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Running Easy Can Be Hard

A few years ago I bought a heart rate monitor at our local running store.  Steve, the owner, took me aside to explain about HRMs. Nope, he didn’t show me how to operate it; instead he told me when to use it.  He explained how the most important time to use the HRM is on easy runs as most runners tend to run way too fast when they should recovery days.

Posts by Laurie have a lot of enthusiasm for training.  She wrote, “The way I see it, the two most important runs on a plan are the long run and the medium long run. All of the others are take it or leave it.”  She’s right, and the most dangerous and overlooked run is the easy run, where highly-motivated runners can get lost in their ambition and overtrain.

Run_easy_sign The importance of running slow seems to be misunderstood by many runners, particularly serious competitive racers.  We can get lost in the land of training hard and often miss the rich benefits of running easy.  Instead of running easy, we often pile on too much running at a faster pace than we need to, missing the enjoyment and training benefits of running easy

The World’s Best Running Coach, Dr. Jack Daniels, says running easy gets shortchanged, yet it has the highest importance in even the most competitive runners' training plan.  He refers to running easy as “free from trouble or pain” with substantial benefits and says it’s how runners should spend at least 85 – 90% of our running time.  And he’s even given this training intensity a technical name—Easy Runs!

Run_easy_sidewalk Still, it seems running easy is hard for many runners. We tend to downplay the importance of our easy, short, and slow runs and the benefits they gain.  Instead, we see the gritty fast runs and the long runs as the key to getting better.  Running easy is the bread and butter of our most intense training.  Running easy helps keep us out of the land of overtraining, muscle pulls, and stress fractures.  Just ask Rich, who today posted about being on the ice and ibuprofen routine.

I’ve learned a lot from Steve’s dead-on advice, and I use the HRM regularly on my shorter easy runs to keep my pace and intensity lower than I would otherwise run.  It reminds me to slow down and reap the full benefits of easy running.

One of my goals for this year is to enjoy my running more , but it’s a shame I sometimes need to strap on a device to keep my running easy.  You’d think I’d figure that out with less technology.

Run Easy sign on Flickr by Running Engelhardt

Sidewalk sign on Flickr by Spotmaticfanatic

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Comments

Dan Walters

Tom,

I really enjoyed this post. It really is hard to hold back on the easy run days. On top of having the HR monitor, I find that I also need to actually LISTEN to what it's telling me! Keep running and keep enjoying it!

Alex

I would add that it's really important to find out your own personal ranges as far as what's easy vs hard. We are all different. When I am doing a group run or workout, I get asked a lot what my heart rate is, and while I do record them all for my own use, it's generally not a good idea to try to hit someone else's numbers. In my case, I wore the HRM for months keeping notes of what I was doing and how I felt before I really knew how to interpret what it was telling me.

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This is the one we did, isn't it??? It's one of my all time favorite runs.

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I love running in the hot weather as long as I'm hydrated properly and have Sharkies with me. I may have to slow down my pace a little if it is a really long run, other than that keep your fluids up and wear a hat!

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