Everything You Need To Know About Easy Runs

Are you constantly wondering why you always feel like garbage after a run? Are you forced to take multiple days off from running because you’re too fatigued?

In this blog post, you’ll be finding your easy run pace.

What you can do to make sure your easy run pace is in fact easy
Finding and maintaining easy run pace is essential to building endurance

The first question I always ask a runner who approaches the question of “what pace should I be running” is this: if you were to go out for a run (not looking at your watch) and simply just run… What is your pace?  Not your pace when you’re sprinting home, but your general easy effort pace.


How do I do this?

If I were you, this is what I would do: I would go for a 3-5 mile run.  I’d make sure it was a relatively flat course and I would simply just run.  I would pay certain attention that my breathing was controlled and I was within myself.  If you had to think of an effort level, it would be a 4 or 5 out of 10.  It’s not hard, but it’s not walking.  It’s just easy, casual running.  

After the run, assess whether or not the pace was in fact easy.  Could you run 10 more minutes at that pace?  What about 2 more miles?  If the answer is no to those questions, then you most likely ran too fast.  You may have to try this a handful of times to get an average of your easy run pace.


In the video below, by Jack Daniels, the guru of distance running, he says that easy run pace has a range – and that range can be as big as a minute.  This means that if your easy run pace is 9 minutes per mile, there might be a day when you’re feeling great and you can comfortably run 8:30 per mile.  Similarly, if you’re not feeling great – maybe you’re tired from some hard runs, then your easy pace can still be productive at 9:30 per mile.

Jack Daniel describing easy run pace

As an aside, easy runs should make up almost 80-90 percent of all your running.  So figuring out and dialing into your easy run pace is certainly worth the effort it will take to find it. 

Once you have your current, ideal easy run pace, you can now work on building endurance by running more at that easy run pace. 


Will my pace always be “x”?

No.  As you get fitter, your body, muscles, and lungs will adapt and get stronger.  When you adapt, the same easy run pace that might have been 9 minutes per mile, now is naturally 8:45 or 8:50 per mile.  You’ll still be working at that same effort level, you’ll just be able to do that same pace using less energy or a bit faster of a pace using the same 4 or 5 out of 10 effort level.

Regardless, you’ll be able to run faster using less energy.  This is how you get fit and in shape after taking time off.


Work on building endurance by running more often at your easy run pace
Work on building endurance by running more at that easy run pace

Why so much easy pace?

It’s the foundation for building stronger legs, a more efficient cardiovascular system and on a cellular level, it promotes change and growth.

If you add speed work before your body is ready for it, you can lead to tendon strains, muscle soreness, or over-fatigue.  Many days in a row of faster-than-easy pace and you can find yourself run down or injured.


Find your “easy run pace” and it will guide all the training you do! Read about it at #TrainwithMarc’s newest blog post

What type of runs are “easy”?

Warm up runs prior to workouts

Cool downs after workouts

Basic runs, also called easy runs

Most, if not all, of long runs

Everything You Should Know About Easy Running Pace
Everything You Should Know About Easy Running Pace

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How Can You Improve Easy Run Pace?

I have really good news for you! There are many things you can do to improve your easy run pace.

  1. Be consistent with your running. Each and every week should be pretty similar.
  2. Add strength training into your routine to build stronger muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  3. Practice finding your easy run pace via GPS and dialing into how it feels.
  4. Use off days or cross-training days when you feel overly fatigued from training.
  5. Use a heart rate monitor to guide your running effort.

TrainwithMarc’s Newsletter

Everything you should know about easy run pace
Easy Running 101: learn what easy pace should feel like and why you should do more of it

Summary

Easy runs are the foundation for all future running you are going to do.  Finding your easy run pace is important to do because the majority of the running you do should be at this pace.  

Remember, there is a window of +/- 30 seconds on either end of your easy pace to allow for internal and external factors, like feeling really good, a great weather day, or maybe some extra hills on your loop.


Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Need a running coach for your next race?

A coach will create the training plan so you can focus on your running goals!

Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!

Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.

Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram
Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram

12 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About Easy Runs

  1. I am guilty of pushing the pace on easy runs. I think for me using my heartrate as a guide might be helpful/

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  2. Debbie Woodruff May 6, 2020 — 4:52 PM

    The weather makes a big difference in your easy pace too. Living in the desert my pace slows considerably through the summer then suddenly perks up once fall comes and the weather cools down.

    I once ran a 20 miler at an 8:00 pace (long ago, obviously). I felt so good that day and wasn’t trying. I felt like I was floating.

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  3. I’ve been focusing more on making sure I run my easy runs truly easy and its definitely made a difference for me in my harder workouts. I try not to look at my watch and just run by feel.

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  4. I totally agree with the minute range for easy runs. I would even say at times it can be a bigger swing than that. There are some days that I just fly and feel so effortless. But then other days I’m huffing and puffing and running at least a full minute per mile slower. So many variables!

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  5. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets May 7, 2020 — 10:48 AM

    So important to keep the easy runs easy! I fall into the trap of looking at my pace and if it seems too “slow” I try to pick up the pace. I’m thinking of doing more strength training and hoping it’ll help me become a more efficient runner!

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  6. Right now, all my runs are “easy paces”. I just don’t want to push or strain anything. It’s not worth it, especially in present circumstances.

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  7. Totally agree. I was in that camp for about 4-5 weeks, but have built up enough strength to now test the waters with really short workouts, mainly all by feel and effort.

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  8. Strength definitely will help with being more efficient. I do my best to not adjust my effort based on a watch – easy to say, hard to do.

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