Easy Runs

How to get faster and recover from high loading by going slow

A high volume of easy running is the bread and butter of any distance runners training plan. Recovery runs need to be emphasised as much as everything else and athletes are not paying enough attention to this little detail.
Each session should have a specific purpose, including your easy runs. Could you be hitting those quality sessions even better by going 30-60 seconds slower per mile when going easy. The potential gains here are huge, even beyond the obvious that the easier load on the body means you’re more likely to keep consistently training over weeks, months and years with a healthy body.
Too high a percentage of speed work in your training week will only lead to short term gains.
The simple physiological equation employed by most coaches is as follows:

**Training plus recovery equals adaptation**


Easy running provides fundamental adaptations but receive very little respect. They provide a stimulus to improve your aerobic fitness
In any proper training plan, easy pace will make up a large majority of your running and most tend to run too fast on easy days. What’s incredible about this training type are the huge physiological benefits that occur as a function of time spent running, not speed.

In scientific terms, easy runs teach our bodies how to utilise fats better as a fuel source, they increase Mitochondria aerobic enzymes, capillary density and myoglobin, all of which have a positive impact on your running.
Runners should achieve a training effect every day, recovery is a training effect, maybe the most important one.
It is during recovery that adaptations from the hard training take place. If a runner doesn’t recover, the body is not going to adapt, and you’ll either continue digging a hole for yourself or get injured.
The individual need of each athlete for both training and recovery needs to be recognised.
Recovery is not just the absence of activity, it can also mean an enhancement of activity, or a change of activity, such as swimming instead of running.

Slow, easy running helps to flush oxygen-rich blood through the legs and also heals micro-tears and other damage that a workout creates.
Mitochondria, capillaries and blood flow to muscles are increased so they are better able to utilize oxygen.
They allow for recovery from the hard days. Easy days allow your body to rebuild and reset after a hard workout and before the next big workout

Keep your easy days very easy, better to go a bit too slow than too fast.

Recovery is recovery!.

The problem is that we prefer to focus on what we do best–training! Focussing on recovery can be difficult.
Many fail to run easy on their easy days and then they don’t have the energy to run fast on their really important training sessions. They go out there we bring this competitive mindset to it, push a little harder, thinking that if they work harder, then they will produce better results. What does happen though when we push harder? We increase the amount of hormones we produce, also put other stresses on our body but we don’t gain any more benefits. Those things will happen at a slower pace, and so when we are doing that level of conditioning work, we really want to go as slowly as we possibly can and as comfortably as we possibly can so that we can come back tomorrow and the day after and develop consistency without what we call adrenalisation or hormonal influences that cause us to be stressed and them can lead to breakdown not only in the muscle tissue in the form of injury or in joints, tendons and ligaments but also in terms of illness.

Easy pace running refers to warm-ups, cool-downs, recovery runs, recovery running within a workout and generally long runs.
When it comes to recovery, it takes more confidence to run slowly than it does to run fast”.
Generally in the range of 59-74% of VO2max or 65-79% of your maxHr. In general, it is running at a comfortable, conversational pace, which certainly may vary daily, depending on how you are feeling.

Running at your easy pace promotes physiological benefits that build a solid base from which higher-intensity training can be performed. The heart muscle is strengthened, muscles receive increased blood supplies and increase their ability to process oxygen delivered through the cardiovascular system.What happens physiologically when we train is we are looking for adaptations in the muscles themselves as well as adaptations in the lungs to deliver oxygen.
Our ability to store energy and then produce energy increases through training.

Only 15-20% of training should be high intensity quality sessions. All the rest is easy, being able to have a conversation, finishing a run feeling really comfortable.
In this way, we will gain much more fitness from a physiological standpoint and from a emotional standpoint🏃‍♂️😊

Interval Training-Improve Your Performance

Variation and progression are key to success in running and to prevent training plateaus. The body adapts to a training stimulus relatively quickly. Difficulty of sessions must be progressed in some form otherwise there is diminishing marginal returns from the workout.

It is extremely important that the progression of the workout is done in a controlled fashion. Gently increasing the difficulty will prevent injury and reduce the risk of over training.

Interval training teaches athletes to be mentally tough and to believe in their ability to extend themselves in a way they had never done before.

The most logical purpose of interval training is to maximise aerobic power (Vo2 max). The best way to improve any bodily function is to stress that function, Intensity has to be at or close to VO2 max and the work-to-rest ratio has to optimize that purpose. It is wise to always try to gain the maximum benefit out of the least amount of stress rather than trying to achieve maximum benefit from the most amount of stress.

What the athlete does during the recovery intervals is crucial and actually has a profound effect on the training of the metabolic energy pathways.

An active roll on running recovery will enable improved performance over all paces and distances. A longer lasting fitness can be achieved if original interval training is combined with sufficient aerobic endurance development to stabilise the improved cardio-respiratory response.

Alternating paces produce massive improvements in running economy, by optimally using lactate around the body. Lactate is a positive and central player in our metabolism and in how we produce energy. When the intensity in the faster sections is increased, lactate production is increased and when intensity is reduced, the lactate is utilised as the preferred fuel for aerobic ATP production and ‘cleared’

There should be a smooth transition back to faster pace of rep after active roll on recovery. As the athlete’s lactate utilisation and clearance abilities develop, their roll-on recoveries will become more active and faster naturally.

4 main parameters used to progress a workout:

1. No. of intervals

2. Pace of intervals

3. Length of intervals

4. Duration of Recovery (incl speed of recovery-walk, steady run etc)

Warm up is extremely important before this type of warm session. Start with an easy 10-15 minute jog and gradually increase the pace. Dynamic warm up exercises before a workout like this will maintain elastic properties of the muscle while also limbering it up for more intense effort.

warm up

Finally all types of interval training are only beneficial when you have laid a solid aerobic foundation first through easy aerobic running, long runs, tempo/threshold runs, strength and conditioning exercises, drills, strides etc. When the aerobic foundation has been laid, we become more robust, can handle more volume and intensity of training and gain more from the interval training. This aerobic work must also be continued or maintained during the interval training period

For most athletes small doses of interval training are all that is needed to produce a good race performance. Too much can have a negative impact-especially when done too intensely. Intervals are not only for speed and anaerobic development; they can be used for aerobic development. It’s all about balance!

And, of course, add in extra recovery for the new stress. Your training stress and your recovery must be in balance. Training involves breakdown, and recovery must be appropriate to rebuild this breakdown otherwise you’ll be on your way to overtraining. The harder you run, the more aerobic recovery work is needed.

Allowing sufficient recovery will maximize your performance improvement and avoid injury or illness from overtraining. It is important to realize that there is not a bottomless pit for training.

Michelle Greaney (MG Coaching)

Athletics Ireland National Level 2 Endurance Coach