What does an easy day look like? It should be easy, duh! If you are a runner, then chances are that you had been told by very many learned people that have easy days in your training or easy days are an important component of training regime. But we still keep messing it up!
In past, I have made mistakes on this very aspect. I always lingered in the NO MAN’S LAND. It resulted in overtraining in forms of reduced performance, flu, cold and cough and lethargy.
So, here is a bit of light on the subject. Easy days and hard days – maketh a runner. As per traditional wisdom of all running sages, easy days should be easy so that the hard day can be hard. This will ensure improvement in running performance and efficiency.
But we are almost always training in the grey zone, resulting in overtraining and eventually injuries.
Read : Tips to Avoid Overtraining
Why do we need easy days?
Easy day means runs at conversational pace. It means that you can have a relaxed dialogue with someone while running. This pace helps the body and mind to recover and flush out waste byproducts of last day’s hard run.
In addition, easy days reduce mental stress also. The previous night before the easy day, we can relax, thinking that the next day isn’t hard. This helps in maintaining sanity because there is no pressure to perform and beat ourselves for that.
Read : Recover Faster After Workout
These runs at aerobic pace helps to build an aerobic base, essential for construction of athletic foundation. Following are the benefits of aerobic training.
1. Training at aerobic zone helps lay foundation for a sound athletic career. Slow twitch muscle fibers are aerobic and burn primarily fat for energy. Therefore, if most of your training is in aerobic zone, then you will increase mitochondria in your muscle cells to generate energy (ATP) and increase oxygen utilization efficiency. These mitochondria burn more fat than glucose (sugar).
2. Aerobic training is beneficial for those who run sprint races or do weight training or play any sport which requires you to sprint like in football, hockey etc. Read Once A Runner in which the protagonist being a miler ran insane distances in training. Aerobic training helps in faster recovery during interval sessions.
Read : Book Review – Once A Runner
3. A solid base of aerobic training will help you in faster recovery, less fatigue after workout and in fact, increase energy levels. Also it will help you prevent injury.
What does an easy day look like?
An easy day is a day with easy running. Let me explain the sequence.
1. Warm up as usual. Dynamic stretching will get the body in groove. Not a big issue. Read the article given below on that.
2. Easy run
The run should be at your MAHR or Max Aerobic Heart Rate. It is explained in detail in the article given below.
The run should feel ridiculously easy. In case, you don’t have a HRM or Heart Rate Monitor, then go as per feel and slow the f!@k down. It does’t matter whether you run a 7 min per km or 9 min per km. If you feel during the run that you are ashamed of the pace, then probably you are on the right pace!
The slow shuffle runs will help you deliver oxygen rich blood to muscles and help in recovery from previous day’s hard workout. These runs should not generally exceed more than 60 minutes to include 5-6 minutes of warm up and 5-6 minutes of cool down.
3. Faster running
Faster running aka strides need to be done. I do approximately 3-4 strides of 10-20 seconds long. The pace is not an all out pace but faster than the shuffle.
These strides can be done towards the end of the run and with full recovery between each stride. I have realised that if I do strides on the easy days, the next day’s hard run is much easier and I am not forcing the run. It must be because of the muscle memory.
Read : Why Fartlek?
I don’t lift weights or do HIIT on easy days. If you lift weights, then lift it on hard days to make them harder. Instead, as part of warm up, I do forward, side and reverse lunges. After the run, I do planks, glute bridge, superman and clams.
This gentle strengthening helps me avoid sluggishness and keeps the muscles firing.
5. Cool Down is important and needs to be done every single day of exercising to keep the muscles supple and relaxed.
Read : 5 Best Post Run Stretches
1. Leave watch at home.
2. Run for time and not distance.
3. Feel your perceived exertion. You shouldn’t feel out of breath.
4. Enjoy the sights. You have always been focused on your run and forgot to smell the flowers.
5. Take your camera to film the run and take selfies.
6. Focus on your cadence and running form.
7. Get a coach.
So, that’s how an easy day is supposed to be. Grey zoning is dangerous and avoid it at all costs.
Till then stay fit and keep running.
Do you grey zone often?
How do you check yourself on easy days? And what is the percentage of easy days vs hard days?