It is no secret that life seems to move at an absurdly fast pace. I know that I’m not the only one who wishes for more hours in the day or has a To-Do list that never seems to end. Consequently, this sometimes motivates runners to run a little faster than they should so they can then take care of everything else that needs to get done. However, taking time to slow down and appreciate the moment will not only give you some mental clarity, it will make you a better runner.
Easy days are not given enough credit. They are just as important as the hard days because they allow your body to absorb more intense efforts. Yet, with busy schedules, people often rush through their easy runs. If you are running your recovery days too fast, your body is not able to fully benefit from the harder runs. So even though it may seem beneficial to consistently run at a faster speed, in reality you are slowing down your progress and causing too much stress on the body. Some athletes even experience adrenal fatigue from going too hard for too long. There is also a lot of risk for skeletal muscular injuries (i.e. tendinitis and stress fractures) when you push your easy/recovery days at too fast of a pace.
Let’s not forget that easy miles are still doing a load of good in changing how the inside of your body is working at the cellular level. At an easy pace, your body is still increasing the number and size of mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell. Mitochondria take nutrients and turn them into energy. Who wouldn’t want more energy for runs? In addition, easy running builds more capillaries, which means there will be better blood flow (read: oxygen flow) to your muscles. If that’s not enough for you, easy runs will strengthen your heart muscle very effectively, even though you won’t seem to be working very hard. Lastly, easy runs may help your body become more efficient at storing glycogen and using fat for energy.
On your next easy run, be sure not to rush through it. Notice your surroundings, stop to smell the flowers (or maybe challenge yourself to find some beauty in the snow) and enjoy the moment! The key is to learn to “run relaxed” with a smooth, fluid form. This is easier to do when you slow down your pace and enjoy the run!