Making Sense of Easy Days

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Training

stop running the same pace for every run

By Mike Gauvin

Let’s face it: there are many different philosophies and ways to reach peak performance. Obviously, it’s important not only to set long term goals but in the process of reaching for these goals runners often wonder if their training is preparing them properly for the desired result. Is there a correct answer? Well…yes there is. The answer is long term consistent, uninterrupted training.

To be consistent you have to be healthy. To stay healthy you have to have a well designed plan that balances all aspects of training. When I design a program I attempt to cover all the bases during the build up and race phases. One best method doesn’t exist but if we follow a gradual buildup in stimulus and make sure we touch all of the important systems or paces we are well on our way to reaching our goals.

Distance runners spend most of their time focused on what we all call “easy” runs. Race specific workouts or tempo runs make up a very small percentage of our weekly volume (or at least they should). Because these “easy” days are so important I break them down even further to ensure we are not running the same pace or focusing on the same systems every day of the week.

Easy Run Breakdown

 Low intensity: Focused easy effort. The goal is to run very comfortably for as many miles as you need to reach your weekly target (ex:1:30-2:00+ minutes per mile slower than 5k pace)
 Moderate intensity: Run by feel, allowing yourself flexibility to progressively pick up the pace – never getting too fast (ex: 1:00-1:30 minutes per mile slower than 5k pace)
 Recovery: Very low intensity and of short duration. Used following very hard efforts or intense races (ex: 30-60 minutes of running at >2:00 per mile slower than 5k pace) – sometimes may be substituted with rest or cross training.

Easy runs (or lack of) are often the culprit of injuries, decreased performance, and not reaching your potential as a runner. The reason is that we often tend to go out and run the same moderate pace on our easy or recovery runs, day in and day out.

As you can see from the table below, not all “easy” days are created the same. Sometimes we need to make sure we fully recover from tough sessions in order to improve; other times we can let our legs roll along based on how we feel. All days should not be run at the same pace. The more patient and disciplined you are the more consistent you will become.

A few benefits of low and moderate intensity easy runs:

 Specific muscle fiber adaptation
 Tendon & bone development
 Improved running
 Glycogen storage & fat utilization
 Mitochondrial and capillary growth
 Improved VO2max & general endurance

Mike Gauvin is a certified coach who works with particular wolves from the Western Mass Distance Project. This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

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