Posts

My easy days were too easy

I recently made a comment on my Strava log that I was making a conscious effort to make my easy days a little bit faster. This prompted a question from one of my followers who essentially asked what the benefits of running faster on their easy days would be. So… it depends, right? That’s the answer to a lot of these type of questions. Not every run should be your fastest, and as a coach, the problem is that if I give a range then the fast end of the is usually what is adhered too. So, to combat that a little bit, I want the focus to be on the easier side of things, knowing that the pace will creep up a bit. There are scenarios where we should go beyond the LSD style of running and that is what I want to explore today.

As we dive in I want to begin with adding more context to what I wrote in my log. If you have been reading my posts or listening to my podcasts, you know that I have been “treading water” as it comes to my training and fitness in 2020. As the year has wound down and I see some really great performances, not to mention the redefinition of age and performance, I have rekindled motivation for the next few years. I started looking back and reflecting on my training the last year, or so. It helps to really take an honest assessment of where you are coming from in order to determine the path forward. Prior to 2020, the vast majority of my easy runs were under 7:00 per mile. Most of this year, that number fell off substantially. I would say that the average pace of my easy runs was more like 7:15 pace. Now, to keep that in perspective, even if I ran 6:40 pace, that would still be a good 60-90 seconds slower per mile than my goal marathon pace. I am not making a set of rules for me and a set of rules for you! But, this was not a lack of ability, rather, a lack of just making the conscious effort.

So, looking at my goals, I realize that not everything can, or should, look the way it did when I was 25, or even 30 years old. There might be weeks where I need more recovery, but looking at this made me think about the cascading effects of “slacking” on my easy days. I don’t have any scientific backing on this, but to me, this was a cascading effect on the rest of my workouts. I was running significantly slower on my easy paces. When I went to do workouts, they just seemed so much faster than what they really should have been. Were they beyond my capability? Probably not, but mentally I couldn’t cross that bridge. Also, I have been using the word “averaged” a lot in this post and that’s important. Trust me, when there’s a run the day following a harder workout, I am going to go slower. At the very least, the first few miles I’ll let myself ease into it. I am talking about trends overall. If I have 4 easy days in a week, then the average might include 1-2 runs closer to 7 minute pace (+/-) while 1-3 will probably be a touch faster to 6:30 pace. So, don’t get it twisted that every single run is faster.

With a little bit of context now, when should you let it rip and when should you crank it up and when should you slow your roll?

Crank it up

  1. When you take more easy days between SOS days. For instance, if you use a 9 day cycle or the alternator set up.
  2. If you have gotten faster in races but your easy paces have stayed the same throughout.
  3. If you are forcing yourself to slow down to be in the range and it’s causing gait change. Focus on running with a natural stride and increasing general endurance.

Slow it down

  1. Don’t force the faster easy paces if you are trying to make a big jump in a race goal. Let effort dictate the pace.
  2. You’ve tried increasing the average paces, but now workouts are suffering.

How I would start introducing more moderate paced runs, based on classic HMM plan:

  • Monday: Easy/Recovery- just coming off bigger weekend mileage that was more effort. Day before the SOS
  • Tuesday: SOS
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: SOS
  • Friday: Recovery/Easy
  • Saturday: Easy/Moderate
  • Sunday: Moderate/Long

Over time, you might find that natural pace just becomes faster. Sometimes, we just have to convince ourselves first and then the body takes over. If so, let it roll. Just monitor effort and if you are whooped after a workout, don’t be afraid to take it easy. For me, it was a matter of convincing myself that I could still train pretty close to what I had in the past. For you, it might be convincing yourself that you are ready to take the next step. Either way, it can lead to big breakthroughs, given that you monitor data and physiological feedback. It also adds a little variety if you find yourself bored on easy days. Sprinkle ‘em in. See if anything happens!

Why aren’t my easy days feeling easy?

More specifically, the question was,

“Once well into the plan do your easy runs truly feel easy?”

This was asked by one of our Facebook group members and I believe that he was hinting that his workouts were ok, but the easy runs were now an issue of being stiff, sore, and sluggish. As others noted in their response, they felt like it took miles to warm up and shake these feelings, at least to an extent. These are big concerns, for sure, especially if you’ve never been in this situation before. It could be easy to confuse hard training with going overboard. Is feeling like this normal with marathon training?

The short answer is, YES! This is completely normal. Those easy days following a big workout can be brutal. If you were to look at my training logs, it would be common to see an easy day following a workout day that looked like: 8:00/mile, 7:45, 7:30, then 7:00 pace or faster the rest of the way. When I was at peak training volume, there’d be about a 6 week block that could be really tough for the psyche if I were to judge my marathon capabilities by the drop in pace of my easy runs.

