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Running Easy to Go Faster

Putting ego aside and running within yourself is so powerful for progress. Running easy can pay dividends every time.

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By Kimberly Clark

What’s the quickest way to take your running to the next level? Slow down those easy runs.

It’s so simple, yet seemingly so hard for so many of us. I don’t know if it’s lack of understanding of what is truly easy running, or pace embarrassment, or what— but too many of us are running too hard on our easy runs and accidentally sabotaging our running potential.

Easy running allows us to build aerobic fitness and to recover from our workload so that by the time that next workout comes along, we are ready to crush it.

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What is Easy Running?

It’s whatever actually feels completely easy to you. No, you don’t need a formula or to run a certain pace. It’s freeing because you don’t have to worry about any metrics, you just get to tune in and listen to your body! So simple, right. But really running IS that simple.

But the problem with this for a lot of people, is that for too long we have tricked ourselves into thinking that medium-hard running is our easy running and we no longer have a good feel for what is easy.

So when that is the case, something very helpful is to audit your easy running with heart rate. 

Here’s the formula:

220 minus your age = your max heart rate

And your easy running should be at 60-75% of your max heart rate. So for me, since I am 38, so my max heart rate is 182. And my easy run heart rate should be at around 137 (75% of max heart rate). 

You don’t need to be glued to your watch, but I think anyone who is guilty of running their easy runs too hard and basically doing all of their runs in the grey zone (medium-hard effort), would find it helpful to have heart rate accountability during their runs.

What happens when you start easy running?

This allows us to build our aerobic base and to recovery quicker from workouts. After a hard workout, instead of taxing ourselves with another “hard to our body” effort, we want to just take that next run to let the blood flowing and to build aerobic fitness in our easy zone.

How Slow is Too Slow?

There’s no such thing as too slow on easy runs. I promise. I did all of my runs at 10-12 minute pace when I ran a 1:27 half and 3:11 marathon. I don’t care what my easy pace is. I care about the results I am able to achieve when I truly run easy for me. 

How do you know if you need to be taking your runs easier?

  • If you feel like your running has stalled
  • If you are having trouble sleeping
  • If you feel worse after easy runs
  • If you can’t seem to find that speed on workout days or races
  • If your heart rate is constantly elevated

I’ve been in my comeback postpartum journey this summer and the best thing I did was completely release myself of paces and worrying about what the metrics look like and truly run easy efforts as I’ve been rebuilding. This has been really helpful because it’s made the journey more enjoyable. I haven’t felt pressure on the run— instead it’s been the stress reliever I’ve really needed. And running easy is truly the foundation for our running. That’s why it is so important to really build our running the right way with easy running.

I know that as I patiently build back, I’ll start seeing progress and results. It’s not been easy. I started postpartum running 8 months after having my baby which coincided with summer running which I did with a stroller on dirt. Because of all of those factors, I really had to go off of effort and my heart rate so that I ran what truly felt easy to my body. 

If I had pushed the pace so that I was seeing quicker paces, I would be overloading my body at the beginning of my comeback thereby stalling progress.

Working with your body helps you see your progress the quickest. And running easy to build aerobic fitness and allow for recovery is truly the easiest way to work with your body to see that big progress!

If the only thing you changed this season is actually running easy, I think you would still see a huge result from it. It really is that important. 

Putting ego aside and running within yourself is so powerful for progress.

The only way to know if easy running can work for you is if you give it a try! So I challenge you to really go out there and take those easy runs truly easy this Fall. If you’re not sure if they are actually easy, audit them by your heart rate, and check in with yourself to see how you feel after a run. The easier you take those easy runs, the more you have to give on workout days. It’s the absolute best tradeoff you can make.

It’s what has made the biggest difference in my running & I know it will do the same for yours too!

Also- don’t worry- no one cares about your pace like you think they do. And if that’s something you really care about, get off the apps, don’t worry about posting your paces, and consider running without a watch so you’re truly tuning in to you and what your body needs that day.

Let’s work on being smarter runners this Fall so we can realize our huge potential!