Rule #3: Stick With It
It's easy: For those who get bored or frustrated with lumbering along, you might wonder why you can't just skip easy runs and do something else—like rest or cross-train. It's simple, really. "The more you run, the better you'll be," says McMillan. "That's why most runners run as much as they can." Easy runs build your fitness base. They condition your musculoskeletal system to adapt to stress, which allows your body to handle greater mileage, and they help your cardiovascular and respiratory systems become more efficient. "You grow more of the capillary beds that deliver oxygen," says McMillan, "and stimulate more of the mitochondria that produce energy within muscle cells." So if you're serious about improving as a runner, run consistently—unless you're injury-prone, says Mike Hamberger, M.A., a coach in Washington, D.C. For the often injured, he says, "recovery jogs can become stressful workouts, not because they're doing the wrong pace, but because every time they run they're causing excessive stress on the body." Such runners should mimic running on easy days, through aqua-jogging or running-specific strength training.
Not So FastResist the urge to speed up your easy runs with these tips from sports psychologist Michael Sachs, Ph.D.
The excuse: Running slow is so boring!
The solution: Engage your brain. Listen to music, a podcast or audio book, or make a point of noticing new details along old routes.
The excuse: Someone might see me puttering along!
The solution: Get over it. "You're running for yourself, not for other people," Sachs says. If you still can't bear it, change your route.
The excuse: Must. Pass. Them.
The solution: Overcome your competitive drive by hitting the treadmill. Or focus on running your own pace no matter what—good practice for race day. Sign up for your next race.