A healthy diet contains a variety of different types of foods to help our bodies receive the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly.
As much as we may enjoy one or two specific foods, we know (at least I HOPE we know!) that a diverse diet is a necessity for optimal health.
The same applies to our running “diet.” As runners, we need to incorporate different types of workouts into our training schedule in order to help us minimize our risk of injury while maximizing our progress toward our goals.
There is one type of workout that many of my running friends tend to undervalue in their training, and that is the easy run.
The Benefits of Running Easy
There are many benefits of running at an easy pace, no matter what your running goals might be.
If you think running easy is of little value, here are just a few of the changes you can see by slowing down during some of your workouts.
- Reduced Risk of Injury: Running at a high intensity is hard on the body, and if you do it too frequently, you definitely increase your risk of sustaining an injury that may force you to miss several weeks (or months) of training as you heal. Easy days allow you to get time on your feet and miles under your belt with much less stress and strain on your body.
- Higher Quality Hard Workouts: In order to get the most benefit out of your hard workouts (repeats/hills/tempo runs/etc.), you need to be able to run them HARD! If you’re not keeping your easy runs easy, you are likely to already be fatigued going into your hard workouts which will minimize the effectiveness of those workouts. Running easy allows you to be able to really hammer your hard workouts and get the most out of them.
- Increased Endurance: Most runners don’t need to run faster in order to race faster. What they need to do is be able to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Running at an easy pace for long periods of time will build that endurance so that on race day you will be better suited to hold your goal pace from start to finish.
- Improved Muscle Memory: The more we run, the better we get at it. That’s because our bodies become more adept at putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. Improving our muscle memory allows us to become more efficient runners over time.
Long story short, as counterintuitive as it may seem, slowing down during the majority of your training runs will absolutely help you become a better runner!
Patience is a Virtue, However
That said, it does take some time to see the improvements associated with running easy, so you need to be patient and trust that what you’re doing will pay off.
You won’t notice much of a change after a few weeks.
You may not notice much change in a few months even.
It’s taken me almost a full year of slowing down to see the benefits to my endurance and my top speed, but there is no question that it is working for me.
If you’d like more information and some of the science that backs up the notion that slowing down will make you faster, check out the book 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald.