We’re singing the praises of the “easy” run today. They don’t make for a particularly sexy Strava account, but they sure do pay dividends in training. Incorporate “easy” conversational paced runs along with your harder workouts for healthy, productive training. Let’s take a look at what magic is happening as a result of these runs.
First, here’s a brief overview of the physiological adaptations. These runs train your cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems to efficiently process oxygen and waste products. Your heart, like the other muscles in your body, becomes stronger. New oxygen pathways form to more efficiently deliver oxygen to your muscle cells. Also, the mitochondria in your muscle cells grow and increase in number. Mitochondria play a role in energy production in your cells, so beefed up mitochondria mean better energy production for your muscles.
In addition, these runs are vital in maintaining consistency in training. No one can go hard every day – even if at first you may notice some improvements, you would assuredly see diminishing gains followed by regression over time. Having easy days provides your body an active break from the hard efforts, allowing you to run consistently most days per week, week after week. This consistency builds strength and adapts your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to the stress of running. This is helpful in avoiding injury during increasing milage and harder efforts.
Lastly, “easy” runs reinforce the commitment and perseverance needed to get out day after day. They also provide a mental break from hard training days by providing the opportunity to get in milage while simply enjoying running! A chance to head out carefree and excited – without expectations – like recess in elementary school. These are great runs to enjoy conversation with friends or delve deeper into your thoughts. It’s the perfect opportunity to include your loved ones in training too (if you want). Your partner and/or kids can ride their bikes along side you, or maybe join in running! If you prefer to run your miles solo, these runs can be fun and explorative – a chance to check out a new area or route without the pressure of maintaining a certain pace.
In summary, these relaxed runs are not mere “junk miles” – they play an important role in making you a faster, healthier runner; so don’t hesitate to enjoy the hell out of your “easy” runs.
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