Some noted that the easy days were harder than the workout days. I can definitely attest to that. We are more likely to be “in the zone” for the workouts. We may pay a little more attention to diet, hydration, and fueling during the workouts. Our adrenaline is higher and it’s a bigger deal, right? Meanwhile, we often just go through the motions of the easy days. If you find yourself in this position, then I can only say one thing- Welcome to cumulative fatigue! This is where the magic happens, but it’s also a time to be diligent and not drift into overtraining. Easy runs slowing down is one thing, but workouts taking a hit are another.

So, how do we combat this?

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill here, but we can address the symptoms a little bit.

  1. Be on point with recovery nutrition/hydration. That stiffness and soreness means that there is tissue damage. It can’t repair without the right fuel in the right volumes.
  2. If I do a workout in the morning, then in the evening I’ll do some foam rolling. The hours between should be sent making sure you are getting the fluids and fuel you need to stimulate that recovery process. The work being done won’t lead to adaptations- it’s the recovery between the work that leads to the adaptations. My foam rolling won’t be super hard, but we’ll flush things out and work on trouble spots. For me, it’s calves, quads, and hip flexors.
  3. I’ll do a dynamic warm up before my run. This might be as simple as a few bodyweight squats and leg swings. Just something to open up the range of motion and bridge the gap between rolling out of bed and going for a run. That’s a big shock to the body. Check out the complete routines in the book. These don’t have to be long- just a couple minutes. Don’t expect a miracle here, but it can shorten up the warm up period to maybe a mile instead of 2-3 miles.

The last thing I will say about this is that being in this space isn’t bad. To me, it means you are in a place where you are challenging yourself beyond your normal comfort zone. This is where growth happens, if monitored correctly. You do need to be diligent here and not drift past this zone and into an overtraining zone. Again, your biggest indicator here would be decreased performances across the board. Also, being stiff and sore is fine and we can lessen these. However, if you are in a position where you have sharp pains, limp, or pain gets worse as you run, then it’s time to take a step back and get some answers. These signs are all classic of an actual injury. Overall, welcome to the hard training club. Recognize the differences between this and the signs of being hurt to ease your fears. Don’t let the details be an afterthought as these will help you strive during the weeks of hard workouts. The payoff, when kept into the are of cumulative fatigue, is resilience, toughness, and ability to grind it out if need be during tough spots. Those are the things that lead to big breakthroughs. Hope that helps!

My easy days were too easy

I recently made a comment on my Strava log that I was making a conscious effort to make my easy days a little bit faster. This prompted a question from one of my followers who essentially asked what the benefits of running faster on their easy days would be. So… it depends, right? That’s the answer to a lot of these type of questions. Not every run should be your fastest, and as a coach, the problem is that if I give a range then the fast end of the is usually what is adhered too. So, to combat that a little bit, I want the focus to be on the easier side of things, knowing that the pace will creep up a bit. There are scenarios where we should go beyond the LSD style of running and that is what I want to explore today.

As we dive in I want to begin with adding more context to what I wrote in my log. If you have been reading my posts or listening to my podcasts, you know that I have been “treading water” as it comes to my training and fitness in 2020. As the year has wound down and I see some really great performances, not to mention the redefinition of age and performance, I have rekindled motivation for the next few years. I started looking back and reflecting on my training the last year, or so. It helps to really take an honest assessment of where you are coming from in order to determine the path forward. Prior to 2020, the vast majority of my easy runs were under 7:00 per mile. Most of this year, that number fell off substantially. I would say that the average pace of my easy runs was more like 7:15 pace. Now, to keep that in perspective, even if I ran 6:40 pace, that would still be a good 60-90 seconds slower per mile than my goal marathon pace. I am not making a set of rules for me and a set of rules for you! But, this was not a lack of ability, rather, a lack of just making the conscious effort.

So, looking at my goals, I realize that not everything can, or should, look the way it did when I was 25, or even 30 years old. There might be weeks where I need more recovery, but looking at this made me think about the cascading effects of “slacking” on my easy days. I don’t have any scientific backing on this, but to me, this was a cascading effect on the rest of my workouts. I was running significantly slower on my easy paces. When I went to do workouts, they just seemed so much faster than what they really should have been. Were they beyond my capability? Probably not, but mentally I couldn’t cross that bridge. Also, I have been using the word “averaged” a lot in this post and that’s important. Trust me, when there’s a run the day following a harder workout, I am going to go slower. At the very least, the first few miles I’ll let myself ease into it. I am talking about trends overall. If I have 4 easy days in a week, then the average might include 1-2 runs closer to 7 minute pace (+/-) while 1-3 will probably be a touch faster to 6:30 pace. So, don’t get it twisted that every single run is faster.

With a little bit of context now, when should you let it rip and when should you crank it up and when should you slow your roll?

