One of the biggest mistakes runners make in training is running their easy runs and recovery runs too fast. You think to yourself–“I’m feeling good, I’m just going to pick up the pace and go with it.” Your easy runs are on the schedule to give your body time to recover from your harder workouts (speed work, tempo runs, intervals, and long runs).
Every time that you do a harder workout like speed work, your muscles are broken down. You are sore the next day due to these small muscle tears. If you continue to do hard workout after hard workout without any easy runs, your body never has time to recover. Easy runs are great for refueling muscles and carrying away waste products that have built up during and after your workouts. They are also great for building your aerobic base.
I think part of the issue is that we are afraid to run at a much slower pace. Maybe you fear that others will wonder why you are running so slow (when you have great race times) or maybe you just feel like running slower is boring. Believe me, I have been there!
You can always check the McMillan Running Calculator if you need some help figuring out the window for easy runs and recovery runs or you can use the “talk test.” If you can have a conversation easily, you are running an easy pace. When looking at your weekly mileage, about 70% of your volume should consist of “easy” runs. While many of us might not have that high of a percentage of “easy” runs, it’s worth it to take a look at your schedule to see if you are including enough easy miles in your training week.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to speed up during an easy run, think of the big picture and remember that the easy run is actually a very important part of your training!