Running is an incredibly inclusive sport but at the end of the day, we're all different.
How should you pace your easy run? What even is a 'comfortable' or 'conversational' pace?
What should it feel like? Let's first agree that a comfortable pace will look different for each and every one of us. This is why we use more abstract metrics to measure the pace. Terms such as 'comfortable', 'conversational', or RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and HR (heart rate) zones, are all great ways of measuring the pace at which we should be doing our easy runs. We're going to break down each of the above and explain exactly how you can use them, to get the most out of your easy run.
A 'comfortable' pace is exactly as the name suggests, comfortable. Simple, right? Not so much... When we refer to a comfortable pace of running, this is a pace that we can sustain for a prolonged period of time, but how do we calculate that? A very useful rough guide to what a comfortable pace might be for you is to add 25-35% to your fastest 1km time.
For example, if you're best 1km time is 5 min/km * 1.30 = 6.30 min/km pace
This calculation is not foolproof but will act as a very useful benchmark for finding the right pace for your easy runs.
In order to understand what a conversational pace might feel like, I want to listen to your breathing on your next run. A conversational pace, as it suggests should be slow enough that you speak in full sentences and hold a conversation with someone. However, on those runs where we're out there, pounding the pavement on our own, it may be hard to determine what that might feel like. This is why we're going to listen to our breath. If you can feel and hear yourself breathing heavily, the chances are you may be going a little fast. If someone stopped you, asking for directions, would you be able to speak to them or would you need a minute to catch your breath? This will act as a great benchmark for whether you've nailed the 'conversational' pace.
The term RPE isn't new, but it's becoming an increasingly popular way of measuring the intensity at which to perform some of our runs. When we introduce the concept of RPE it presupposes that we understand what different efforts feel like, and are able to recognise the difference between intensities. If you want to effectively use RPE to measure your easy run efforts, and indeed any other runs, it'll be important to take note of how you're feeling during your runs. All the way from sets of 200m intervals, way up to super long runs. If we work on the premise that walking is a 1 (out of 10) and a flat-out sprint is a 10, your easy runs should feel like a 3-4. This will help you judge your level of intensity on any given day.
Whatever way you want to measure the intensity of your easy runs it's important to remember what we're trying to get from them. We want to build up the time we're spending on our feet and allow our bodies to acclimatise to the increase in training volume. Therefore, it's really important that we complete these runs at an intensity that isn't going to significantly impact our ability to recover, ahead of our next session. There's some truth in the saying "go slow to go fast", and this is where the magic happens.