The Art of the Easy Run

If running brings flavor into your life, the “easy run” is the perfect seasoning to sustain endurance.

By Michael Kracijek – June 1, 2023
Photos Courtesy of Atreyu Running

In my experience, both as a footwear designer and run club leader, I’ve come across many folks who intend to incorporate running into their routine. Some come into it quite literally hitting the ground running with a distance race, while others simply want to try something new, meet new people or enhance their quality of life.

Whatever the reason one enters into the sport of running, the activity and many of the principles remain the same. But the “Art of the Easy Run” cannot be avoided.

The “easy run” is a common prescription of most run clubs, coaches and training plans. Some may call it the “party pace,” while others take the tamed speeds incredibly seriously in their routine. Regardless, you cannot avoid it. However, many people fall into limbo on how to actually approach and incorporate these types of efforts into their routines.

Woman Running

Runners are often left to wonder, “Am I running easy, or am I just running slightly slower than hard?” I brought this topic up to Austin-based running coach Steve Sisson of Telos Running and had a brief Q&A with him.

Michael Kracijek: Tell me a little bit about the approach of most runners.

Steve Sisson: In my experience, most runners run most of their runs too hard. We have a subtle drive to push, to expand, to get somewhere. Unless this is checked by a conscious desire to reign in the effort to (do) whatever is really easy, we will nearly always find ourselves outpacing the appropriate effort.

MK: What’s the art of an easy run, and how would somebody know when they’re breaking the rules and running too hard?

SS: The art of the “easy run” is conscious control. This is why it is an art; it takes concentration, skill, intention and execution. The term “work of art” is not a misnomer… it requires conscious control of effort to achieve the balance of running easy. This is why I recommend nasal breathing. It allows one to consciously control one aspect — breath — in a way that allows for challenge and growth, which scratches the itch we all have to work hard while achieving the outcome of easy. It’s genius.

MK: What’s the downside of running too much, too hard and too soon?

SS: The downside is simple: injury. If an athlete — at any level — pushes too hard but brings things back to easy, there is little risk. If they run too long but then balance that with shorter easy runs, they can recover from the bout. If they ramp up their pace and/or volume too quickly, they’ll likely pay some physical penalty, but a few weeks of easy runs will cure what ails them.

What I enjoyed most about this conversation with Coach Sisson was that it aligned with my own goal of running to enhance my quality of life. I see running each morning as a way to enhance the flavor of my life — like salt extracting the best flavors of the day.

In my own experience, I’ve gone through what some athletes call “burnout.” I overcooked my nervous system by attempting to run outside of my means for too many months at a time. I failed to incorporate the proper recovery to offset the amount of fatigue I had accumulated. I wouldn’t wish this kind of burnout on anybody. The unhealthy build-up of fatigue was directly correlating with the loss of joy I experienced while running.

Once I reached this point, I had no other choice but to prioritize long periods of rest in my routine. After a few months of some much-needed relaxation and recovery, the subtle and amazing benefits of running began to present themselves once more.

Ultimately, the art of the easy run is the key component to building endurance. Not only can it offer aerobic benefits and offset higher output workouts, but building a foundation around a lower-intensity workout can prolong our routines. If we run our engines too much, too hard and too often, we can become more susceptible to injury, burnout or even loss of joy in the endeavor.

I want to end this article with a challenge to all runners — try running easy. Like many others, you’ll likely find that it’s a very difficult objective. Give Coach Sisson’s nasal breathing suggestion an honest effort. I offer up this challenge because I believe in balance and endurance. Running with a healthy intensity and with the right intentions can be the perfect seasoning to greet each day.

About the Author

Michael Krajicek is the founder, CEO and designer of Atreyu shoes. He participates in marathons and triathlons and leads the Atreyu Run Club in Austin. When not participating in endurance sports or training, Krajicek enjoys photography and playing music.


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