Myth 3: Faster Easy Days Help You Hit Your Goal Sooner
One of the most common training mistakes new runners (and some veterans) make is running too fast on their easy days. It’s not hard to imagine why. In almost every other sport, trying harder is almost always a surefire way to improve. So, when athletes take to running, it’s a common assumption that the harder you run, the faster you’ll improve.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how running works. Each day in a well-designed training plan has a specific purpose, and the easy run is no different. The purpose of an easy day is to facilitate recovery and develop the aerobic system. Running too fast actually diminishes your ability to do both.
An easy recovery run increases blood flow to the muscles, helping clear out waste products while delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients. If you run too hard on your easy days, you create more muscle tears than you’re fixing, extending the amount of time you need to fully recover. This can cause you to run poorly on subsequent workouts because your muscles are still fatigued.
What you can do:
While running your easy days faster might seem like a fast path to achieving your goals sooner, it will actually hinder your progress. By running too fast on your easy days, you don’t maximize aerobic development and you run the risk of being too tired to perform the essential workouts that will make you faster.
Take a cue from 2:37 marathoner and Olympic Trials qualifier Camille Herron and slow your easy runs down. Despite having a marathon pace of 6 minutes per mile, Camille runs her easy days at 8:30-9:00 minutes a mile (and oftentimes slower). In doing so, she has been able to keep herself healthy after seven stress fractures over the course of two and a half years. She also dropped more than 10 minutes from her marathon time.