I recently received this question in an email from one of my readers, Tom Hoffman, and it seems particularly relevant to me given this weekend’s workout.
I really enjoyed your last email regarding the importance of the easy days. I’m sure that for most runners that ran competitively through HS and College, the concept of an easy day is hard to actually realize. I always remember being pushed even on the easy days. Our coach didn’t really know any better either.
On the topic of easy/recovery runs, do you think they really help you recover? After you’ve reached a certain level of fitness, do you still benefit from the “easy” miles? I’m excluding the long easy run of course. Sometimes I feel like I benefit more from a complete day of rest rather than a 5 to 8 mile easy run.
When comparing an easy run versus a complete day off, it depends. Sometimes, I just need a day off or an easy walk and I’m good to go after that. Usually, though, I feel better after an easy run than I do before hand or if I skip a run completely.
Generally speaking, the more fit you are then the more often you’ll want to go for an easy run rather than take the day off. Of course, as you get older, it won’t matter how fit you are, you are probably going to need that day off now and again.
Right now, I tend to take a day off every 2 to 5 weeks, and then every 4 or 5 months I will take a few days off in a row as life demands or as I just need a break after a long season.
If you have trouble running easy enough on your easy days, then you are better off just going for a walk or taking the day off completely. Easy days only work if they are easy.
(Photo Credit: Giga Paitchadze)