Those of us working a specific training plan eventually face the challenge. Its the "easy / recovery run" day...the day when you are supposed to run slow. But what exactly does that mean?
The fact is that most runners consistently train too fast. We have a hard time slowing down for a variety of reasons. For me, I naturally gravitate towards my "normal" non-competitive pace and have thought for a long time that I was doing my easy run right. I was wrong.
Running easy actually means doing a pace that is 1.5 to 2 full minutes slower than your race pace, i.e., SUPER slow. It's annoying - and a lot harder than it sounds. I tried the method suggested by one Runner's World article; running three steps while breathing in and running three steps while breathing out. Somehow this doesn't work for me. Instead, I have to keep my eye focused on my Garmin pace meter and actually say to myself (out loud) "slow down." It feels like crawling.
Nonetheless, learning to run slow is essential to your training. Why? Because slow running is an important part of your body's recovery process. In fact, 70% of your weekly miles should be done at this slow pace. And don't think you can escape because you run your long run slowly. Long runs lasting 1.5 to 2.5 times longer than your average weekly run count as hard runs regardless of the pace at which you run them.
No, there's no escape - you have to do some true recovery runs just plodding along, Here is a good calculator for determining your easy pace. Plug in your last race finishing time, click the Training Paces tab and prepare to be surprised. Yeah, that's slow.
We all know this simple fact that the more you run, the better you run. The trick is to run more without injury. Running slow is an integral part of running more healthy miles. It trains your body to deliver protein to dmaged tissue, improves blood flow to the muscles, and replenishes depleted carbohydrate stores. Easy runs help build yur fitness base and teaches your body to handle increasing mileage. But you have to do it S-L-O-W. Am I repeating myself? Let me repeat the mantra:
Run healthy, run more, run SLOW.
Oh, and one final word - if you are inured, ignore everything I've just said. You need rest to recover, so while you are healing or on your easy days, stay out of the running shoes and cross train for strength and do injury recovery exercises until you are fully healed.