Crank it up

  1. When you take more easy days between SOS days. For instance, if you use a 9 day cycle or the alternator set up.
  2. If you have gotten faster in races but your easy paces have stayed the same throughout.
  3. If you are forcing yourself to slow down to be in the range and it’s causing gait change. Focus on running with a natural stride and increasing general endurance.

Slow it down

  1. Don’t force the faster easy paces if you are trying to make a big jump in a race goal. Let effort dictate the pace.
  2. You’ve tried increasing the average paces, but now workouts are suffering.

How I would start introducing more moderate paced runs, based on classic HMM plan:

  • Monday: Easy/Recovery- just coming off bigger weekend mileage that was more effort. Day before the SOS
  • Tuesday: SOS
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: SOS
  • Friday: Recovery/Easy
  • Saturday: Easy/Moderate
  • Sunday: Moderate/Long

Over time, you might find that natural pace just becomes faster. Sometimes, we just have to convince ourselves first and then the body takes over. If so, let it roll. Just monitor effort and if you are whooped after a workout, don’t be afraid to take it easy. For me, it was a matter of convincing myself that I could still train pretty close to what I had in the past. For you, it might be convincing yourself that you are ready to take the next step. Either way, it can lead to big breakthroughs, given that you monitor data and physiological feedback. It also adds a little variety if you find yourself bored on easy days. Sprinkle ‘em in. See if anything happens!

Why aren’t my easy days feeling easy?

More specifically, the question was,

“Once well into the plan do your easy runs truly feel easy?”

This was asked by one of our Facebook group members and I believe that he was hinting that his workouts were ok, but the easy runs were now an issue of being stiff, sore, and sluggish. As others noted in their response, they felt like it took miles to warm up and shake these feelings, at least to an extent. These are big concerns, for sure, especially if you’ve never been in this situation before. It could be easy to confuse hard training with going overboard. Is feeling like this normal with marathon training?

The short answer is, YES! This is completely normal. Those easy days following a big workout can be brutal. If you were to look at my training logs, it would be common to see an easy day following a workout day that looked like: 8:00/mile, 7:45, 7:30, then 7:00 pace or faster the rest of the way. When I was at peak training volume, there’d be about a 6 week block that could be really tough for the psyche if I were to judge my marathon capabilities by the drop in pace of my easy runs.

Some noted that the easy days were harder than the workout days. I can definitely attest to that. We are more likely to be “in the zone” for the workouts. We may pay a little more attention to diet, hydration, and fueling during the workouts. Our adrenaline is higher and it’s a bigger deal, right? Meanwhile, we often just go through the motions of the easy days. If you find yourself in this position, then I can only say one thing- Welcome to cumulative fatigue! This is where the magic happens, but it’s also a time to be diligent and not drift into overtraining. Easy runs slowing down is one thing, but workouts taking a hit are another.

So, how do we combat this?

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill here, but we can address the symptoms a little bit.

  1. Be on point with recovery nutrition/hydration. That stiffness and soreness means that there is tissue damage. It can’t repair without the right fuel in the right volumes.
  2. If I do a workout in the morning, then in the evening I’ll do some foam rolling. The hours between should be sent making sure you are getting the fluids and fuel you need to stimulate that recovery process. The work being done won’t lead to adaptations- it’s the recovery between the work that leads to the adaptations. My foam rolling won’t be super hard, but we’ll flush things out and work on trouble spots. For me, it’s calves, quads, and hip flexors.
  3. I’ll do a dynamic warm up before my run. This might be as simple as a few bodyweight squats and leg swings. Just something to open up the range of motion and bridge the gap between rolling out of bed and going for a run. That’s a big shock to the body. Check out the complete routines in the book. These don’t have to be long- just a couple minutes. Don’t expect a miracle here, but it can shorten up the warm up period to maybe a mile instead of 2-3 miles.

The last thing I will say about this is that being in this space isn’t bad. To me, it means you are in a place where you are challenging yourself beyond your normal comfort zone. This is where growth happens, if monitored correctly. You do need to be diligent here and not drift past this zone and into an overtraining zone. Again, your biggest indicator here would be decreased performances across the board. Also, being stiff and sore is fine and we can lessen these. However, if you are in a position where you have sharp pains, limp, or pain gets worse as you run, then it’s time to take a step back and get some answers. These signs are all classic of an actual injury. Overall, welcome to the hard training club. Recognize the differences between this and the signs of being hurt to ease your fears. Don’t let the details be an afterthought as these will help you strive during the weeks of hard workouts. The payoff, when kept into the are of cumulative fatigue, is resilience, toughness, and ability to grind it out if need be during tough spots. Those are the things that lead to big breakthroughs. Hope that helps!