The importance of easy running

By #teamxnd athlete Sean Fontana

On the previous blog I spoke about the art of tempo running. In this blog I want to discuss the importance of easy/ recovery running.

For distance runners, a large amount of your weekly mileage is going to be easy running to recover from intense workouts and prepare your body for the next intense session. Easy running is said to be run anywhere in and around 60-75% (top end aerobic activity) of your V02max. However, if you don’t know your V02max values then the intensity should be done at a pace where you could hold a conversation with the person running beside you easily for the duration of the run.

What’s the purpose of an easy run?

  • It helps your body recover from intense workouts by allowing fresh blood to be pumped around the body and clear metabolites built up from high-intensity exercise. 
  • Easy running is a form of active recovery by actually initiating and aiding the physiological recovery process of the damaged muscles. 
  • Promotes capillarization, promoting your bodies physiology to start to create new tiny blood vessels that branch into the respiring muscle to increase blood flow and oxygen to remove the build-up of H+ ions (lactic acid).
  • Makes the heart muscle stronger by increasing the size of the heart chambers and increasing stroke volume (the amount of blood that is pumped around your body with one beat of the heart, the higher the stroke volume, the more blood pumped around your body in one beat).
  • Decreases the risk of injury 
  • Base building, especially after an injury or a long break from training to allow time on feet.
  • Allows your body to work with fat stores – the lower the intensity of running your body will use its fat stores as the intensity rises from threshold running pace to interval pace your body starts to predominantly use glucose broken down from muscle glycogen.
  • Easy running is less intense meaning that it’s a great way to clear the head if you’ve had a stressful day at work. Sometimes if you’re feeling stressed and you’ve got an intense interval workout planned, it can be better for your body and mind to go out for an easy run instead of placing more stressing demands on the physiological systems that could lead to injury or mental burnout.
  • Enhanced slow-twitch muscle fibres – these fibres are great at economically using oxygen, have a great blood supply and have increased time to fatigue in comparison to fast-twitch muscle fibres. 

There are a whole host of benefits to easy/ recovery running. That’s why you see and hear a lot of Kenyan athletes go out for an easy run after hard training sessions to help them recover properly to be fresh for their next hard workout. 

The amount of easy running will be based off of your current discipline. If you’re a 5k runner you won’t be doing as many easy running miles as a marathon runner. So the volume of easy running you do will be specific to you, what your coach sets you in your training programme and the time of year/season. If you’re looking to build a solid strong aerobic based you will be going through a high mileage phase with possibly a good amount of easy running, and then when you get into race season and are looking to peak for your chosen race, you will slowly taper off the volume and reduce those easy miles.

A lot of athletes don’t appreciate the importance of easy running because they are slaves to their Garmin watch or want to be the Strava king, but at the end of the day you want to train to compete well. So, if you feel you’re maybe running your easy runs a bit too hard and feeling a little more tired than normal for your intense workout days, why not slow down a little and enjoy the running a little more instead of looking at your mile or km pace every two minutes.

Also, to enhance that muscle recovery process a little more I'll normally have a high-protein high-carbohydrate smoothie that consists of oats, banana, frozen strawberry, honey, oat milk and Xendurance whey protein powder (The vanilla flavour is my go-to as I can add it to smoothies or porridge and it tastes great. Super versatile!). It's really important to make sure you're giving your muscles a good amount of protein to help muscle repair and also carbohydrates because this helps replace glycogen stores.

If you are looking for more tips and advice on your training, then feel free to contact me at sean@fontanafit.co.uk and we can help get you into peak shape come race day.

 

 

 

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