runner (or even their coach) to tell them an exact pace to run. Some of these factors can help in planning, but there will always be the unknown of just how you will feel on that day.
I do think giving a range of pace for easy runs can be helpful in some situations. Some runners really struggle with slowing down and they might need to be told a range in order to get them to do so. Also, some runners have never run a truly easy pace and don’t know how it should feel, or it may feel awkward at first. If they have some guidance they can know what to be aiming for. I just don’t like to get too caught up in these numbers.
Run by Heart Rate
While a heart rate monitor can provide us with specific information about how easy (or hard) we are running, there are a few downsides to this that make me shy away from it. First of all, heart rate monitors are not always accurate. Especially wrist-based ones that many runners use now. I find that mine often has a bit of a delay so if I look at my heart rate it may be showing what my HR was 30-60 seconds ago, not right now.
Running based on heart rate can also cause a runner to feel like they need to be a slave to their running watch. You don’t want to be staring at your watch the whole time during an easy run. Your heart rate will fluctuate throughout the run and that’s normal. I find that it’s more helpful to review heart rate data after a run, to see if the pace/effort you used was actually in an easy range based on your heart rate.
In order to use heart rate for gauging your easy runs, you will either need to have a watch with a HRM strap or a watch with a wrist-based HRM. The straps seem to be more accurate but I always found mine to be uncomfortable. For an easy run your heart rate should be about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. The watches usually start to monitor your heart rate and can give you your HR zones after you use it a few times. This is an example of the data I can see when I look back on a run.
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Run by Feel
This is my favorite way to monitor effort on an easy run! I think there are so many benefits to being able to tune into your own effort without fancy electronic devices. That’s not to say you can’t bring a GPS watch with you on an easy run. You might might want to try putting it under your sleeve so you don’t stare at it the whole time.
So how do we run by feel? It takes some getting used to as you learn the different levels of effort that you are capable of. When I start out any run, I like to really tune into my breathing. I want to make sure I am breathing comfortably and if I’m not then I slow down. I try to keep my mouth closed and breathe in and out through my nose, at least in the beginning of a run.
As the run gets harder (after you have been running for a few minutes, or run up a hill, or run into the wind…) you may need to breathe through your mouth. Try to slow yourself down and catch your breath, and go back to nose breathing. You can also try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Use your easy run to focus on your form. Make sure you body is relaxed and that your shoulders are down. Keep yourself upright with a slight learn, making sure your chest is open so you can breathe well. If you realize your form is breaking down or you are more out of breath than you should be, take a minute to stop and walk. Reset and start running again when you are ready.
Using this method you may want to consider running for time rather than distance. So instead of planning to do a 3 mile run, plan to run for 30 minutes. This way you’re not tempted to speed up to get the run over with because either way you will be running for 30 minutes!
Many runners get so caught up in numbers with their running. I am guilty of this too! Try not to compare yourself to others on social media. Often times the runs that people are posting are their faster paces, not their slower ones. Also, remember that running is supposed to be enjoyable. Focus on how you feel rather than the numbers, ESPECIALLY for these easy runs. Chances are you will find them more relaxing and you will feel even better for your next tough workout.
When in doubt, go slower than you think you need to for easy runs. It may feel weird at first but your body will adjust and it will pay off during those harder workouts and on race day!
How do you monitor your effort on an easy run?
Do you wear a heart rate monitor when you run?
Have you ever paid attention to your breathing while running?
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Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy, and Faux Runner to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.
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Make sure to visit a few other running blogs! It’s more fun that way and hopefully you will find some new blogs you love!