Hard workouts and long runs may get the majority of attention in our training plans, but the easy run is when and where the biggest improvements take place.
An easy run, sometimes referred to as a recovery run, is any run done at a very controlled and comfortable pace. It doesn’t need to be any set time or distance but is generally shorter than most other runs. Truly, this type of run is determined by relative effort. It should feel easy and you should imagine being able to sustain it indefinitely.
Easy runs place much less stress on the body than hard efforts and workouts yet still provide all-important mileage to your training and also speed up the recovery process. Easy runs are the most effective way to develop and improve your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular system which are the foundation for building speed and endurance.
Easy runs should be used if you are new to running or building a base level of fitness. They are also important for recovery before and after harder efforts such as workouts and long runs. You may even want to schedule a few days of easy runs after a particularly hard effort or before an important run or race. With the exception of intervals, hills and tempo runs, easy runs should make up the majority of your weekly mileage with most of your total running (at least 75 percent) being easy.
There is really no such thing as running too slow on an easy run, so there is no need to obsess over pace and speed. It can be as slow as your body allows and will often be determined by your level of fatigue and stress. It’s probably a good idea to forgo the GPS unless you’re known to run too fast on easy runs, which is a common mistake made by runners. As a general rule, an easy run should be your current 5K race pace plus 60-90 seconds but again, choosing an effort that you could sustain indefinitely is a better way to choose the pace that’s truly easy for you.