Whatever level you are as an athlete, your easy pace does not define you as an athlete. Too often athletes at all levels from very beginners to very experienced get too wrapped up in their pace on their easy days. Often they convince themselves that because they are feeling good or are in a hurry that it’s ok if they speed up their pace. Or they are so vested in maintaining their supposed easy pace even though their body is telling them to slow down after a hard workout, after a race, after a day spent on their feet working, that they ignore those signals which demand an even easier pace.
Your easy pace is where you can reap the most benefits from your training and constitutes the bulk (up to 85% of your miles) of your training. You are building fitness, building your endurance engine and not stressing your system. Your easy pace should be almost painfully slow. It’s a great pace to run with friends and chat. It’s a great pace to relax and value your me time, catch up with podcasts or listen to the sounds of silence. If you do not have time to run x amount of miles at a true easy pace, you are better off running a bit shorter distance and keeping your pace at a true easy effort.
This way you are primed for your workouts which are run at a hard effort. And it’s important that your hard efforts are actually hard.
What can happen when you run your easy days to hard day after day? Your body will not recover fully and thus will not make the training adaptations that your workouts are designed to effect. Your subsequent hard efforts can be compromised as well. You may not hit your important workouts or if you hit them, they may take longer to recover from since you are not letting your body recover. Those little tweaks in your foot, your knee, your back can worsen as your body does not recovery. Finally, tune up races and goal races can suffer.
Keep your eye on the goal race and know what your training effort should be for any given workout. Those athletes who are honest with themselves every day can reap the most rewards. Keep the easy easy and the hard hard!