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The magic of the easy run: Why they are crucial for stronger and happier running

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Easy runs are the foundation of a successful and sustainable training routine.

They are often overlooked though as a form of training – after all they are not as exciting as speed training workouts and are less “brag-worthy” than long runs.

In this guide we’ll explain why easy runs can have a profound impact on your training, fitness and mental resilience as a runner.

We’ll also explain how they can be the secret weapon in your training arsenal!

We’ll look at:

  • What is an easy run?
  • What are the benefits of an easy run?
  • Why easy runs matter for female runners
  • Easy run Q&A
  • How to incorporate easy runs into your training routine

Ready?

Let’s go!

easy run

What is an easy run?

An easy run (also known as a “recovery run” or “base run”) is a low intensity run that forms the backbone of a well-rounded training regimen.

Whether you are a beginner or more experienced runner, easy runs should make up the largest portion of every runner’s training plan.

Unlike high-intensity workouts or long distance runs, easy runs focus on maintaining a conversational pace in which you can comfortably hold a conversation without getting out of breath.

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easy run

What are the benefits of easy runs?

There are many benefits of easy runs.

#1 Facilitate active recovery

Easy runs facilitate ‘active recovery’ – typically done on the day after a high intensity session like a long run or speed workout.

The main aims of active recovery are to increase blood circulation and promote the removal of metabolic waste products from previous, more intense workouts.

These are important because they aid muscle repair and reduce the risk of injury.

#2 Help to build endurance

Easy runs help to build your endurance by enhancing the body’s ability to efficiently transport oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.

One study even concluded that easy runs are crucial for improving performance in world-class athletes.

If you’re training for a long distance event like a half marathon, then you’ll know that improved endurance is crucial for tackling longer distances and elevating overall running performance.

#3 Provide a mental break

Easy runs provide a mental break from more challenging training sessions like speed workouts and long distance runs which can be gruelling.

The relaxed pace also allows you to enjoy your surroundings, clear your mind and experience the meditative benefits of running.

#4 Encourage consistency

Incorporating easy runs into your weekly routine helps establish a consistent running routine.

Your routine will be a fine balance between easy runs, long runs, high-intensity workouts and rest days.

Easy runs help to promote long-term running development while minimising the risk of burnout and overtraining.

#5 Help to reduce fatigue

By running at a comfortable pace, the body experiences less stress, reducing the overall fatigue accumulated from more demanding workouts.

This enables you to maintain a consistent training schedule without compromising recovery.

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easy run

Why easy runs matter for female runners

Arguably, female runners, compared with male runners, have to contend with a lot more on a monthly basis when it comes to running.

This is especially true when it comes to our bodies!

Your menstrual cycle and hormones play pivotal roles in how you feel and perform each month, including your energy levels.

If your menstrual cycle or hormone levels are out of sync, they can have a profound impact.

Overly intense workouts, especially during the luteal phase, can contribute to increased cortisol levels, potentially disrupting the delicate hormonal equilibrium.

Understanding your cycle is key to optimising your training, and easy runs can play a huge part in this.

The steady, low intensity nature of easy runs can help to:

  • Alleviate any discomfort associated with menstrual cramps
  • Promote blood flow
  • Aid relaxation
  • Reduce stress on the body
  • Ensure a sustainable running routine during your cycle
  • Promote a positive and enjoyable running experience
  • Manage fatigue during the luteal phase of your cycle
  • Maintain hormonal balance

Related: Running and your period: Unlock the power of your menstrual cycle

Easy run Q&A

Q: Should I warm up before an easy run?

A: The recommendation is to warm up before an easy run. A warm up will make the first mile of your run a much more enjoyable experience.

Aim to do some light jogging combined with some dynamic stretches. You may also want to include some running drills.

Q: Can I do easy runs every day?

A: Technically, you can run every day, but my advice to any runner is to include rest days in their training routine each week.

Unless you’re an advanced or elite athlete, then stick to 2 to 3 easy runs each week.

Related: What is the best Couch to 5k plan? All your C25K questions answered

easy run

How to incorporate easy runs into your routine

If you’re ready to include easy runs in your training routine, then here are some practical tips.

#1 Set the right pace

Determining the appropriate pace for an easy run is crucial.

A good rule of thumb is the “talk test.” If you can comfortably hold a conversation while running, you’re likely at an appropriate easy pace.

An easy run should be 3 to 4 minutes per mile slower than your 5k race pace.

You can also use a heart rate monitor to stay within a designated heart rate zone, usually 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

Be mindful that your pace will change depending on how you feel on the day – so it’s not an exact science.

#2 Set the right frequency and duration

Incorporate easy runs into your weekly schedule, ideally 2 to 3 times per week.

They should be the foundation of your training plan if training for an event like a half marathon or marathon – making up 80% of your runs.

The duration will vary based on your overall training plan and fitness level, but a typical easy run may last between 20 to 45 minutes, depending on your running experience and goals.

#3 Listen to your body

The essence of easy runs lies in tuning in to your body’s signals.

If you’re feeling fatigued or notice any signs of overtraining, consider adjusting the intensity or opting for a rest day.

Remember, the goal is to enjoy the run while promoting recovery!

Related: How to practice mindful running: 6 top tips

Caroline Geoghegan
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