Although there are many benefits of running, the one that lures most of us is the success we get when we run faster. The endorphin rush is better, the satisfaction and pride is strong, and it feels good to know your hard work is paying off.
Sometimes though, when you have run too hard, either the day before, or for a few days before, it can be easy to wonder, why am I not getting better at running or why is my pace getting slower?
It seems logical, right?
If you run faster in your daily runs, then you will get faster.
Unfortunately, that is not true, and it goes one step beyond this. If you do not do most of your runs at a slow and easy pace, one of three things will happen to you; overtraining, injuries, burnout.
Either way, the result is that you can no longer run.
This becomes even more important if you are marathon training.
Once the accumulated fatigue from weeks of training builds up, the recovery after a long run becomes even more important, and will take longer.
Today I wanna focus on recovery runs and how they will help you.
What is a Recovery Run?
The definition of an easy run is exactly what it sounds like.
It isn’t a trick.
You want to run at a slow pace (regardless of how “fast” or “slow” of a runner you think you are), and you want it to feel like you could do it all over again.
Yes, that easy.
I gave you some other suggestions in this article about how to make sure you are running easy enough, so head over there if you are still struggling to understand how to run a slower pace that will allow your body to recover.
Today, I want to focus on why we struggle with it.
Let’s see how many of these you agree with.
Why Easy Days are Important for Recovery
There are a lot of great articles on why it is important to have lots of easy days, and I know we all read those posts, and think it clicks.
We think to ourselves,
“Yes, that makes total sense! From NOW on, I am going to do that, every time I am not doing a hard workout”.
So why then do we come across the same article, written in a different way 3 months later, and think the same thing again?
Here’s the deal:
Running hard puts us in pain, it puts us in a state of discomfort where our mind is screaming at us to stop.
You would think that alone that would be enough to slow us down, and make us want to run at a pace that is enjoyable, and does not provoke those thoughts.
Yet over and over, on our recovery days we end up running too fast.
It all comes down to confidence.
When it is lacking, that is when we look for reassurance within our recovery days, and if we can’t get it through those runs, we start to wonder why we are getting worse at running or why running is so hard for some people.
Let me be frank:
Running is hard for everyone.
As much as I wish I could tell you when running gets easier, it doesn’t.
Running is always going to be hard.
When we are feeling strong, and believe we are in better shape than ever before, we do not feel the need for proving anything on recovery days.
If you have the confidence to trust in yourself that on the longer days and the hard workout days your body will know how to run faster and longer, then you will notice that you keep getting better at running, because you can run your best on the days that matter.
There are a number of ways we let ourselves get out of control, and risk the one word no runner wants to hear; injured.
These are the ones I sometimes struggle with and how I work on them to make sure I run for recovery not for my ego:
Addicted to your GPS watch
We are staring at that piece of technology on our wrists that tells us what speed our culture has deemed an acceptable running pace.
We have become so reliant on them, and I think it takes away from the beauty of running and its simplicity.
I hate to admit it, but I definitely fall into the trap of looking at it too often, seeing the 8:?? number in my pace is usually followed by a much lower 7:?? mile. (Remember, even thought that may seem fast, my race pace for a marathon is 5:5?).
As much as I try to tell myself not to do it, I struggle not to.
However, I find that when I do leave my garmin at home, or when I cover it up with my sleeve, I feel so much better after the run, as I just ran by what felt good, rather than what I feel like I should be doing.
Stop being too competitive
We end up competing with ourselves if we are running a familiar course that we have timed in the past. Even worse is when we compete against whoever we are running with.
We all know someone who had to run half a step in front of you whenever you run together…..and if you don’t….sorry, its you!
See if this sounds familiar
Sometimes, when running with friends, our egos often get tangled up in a chest puffing match, and the pace quickens as the run goes on.
Before you know it, the stubborn runner in you comes out, and you refuse to back down until you are both sprinting. Ironically, the more courageous one of the two of you, is usually the one who says something, or eventually backs off.
Of course this is always followed by a pointing match, “you started it”!
Next time you sense this coming on, try to be the bigger person, and step back, chances are, they will be glad you did!
Using running to relieve stress
We are beating ourselves up about a previous race/workout, and want to try to prove that it was just a fluke or a bad day.
I don’t know what we are trying to do, as there is only one place that really matters, and that is out on the race course.
I know I am guilty of trying to reassure myself that I am in good shape.
This is often the recovery run that pushes you over the edge…..and you either end up injured, or overtrained.
Slower pace means a slower runner
This is the one I mentioned earlier, but it is worth repeating, as it is the one that is the toughest to get our minds around.
The faster you run every day, the faster you will be….
Sounds like it should make sense, but unfortunately that could not be more wrong.
The year in college where I had injury after injury, was the year where I tried to run at 7:10 pace or better every run…..in addition to the 2 workouts and long run I was doing each week.
At the end of the day, easy runs do not prove anything.
Think about it this way:
If you are going to run a 5k, you cannot just run a 5k every day as hard as you can, and expect each day you will get faster and race well.
Yes, maybe initially, but that isn’t how we train for races.
In the same way we run intervals within our workouts, or change our speed from the warm up to workout and recoveries, we need to make sure we do run easy in between hard days.
Not leaving enough time to run
This is the one Steve gets most mad about. I sometimes do not leave enough time between my run and the next task I have to do/place I have to be.
I therefore end up rushing to make sure I get it all in.
This also relates to another bad one:
Wanting to get it over with.
O those days we really feel like crap, we want to just get home as quickly as possible, and rather than embracing the soreness/tiredness, we put our head down and push.
This is another one where you are asking for trouble.
When it comes down to it, there is no right way to do workouts.
As long as you are getting some hard training in, you will be okay. There are so many different opinions as to what is best, BUT all coaches agree that recovery days are incredibly important.
It takes more strength and courage to run easy than it does to run hard.
Anyone can run hard…..if you are a new runner, you probably run every run hard, and if you keep it up, you will end up paying the price.
You have to be confident enough in yourself to be able to back off the pedal and run easy.
Running easy on your recovery days will make a huge difference in your running.
If running means a lot to you, and being healthy means anything to you, you should keep reminding yourself, and give them as much attention as the hard workouts, as they are what make all the difference.
Even if that means telling yourself (our loud) to slow down during your run. I do that sometimes!
I don’t know about you, but I would rather be slightly less fit, but know I am healthy.
Just in case you needed another one of those “click” moments, here are the Runners Connect easy run posts, all of which are actually a great read, especially if you are not sure what pace to run.
It is better to get to the start line slightly less fit, but healthy, than it is to be in super shape…..but you are unable to run!
And if you are still unsure about what your easy pace would be, this is my guide on how to make sure you are running easy enough on your recovery runs.
Which of these are you guilty of? Why do you think we struggle with it so much?
How to Use the Effort Scale Cheatsheet
Get your printout to refer to as you begin effort based training