Slow Down and Enjoy Easy Runs

An Ode to Easy Runs

I share a dozens of running workouts on this blog, from tempo runs to fartlek runs to treadmill workouts. But my favorite runs of all are done at a comfortable, conversational pace. 

Don’t get me wrong: I love the sweat-drenched sense of accomplishment from a good tempo run, the endorphin-spiked strong feeling following a speed workout. I relish those workouts when I’m training for a race. 

But when there’s no race looming immediately on the calendar, or even when I’m deep into the peak weeks of training, I love those easy paced runs. I can happily run only a couple races a year, to get my fix on the reward of long distances and PRs, because easy runs make me so happy in the interim. 

You know those runs: where the mind wanders as much as the feet, where you don’t care about your pace because (1) who really cares about their easy run pace? and (2) you’re just enjoying the run so much. 

The run may be 3 miles or it may be 13, but easy runs are the bread and butter of a sound training plan for good reason: in addition to their physiological benefits (you need to run slow in order to run fast), easy runs nourish the mind and soul of the runner. 

Slow Down and Enjoy Easy Runs

Those runs where you feel like you could go for miles, with the open road or trail ahead of you, beckoning you onwards to explore. 

Those runs that remind you why you started running in the first place. Those miles where you release yourself from the self-imposed pressure of goal times and find joy in your miles

I happy clock away numerous easy miles between training cycles, with my heart, mind, and feet content to settle in at a pace a full one to two minutes per mile slower than I ran my most recent half marathon. In a society that glorifies the busy, there’s something that feels so good about slowing down, being present in the moment, and not rushing from one thing to the next. 

On my easy hill run on Monday, I climbed up a hill and caught a view of the Issaquah Alps in the not so far distance, which in the morning light took my breath away for a moment. I then descended down the hill, my pace naturally quickening thanks to the marvels of physics, and saw this words in bold white font a few feet in front of me: “slow down.”

Of course, I live in East Seattle, where I worry about cyclists more than cars hitting me while I run. Cyclists are everywhere in Seattle, and this sidewalk memo was for them as the hill steeply descended and intersected with a crossroad. But these two words reminded me about the joy of the easy run, about all the benefits that come from slowing down. 

You don’t need me to tell you again about the physiological benefits of running at an easy pace; but we all need that reminder, to slow down, take in the scenery, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy the run. 

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday

Easy runs: love them or loathe them? 
What have you seen on your runs recently? 

 

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38 Responses

  1. I love easy runs, but during marathon training I find that while I look forward to them, they feel longer than the other workouts. I think its because my legs are so tired and my mind has nothing else to think about. However, in general I love to just run at a comfortable pace and let my mind wander!

    1. Easy runs definitely feel mentally tougher during marathon training – probably in part because pace drops from the higher to lower end of easy range and it just feels like shuffling for an hour.

  2. how funny that we were randomly talking about this topic briefly yesterday? I had no idea you were planning to write about it lol – we really think alike! I have totally learned to love easy runs and find them so relaxing and rejuvenating.

  3. I love an easy run. There’s no pressure. No worries. Just run and enjoy. Yesterday on my run I saw a heron take off from the marsh and it totally looked like a pterodactyl and made me feel like I was back with the dinosaurs. And then a car zoomed by and snapped me back to reality. Lol!

    1. I love seeing herons on a run! Oh, and that’s so annoying when cars remind you of civilization – those runs out in nature away from cars are just so rejuvenating.

  4. You know I believe in the power of the easy run! Right now, I’m just trying to run, and if I am honest, my runs are all over the place with regards to effort. Sometimes, a pace feels super easy, sometimes not at all (more so than before). But I look forward to being more regimented about it!

  5. LOVE THEM!! I finally busted through a couple-years racing plateau by slowing down my training runs. I’m no longer burnt out and tired all the time. I actually enjoy running again. Thanks for the post!!!

  6. The 5K race series I’m doing is on a really, really beautiful course. After we race the 5K, a friend and I run the last mile of the course (out and back) to cheer for other runners and just take in the views of the water. You notice so much more beauty when you slow down!

    1. You really do! When you’re running at a hard effort all the focus is on the run – especially during a race. That’s cool how you go back to enjoy the course!

  7. I like easy runs – my appreciation of them has grown deeper as I get more experienced with running. But I find I enjoy them much more when I’m not training (or when I’m in the beginning weeks of training). During marathon training they just feel like a chore, and like Lisa said they seem to take a lot longer, and I just don’t like having to run ridiculously slow (even though I know it benefits me). I like the easy runs in the off season/early training, when I can run at a pace that is comfortable and a little more natural, and actually feel like I’m getting a workout.

    1. I agree so much that easy runs are more enjoyable in the off season – which is one of the many reasons I think it’s so beneficial to take an off season. Plus there’s not as much worry if you go a little bit faster on an easy run than there is during training.

  8. You helped me learn to love and appreciate easy runs! I used to always think you had to run hard and/or fast every day in order to get faster but I’ve learned that’s not the case.

  9. Easy runs are my favorites too. I know I have to get on that speed and hill work for marathon training, little by little 🙂 But I think those long runs where you could go for miles, either alone with your thoughts or chatting to a friend, are the best.

    1. Running by feel is the best! I started switching my GPS over to the clock screen – that way I have the data if I want, but it’s not staring me in the face. So wonderful!

  10. It took me a while to realize how important easy runs are, and now I really have a great appreciation for them! And I agree that there’s nothing like going on a run and thinking you could keep going for a few more miles!

  11. I really need to learn/focus on taking in all that is around me whenever I run. Whether it be an easy run or hard run. Way too often my main focus is “just keep going, you only have ‘x’ amount of time to get this finished, then on to the next thing…”. I love running, but often that takes the joy out of my run, too. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. You may find it helps to run by time rather than distance. That way there’s no rushing through the miles and you can just enjoy the time out there. 🙂

  12. I love easy runs. I’m about to start my marathon training cycle, so I’ve been really enjoying and treasuring my slow, easy runs before I have to pick up the pace for specific speed workouts and such. Lately I’ve been seeing lots of wildlife and animals on my runs. I always love seeing bunnies and dogs 🙂

    1. Easy runs are the bread and butter of marathon training (well, long easy runs 😉 and some specific work). I love seeing bunnies and dogs on my runs also! 🙂 Good luck on your marathon training!

  13. I love an easy run also but they definitely do feel harder when training because of the shuffle. I really love when I can just let my mind wonder during an easy run and the miles fly by and you feel refreshed at the end!

  14. Easy runs test my ego for some reason, but once I’m in the middle of one, I always think,” Why don’t I do more of these?” Thanks for the reminder to take it easier this weeK!

    1. Easy runs are such a test of an ego – it takes a lot of confidence in one’s abilities to run really slow! But then they’re always worth it once we do them. Enjoy your easy runs this week!

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