Wait, easy running can actually result in running faster? That is crazy talk, right? RIGHT? Actually, not necessarily. A common misconception of many runners, an done that I am presented with often as a running coach, is that you must go balls to the walls every single time that you go out the door. Or, that you should finish every running feeling done. As a running coach, please…. STOP THE MADNESS. You don’t have to run hard every time that you exit the door in order to see improvement. In fact, so called easy running might help you improve more than ever. Read on to find out how and for an exciting announcement!
What is Easy Running?
Ok, so what do I mean by easy running? What do I mean by hard running?
Easy and Hard running are not defined by pace, but rather by effort. Let us recall the Coach Suz Version of the Borg Rate of Perceived Effort Scale (from last week’s post on Running by Effort, aka Perceived Effort Training):
The Coach Suz Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion:
- 1-2 Little Exertion: Very Easy/Recovery Run
- 3-4 Light Exertion: Conversational Pace–you could go for years
- 5-6 Moderate Exertion: This is true work.
- 7 Moderate-Hard Exertion: Challenging, but sustainable for an amount of time
- 8-9 Hard Exertion: You are working HARD, think hard intervals
- 10 Max Exertion: You have nothing left to give
According to my scale of perceived exertion, I would qualify any run that rates as 1-4 as an easy run, 5-7 as moderate, and 7-10 as hard. There are gradients in between, and those are useful in helping me to prescribe the scope of the week’s workouts, the paces and efforts for those workouts, and the order of the workouts.
Qualities of an Easy Run
How does one qualify an easy run? What does it feel like? An easy run should be relatively physically effortless. I say relatively because you are obviously doing work, and you will inevitably get tired after time, but you should be running or working at a pace and intensity that you could maintain without wavering for several hours, if necessary (and you were trained up for that sort of endurance). Conversational Pace is just that: the pace at which you can carry on a conversation with someone without having to pause for breath every few words.
When you get to Moderate Pace, you. will have to take a breath. a bit more frequently. than at conversational pace. The harder you run and the further along the scale you get, the more you need to focus on your breathing, and the less you will be able to speak. Obviously, during “hard” running, speaking will be a minimum.
Something else that you should notice from my definition of easy running: that it is physically effortless. I include that because, as we know from the discussions of running by effort and running by feel, running and working out can be impacted a great deal by emotion. There will be times, particularly during long runs, when you are just mentally over it–likely because you are bored! Easy running may be mentally taxing, and you may be over the run by the time that you are finish, but physically, you should feel capable of continuing.
What are the Benefits of Easy Running?
Succinctly, easy running allows for you to run more. But why? Our bodies are tested during work but develop strength and improve during recovery. Easy running (in its various forms) incorporates this work/recovery cycle in such a way that you are allowing for that process to occur in one area while still accomplishing work and improvement in others. Easy running:
- allows for quicker mental and physical recovery between sessions. You can’t work 100% 100% of the time, mentally or physically. That is the quickest way to burnout.
- allows for more effective work sessions by allowing the body to recover properly between the workouts.
- allows you to run more cumulative miles during the week. It has been proven that, up to a point, the more miles you can log a week, the better your performance. Yes, even for sprinters. There is a sweet spot for everyone, though, where performance improvement does plateau and even declines. This is individual and changes during the course of your life.
- is gentler on your body. One of the main reasons (cough) that runners and athletes have to pull out of training is that they get injured. I ran gently throughout the course of my training, finished like a charm, and ran a hard marathon where I overloaded my sacrum and developed a stress fracture. But I was able to run fast when it was called for. And I was logging as many miles as ever during the training.
But, If I am Doing All of These Runs at an Easy Pace, How Will I Be Able to Maintain Faster Paces During a Race?
It seems counter intuitive to run your long runs at an easier pace rather than at the pace that you are going to be racing at, right? How else could you possible be able to get faster if you aren’t running faster?!!!
Simple: If you run every long run at your goal race pace…. aren’t you essentially racing every single weekend? Um, that is a recipe for disaster if I’ve ever heard one. Think about it: you are pushing your body to its max every 7 days, rather than every 7 weeks, or every 7 months. We are able to run hard on a smaller scale (in workouts) because the volume of those efforts is not so taxing as to wipe us out for the entire week (if prescribed correctly, and keep in mind the need to have sufficient miles so that the majority of your miles are not “hard”).
Remember, you get one aerobic peak per year. Are you going to waste it on a training run? Thought not.
Speed is about leg turnover and strength, to put it simply. Racing is about marrying speed and endurance. So you work on your speed (and your mental strength) during your hard workouts, and you buffer those workouts with sessions that boost your endurance aka easy running sessions. If you have enough of a base and your body is ready for it, you can start to implement particular workouts that both speed and endurance into a single outing without overdoing it. But if you are a newer runner without much of a base, I would caution against this.
In a race, your body should be able to display increased running economy by its ability to maintain (endurance) the speed that you have honed during the distance specific workouts you have accomplished during the course of training. And, furthermore, you shouldn’t be sprinting the entire time, but rather working, which is challenging, but maintainable, correct? Check the Suz scale!
In Conclusion: Learn to Run Easy so that Your Hard Running Can Do Its Job
And that is how easy running can help you run faster.Learn to run easy so that your hard running can do its job! #runchat #running #fitfluential Click To Tweet
Big Announcement Time!
Running Coaches’ Corner Debuts Tomorrow!
Do you incorporate easy running into your training?
What are some other questions that you have about easy running?