I know that the goal for easy running is to maintain a conversational pace, but I live in a pretty hilly area. The only way to get my heart rate down is to take walk breaks, but I don’t want to do that every time. What do you recommend? —Stefanie
This question gets at the heart of what makes running training so delightfully complicated. We all know that most of your training (likely around 80 percent, with variance based on background)should be easy. But, sometimes, easy running is close to impossible based on hills, heat or training partners. When the math equation breaks down, training theory is pushed to its limits. And all the fun happens at the limits.
First, a step back.
What is easy running? Loosely, “easy” can be approximated as any effort below aerobic threshold, the range when the body switches primarily from using fat for fuel to primarily using carbohydrates. Exceeding aerobic threshold involves a slight pick-up in breath rate, maybe some minor resistance in the legs. You can even approximate it with a heart rate monitor and a afield test. I prefer the “Friel Test”—a 30-minute hard effort (after a warm-up), taking the average of the last 20 minutes to approximate your lactate threshold heart rate, and multiplying that by 0.84-0.89 (lower for high-mileage or advanced athletes, higher for low volume or beginner athletes) to get a feel for a loose cap on your easy runs.
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