Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Easy Runs (Zone 1 and Zone 2 runs)....Easy runs are often times run HARDER than they should be, unless we use our Heart Rates as our guide. More often than not, I see athletes moving themselves out of Z1/Z2, and pushing themselves unknowingly into a Tempo effort run, because it "feels" good. Our heart rate serves as perhaps the best tool to use, to keep us in-check when we are heading out on an easy run. Easy runs are supposed to be, well.....easy! They should feel SO easy, that we have the luxury of working on our form, our posture, our cadence, our CONTROL. These are all luxuries that we do NOT get to focus on as greatly when we move into tempo and speedwork runs.
I constantly am encouraging athletes to NOT look at their pace when setting out on an easy run, but rather, look at 1) HEART RATE, and 2) CADENCE. Cadence is a critical piece to YOUR CONTROL over your run.....165spm is the absolute lowest one should ever find themselves running, with 170-176+spm being the more highly argued optimal cadence range. Keep in mind, the longer your stride (while running easy), the slower your turnover will become. So if you're having difficulty getting above 165spm, shorten your stride a bit! Get your foot on the ground more quickly! Get your ribcage UP and OUT of your hips! Use short walk breaks to "reset" your posture and your muscles on easy runs! We tend to become HEAVY as we run for a length of time, because our posture starts to sag. It typically sags from the TOP-DOWN. So--- check your posture multiple times during your easy runs! Are you sagging at your shoulders? Then picture yourself running taller! Are you bending at your waist, or perhaps sagging at your waist? Then tighten your core and engage your GLUTES! It is the action of your glutes extending your legs back, that removes any bending at the waist, and it is our glutes that ultimately kick-start our propulsion forward! EASY RUNS ARE THE BEST TIME TO PONDER ON THESE THINGS! Small things always collectively create the best, most controllable differences for a better workout!
How do you find YOUR Zone 1 and Zone 2 heart-rate range?
1) Our PREFERRED METHOD! See our Tri Club partner Dr Craig Broeder of Exercising Nutritionally to schedule a Running Zones VO2max test! He can dial ALL of your running zones in using the best tools in science, not to mention he offers Running Biomechanics testing too! (I can vouch that every one of my athletes who has seen Dr. Broeder for this testing, HAS IMPROVED with their running! He does this stuff for cycling, too!)
Craig Broeder, Ph.D., FACSM, FNAASO
CEO-Exercising Nutritionally, LLC
Research Scholar - Northern Illinois University
2) Or, you can do a quick rough calculation of your own, meanwhile......you need to figure out your MAX heart rate while running, and then your RESTING heart rate. Then it's a basic math problem:
(Max HR - Resting HR) x (0.7-0.8) + Resting HR = your HR ceiling for easy runs!
Over time, the goal is to DO AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE within your Z1 and Z2 runs....meaning, becoming more and more productive in that HR range! While it is challenging to change our HR parameters themselves, what we CAN DO, is becoming continuously more and more efficient and effective WITHIN THOSE RANGES! This means, EMBRACING YOUR EASY RUNS and not over-running them!