Mastering the easy run isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s easy to get caught up in the pace, the nice weather or how great your legs are feeling on that particular day. A reason runners don’t run hard on every run is that it increases the body’s chance of getting an injury. Pushing your body to its threshold does not allow the muscles to recover, which will ultimately hinder your performance. There are a few approaches out there that you can use to make sure your easy days don’t become hard.
The most useful non-scientific approach is to ignore all of it and go at a pace where you can easily talk/hold a conversation. This doesn’t mean you should be able to recite a short story, but you should be able to chat with your running partner without gasping for air. If you can do this, you’re not overextending yourself aerobically. If you can’t say more than a few words without losing your breath, you’re running too hard to call it an easy run.
There is a more scientific approach: you can use a heart rate monitor. The idea here is to keep your heart rate in aerobic zones to enhance your recovery from high-intensity exercise through increased aerobic response, which helps remove built-up lactic acid from the muscles. Going by your heart rate on recovery runs is the easiest way to make sure you’re keeping the effort controlled.
We aren’t asking for you to look at your heart rate for every second of your run, but start at an easy conversational pace and see where your heart rate is at every kilometre or so, to ensure you are staying within the aerobic HR zones.
If you are unsure of your aerobic heart rate zones (which can vary on age and health condition), subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old will generally have a max heart rate of around 190 beats per minute (bpm). Your aerobic HR zone is 65 to 80 percent of your max heart rate. Therefore the aerobic heart rate zone of a 30-year-old is between 120 and 150bpm.
Another thing to consider when going for a recovery run is footwear. You want to wear the most comfortable pair of running shoes that you own. There’s no need to go fast when you’re running easy, therefore wear something that feels amazing on your feet. Having shoes that can get you from point A to point B without pain or discomfort helps the miles go by in a leisurely way.
Some other tips to keep your easy run easy are to avoid hilly routes and to put on a playlist or podcast to help you zen out.