Keeping the “Easy” in Easy Runs

Lately, my schedule has been all “easy” runs. I even type that out in my training plans. “3 miles easy” is the most common phrase in my training lexicon. But after my slow, boozy run last Thursday, I realized that my so-called “easy” runs aren’t usually easy at all. I’m almost always pushing the pace, and end up at or near my 5k race pace, rather than just taking it easy and enjoying the run.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, necessarily. It’s fun to push the pace and see what I’m capable of, and it’s nice to notice an improvement in my times. But actual easy runs are important too. They make me feel good. They’re why I enjoy running. Instead of worrying about how fast I’m going and trying to regulate breathing, I can just enjoy the scenery and be grateful that my body is able to carry me along.

I know a lot of serious athletes would consider easy runs to be “junk miles;” a waste of time and training. But my mileage is still so low and my training so inconsistent, that every run I do is important. Every time I finish a run, it’s an accomplishment.

Since my epiphany, I’ve been trying to put this feeling into practice. At my run club meeting on Saturday, I ended up running about 30-45 seconds slower per mile than I usually do for a 5k training run, and it felt SO GOOD. Usually, by the end of these so-called “easy runs,” I’m breathing hard, and feeling kind of pukey. But on Saturday, I felt good enough to run another 3 miles by myself, at a slightly faster, but still actually easy pace. And again, when I went out for 3 miles on Sunday, I took it actually easy, running 20-30 seconds slower per mile, and felt great. At the end of each run, rather than wanting to collapse, I felt like I could potentially keep going, like I wanted to keep going.

My main goal for this summer was just to bulk up my base by doing lots of shorter runs. By allowing myself these easy runs, I’m confident that I’ll actually get to where I want to be, healthy and happy and still enjoying my running, instead of being burnt out. For instance, we’re not quite halfway through July, but I’m already halfway to my monthly mileage goal of 50 miles. For the first time all year, I’m 100% sure that I’ll meet that goal, and that feels amazing.

All of this isn’t to say that my shorter runs will all be slower. I do really like pushing it once in a while to see what I can do. And I also need to get back to intervals and hill training sooner rather than later. But if even one of my runs each week can just be easy, breezy and comfy, I know I’ll be more likely to stay interested in running and training through the summer and fall, and dare I even say, the winter?

Do you honor the “easy” runs, or do you push it all the time?

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19 thoughts on “Keeping the “Easy” in Easy Runs

  1. allisonfiorini says:

    Easy means easy! Right now, my goal marathon pace is 6:50-7:00/miles. My easy range is 8:20-9:01 and I usually try to be closer to that 9 minute mark. I disagree with runners who say easy miles are junk miles. They develop your endurance, build your base, and give you a way to train safely on tired legs. I firmly believe that slowing down your training makes your run your races faster. Keep it up!

  2. dgobs says:

    It’s so hard to keep the easy stuff easy, isn’t it?? I’m way too competitive with myself. My fastest mile happened when I was trying to do an easy mile to test out my ribs after I hurt them… oops. You’re right though – the easy ones are necessary! I’m going to push myself to stay easy, instead of letting me push myself, or something like that 😉

  3. txa1265 says:

    What I would call the ‘humblebrag easy’ is one of my pet peeves that I would write about on my blog. These are the folks who are pretty fast anyway, but seem to constantly need to compete … even when they are supposed to be ‘running easy’. So they claim it is ‘easy’, yet are running > 5 miles at close to 5k pace and calling it ‘easy’. Um yeah. Then they don’t take rest days or eat properly and when they wind up injured … they wonder why. They also tend to skip larger local races and run smaller ones to get an award.

    Easy miles are NOT the same as ‘junk miles’. I guess I would call ‘junk miles’ those that put wear and tear on the body without increasing fitness or otherwise working towards a goal. Personally I love my junk miles. 🙂

  4. SuzLyfe says:

    I second Mike–easy does not mean junk. Particularly depending on how you structure your training. It has been shown that you don’t have to do that many speed-focused workouts in the overall scheme of things. Also, I think that it is important to say that easy runs can be runs at an easier pace but done on dead ass tired legs. Those are still part of training!

  5. hellyontherun says:

    Yes!!! Easy is so important and I see SOOO many runners go all out each and every run and then wonder why/how they get injured. Easy in moderation, fast in moderation.

  6. Fallon @ Slacker Runner says:

    I need to work on running easy. For my goal HMP, easy would mean between 10:30-11:00 which thanks to the heat I’ve been hitting but not by running easy. I’ve been running too fast and taking walk breaks. Grrr, that’s now how it works. I just have a hard time keeping the pace easy. I really need to figure it out.

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