Running is very hard work. Because of this, runners can begin to adopt the logic that running should feel like a grind all of the time. Some begin to think that if a run isn’t at a certain pace or a certain length it doesn’t count towards their training. This is flawed logic that is commonly perpetuated by sayings like “train hard” or “don’t be a baby,” or “hard work outlasts talent.”
Many runners are in the thick of their spring marathon build, and running is likely feeling a bit difficult right now, but it’s important to remember that training hard, a lot of the time, means taking it easy.
Physiologist Trent Stellingwerff reminds us that not all of your runs should be done fast. There’s a time and place for that, but it isn’t every day. “Athletes have a decision to make on their easier running days. They have three options: go faster or slower or stay the same. Unfortunately, many younger athletes, or athletes that don’t train that much, always choose to make all their running days moderate to pretty hard.”
He explains that on workout days, a runner doesn’t have a choice to go faster, as they’re already trying to run as fast as they can. “The idea is that more athletes would benefit from doing more volume, at slower paces, to save big efforts and energy for the key hard workout days.” He reminds that running too slow or completely avoiding mid-paced running can also be bad, but as a principle, taking easy days easy is a seriously good idea.
Emphasis on recovery and sleep
If you’re training for a marathon, sitting on the couch can technically be referred to as working hard. While it may not be obvious to family and friends at times, after a big session your body requires a big rest, so things like watching Netflix is actually training. It’s also a fun way to excuse yourself from chores or walking the dog.
Emphasis on nutrition
Sitting down to a beautiful steak dinner or luxurious brunch might also not seem like training hard, but in the right context, it absolutely is. Canadian 800m record holder Melissa Bishop spoke with us several weeks ago about what she eats in a day. The runner’s diet has room for everything, including burgers and pasta (and sometimes even chocolate). She says the key is everything in moderation, but it’s crucial to refuel when you’re training hard, and the best ways to fuel are with delicious, whole foods.