Sunset on Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Easy Days Easy

Easy Days Easy. Hard Days Hard. To follow that principle is a struggle for many type-A runners. It’s hard to run slow on easy days!

Run Easy on Recovery Days

I visualized my easy run as I was pulling into the parking lot of Waveny Park, exited my car, and warmed up with the lunge matrix and leg swings. Last week, I completed my first 15-mile week since my injuries, and I was starting a 12-mile recovery week. I promised this time would be different. I had learned from my injury timeout and reflection, and I would follow several well-accepted principles among distance runners. Today I would run easy, because it was an easy day, and an easy week.

Guiding Principles

Three principles would guide my second training block:

  1. 10% Rule: Gradually increase my weekly mileage (and the intensity of my workouts), and follow the rule of 10% weekly increases. When necessary (every few weeks), I would plan a recovery week with slightly lower mileage.
  2. Easy days easy: Run easy on my recovery days to enable my body and mind to adapt to the stress from hard days, and to reduce the risk of common overuse injuries.
  3. Listen to sensory data: Learn to run by feel, and listen to sensory data. Slow down or stop if sensory data indicates there may be a problem.

Ego Gets in the Way

Easier said than done. Ego takes over. And no matter how many times we run too fast on recovery days, and afterwards feel banged up, we revert back to bad behavior. We break one of the most important guiding principles. To run easy on easy days. Both the body and mind have to adapt to the stress from hard workouts. And to be ready for the next hard day.

Unintentional Progression Run on Easy Day

Oops I did it again. I visualized that I would run 3 miles in Waveny Park in the mid 8-minute mile range. I clicked off the first mile in 8:10. A little faster than planned. Then something happened. I felt good, and while I was aware that I was running faster during the second mile, I didn’t let the principle remind me to slow down. I crested a hill in the woods at the 2-mile mark, looked at my Garmin, and realized I dropped my pace to 7:24. Instead of backing off, and “jogging” the third mile (what serious runner does that?!), I lowered the hammer and cruised up another grassy hill in 7:16 for my final mile. Instead of an easy 3 miles around 25:30, I ran a progression run in 22:50.

Risk of Overuse Injuries

Stupid. At home I felt a slight twinge in my right metatarsals, where I had my stress reaction in November 2018. I’ve had two prior stress reactions in my metatarsals, and both healed quickly and completely. This one was frustrating in that the healing process was much longer. And my ego struggled with that frustration, and wanted me to get going. The twinge in my foot was a painful reminder that I broke a principle, and if I continued to run hard on easy days, I would re-injure my foot and be forced to take another injury timeout. I followed principle #3 above, listened to my sensory data, and didn’t run the next day. I kept the remainder of the recovery week easy.

Consistent Training is Key to Achieving Goals

Every runner should know that consistent training will lead to continuous improvement, and continuous improvement should enable runners to achieve their goals. For me, as important as running goals, are my goals I set at the beginning of this journey through separation, divorce, healing, and rediscovery. Running – and everything that running encompasses – was healing. I wanted to run through the emotional pain and come out stronger on the other side. What if I re-injured myself, and would not be able to run? What would that mean for my healing process? Exactly! Control the ego. Follow the principles. Stay healthy! And have fun!

Thank you for reading!

6 comments

  1. I think every runner would rather push themselves than run easy. When I was in my first half marathon training cycle, I tried to push myself in every training run. I ended up skipping workouts because increasing the mileage and trying to push myself all the time lead to me feeling completely exhausted halfway through the week. I recently finished Matt Fitzgerald’s book, 80/20 Running, and it makes a strong case for keeping your easy days really easy! I talk a little more about this philosophy in my week 1 post for this training cycle: https://runningmybestlife.com/half-marathon-training-diaries-week-1/ I have an easy pace threshold that I don’t let myself run faster than–and my app gives me pace updates every 0.50 miles, so it’s hard to go over that. I feel SO much better now and I’ve been able to complete more workouts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Running My Best Life! Thanks for sharing your own experience with easy runs. Read your post and commented there. I use visualization to make a movie in my mind both of my goals, and my planned workouts. I’m a little data nerd like you, so I use old school spreadsheets, an online simple running log (logarun.com), and Garmin Connect to track and analyze my training. More and more I combine hard data with how I feel, and I listen to my body for sensory data, and adjust accordingly. Good luck in your spring half-marathons! I’ll be following along.

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  2. Hi Richard, agree that consistency applies not only to running, but to other things we want to accomplish in life. Unfortunately there are things that get in the way of consistency, whether it’s other priorities and distractions, or one’s ego, and we have to step back and think about how to adjust and adapt continuously to work around so we achieve our goals and purpose. Thanks!

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