I see Andy regularly at parkrun. He managed a PB of close to 23-mins a couple of years ago and wants to get back there. A few weeks ago I did a recovery parkrun and he finished just behind me at twenty-five minutes but was lying on the floor gasping for breath from the effort he’d put in.
He entered a half marathon in mid-October and achieved a creditable 1hr55 despite a lack of longer distance training. The following week after parkrun, as we talked about how well he’d done, I suggested that, rather than let this fitness go to waste, he should try to get out for an hour’s run each week. That way when he decides to do his next event, he doesn’t have to build up from a base of only 5K.
A few days later he pinged me a message saying he’d taken my advice and done a 10K in about fifty-five minutes. He’d run it at a pace not much slower than his half marathon and I suggested slowing it down further and enjoying the scenery. The following week he did this, slowing it by 30-secs per mile which means the run is only 3-4 mins slower overall but feels much less exertional.
He ran it again the next two weeks and then something weird happened … three days later he did the 10K again – a second time that week. The easy running was clearly having an effect. When I saw him at parkrun he nodded as I mentioned it and then ran his parkrun as fast as he could. His time a little over 24-minutes was an improvement on the last one.
What I want to draw out of this are the benefits he’s getting from easy running.
First and foremost, he’s getting fitter. His parkrun time has got 30+ seconds quicker in a matter of weeks. And postrun he wasn’t rolling around on the floor gasping for breath this time.
Secondly, the easy 10K runs leave him arriving home feeling good but not exhausted. They set him up for the day rather than tearing him down.
In turn that is leading him to feel more motivated. He’s enjoying the easy runs so much that he’s happy to do more than one 10K in a week! It wasn’t what I set out to get him to do but all credit to him for doing the extra.
Finally, the easy runs are giving his body more time to recover from the harder efforts. When he only ran fast his body never had time to recover. Every subsequent effort became more stressful until he took days off. Invariably he was never in peak form at parkrun because his fast-twitch muscles were always recovering. Now when he arrives at parkrun they’re rested and ready for a harder run if he wants it.
These aren’t the only benefits to easy running but they are some of the most easily noticeable.