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Easy Runs

Updated: Feb 6

How to Execute an Easy Run

What should an easy run look and feel like? 

Before The Run

Well, we want to stick to our usual morning routine. Figure out your timing. When should you eat before your run? How early should you have your coffee before your run? There aren't any hard and fast rules for these types of things. It's all about finding a system that works best for you. Although some research and a lot of anecdotal evidence says it's usually better to eat something before you head out for your run. With that said, maybe the most impactful thing you can do for your running is to start working on and developing a routine. You want to get to the point where you know exactly what works best for you and how to time it.


Our hydration levels change the thickness of our blood. This means that if we aren't properly hydrated, it's more difficult for our cardiovascular system to move our blood around and oxygenate our muscles. This means we're going to run slower, the run will be more taxing, and it will take us longer to recover from it. Here's a study where cyclists who weren't properly hydrated had their heart rate increase twice as much as those who were adequately hydrated. Around an hour before you run, get some water with electrolytes in your system.


Do you need any warmup or prehab exercises before you start running? If you're coming off an injury, the answer is yes. Work with your coach or physical therapist to figure out what you need to be doing. 

Honestly, many people head out for their run without any warmup or activation. It's not the worst thing in the world. You probably won't die. But spending 5-10 minutes before a run can make a big difference. You can do foam rolling to try to loosen up tight muscles or do some rehab exercises to strengthen any previously injured muscle groups. This can be an excellent time to focus on your problem areas. Experiment with these things. What should I be doing before my runs? This is an excellent question to ask your coach or fellow runners! 

The Part Where You Start Jogging

Once we start running, I always really push to get athletes to let their first mile be their slowest. I beg and plead. It's crucial for so many reasons. For one, it serves as a makeshift warmup. As previously stated, many people don't do anything before running. They just get dressed and head out the door. That's not necessarily a bad thing ( I mean, it's not great) as long as you start out easy enough. As we start to move and blood flows around, our body temperature will begin to rise. This will naturally loosen up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, increasing flexibility and reducing injury risk. It also turns on the neuromuscular link between your mind and your body. That connection is pivotal in helping us stay healthy.

So start slow. If you think you might be running a little bit too fast, 99% of the time, you are. Slow down. 

Long run up waterline road in Flagstaff Arizona for sundog running trail camp in 2021
Easy run on Waterline Road for Sundog Camp in Flagstaff 2021

Having the first mile be the slowest also helps us run for longer while staying in a lower heart rate (and lactate) zone. Heart rate naturally drifts higher over the course of exercise, which is known as heart rate drift. So, your heart rate will increase even if you run the exact same pace or effort. This is why I don't personally use heart rate much. It's not that reliable or accurate, and you'd get a lot of runs where the pace gets slower throughout the workout. If we start out too hot, our heart rate spikes, and getting it back down is difficult. Even if we shift to the pace or effort we need to be at, it'll be challenging to get our heart rate back where we intended. If we're spending our easy days with an elevated heart rate, and during our more challenging workouts, our heart rate is high, when are we recovering?

It's common for easy runs to have a natural progression. We want the first mile to be the slowest and then an upward trend in pace (faster) throughout the rest of the run. Sometimes, this progression is minimal. 

Example: an Athlete starts at a 9:30min per mile pace and gets down to 9:10 pace by the end.

If an athlete I coach has a significant drop off in pace halfway through the run, where their pace gets considerably slower, that's usually a sign that they weren't running easy enough from the start.

I generally don't keep the pace on my watch. It's all by feel at this point. Unless I start running too fast on my easy days, then I will keep the pace up to keep myself in check, but you want to get to a point where you can listen to your body and let it be easy. Starting out, it can be helpful to see the pace, but you have to be able to see it and not let it take over the run. Easy runs aren't something you can necessarily win by hitting a pace. You win when the run was really easy. You lose when you run too hard.

Effort over Pace 

Your paces won't translate if you go up a lot higher in altitude if you're running a technical trail, or if you're running a really hilly route. Pace doesn't translate, but effort does. For most easy runs, we're looking for a 4/10 effort.

Learn how to move your body without all the strain of a harder workout. I generally track my runs by time, and most days, my coach has given me a time goal to hit. So, I pick a route that will take me a few minutes less than that much time in case my body needs to go extra slow and easy that day. Often, I'll have a few extra minutes to add on at the end, and that's fine.

Learning how to run relaxed and without strain is a really valuable skill. Let it actually be easy, and let the pace be whatever it is. And remember, running easy days this relaxed has heaps of benefits. We are still improving aerobically, but we will also be ready for our next more challenging interval session or the next long run. On most easy days, we're spending 30-60 minutes allowing blood to carry nutrients to all of our muscles. If we did the run at the appropriate effort, this could have us feeling primed and ready for the more important quality interval sessions that we will inevitably have. We used to call really relaxed, easy runs "Moving Massages." Because when they were done correctly we felt BETTER at the end than we did at the beginning. Relax and enjoy the run.

For almost every runner ever, you'll get more value and improvement from running easier on recovery days and running even faster on your interval workouts.

If you're convinced that the easy days are absolutely too easy, I'd start by adding volume to them before increasing the pace, adding 5-10 minutes to the end of runs at that same, very low intensity. Increasing the speed of these runs is the last lever I pull for the sake of increasing training load or enhancing performance for an athlete. 

Focus on finding a route or trail that you enjoy.

Post Run

This is probably the best time to stretch out any chronically tight areas or do some more rehab work, or even start your strength routine. Your body is primed and warmed up.


I don't put too much stock into magic protein windows, but we do need to get some fuel in shortly after training. Not only do we need healthy protein and carbs, but our water and electrolyte stores get depleted when we're running as well. Don't wait too long to get your nutrition handled after your run. Putting it off for hours makes it much more challenging for your body to recover. I like to do a smoothie shortly after my run, but there are tons of great options- some oatmeal with lots of nuts and berries or perhaps a sandwich with fresh greens and veggies. Whatever you go with, get some water and electrolytes to go with it. 

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