We see this quite a lot and there’s a lot of contradictory information online with a lot of talk about paces and heart rate and rates of perceived exertion. We are going to make it as simple as we possibly can.
An easy run is really easy! You should be able to do the run again at the same pace and perceived effort as you get to the end of it. If the plan says “Easy Run” or “Recovery Run” your heart rate should be low and you should barely be breathing much heavier than if you’re out for a walk. We cannot stress how easy this should feel. Easy runs are usually quite short.
There is no benefit to doing your easy runs too fast, save your legs for the hard days. If you’re worried about how it’s going to look on Strava and find yourself speeding up because of this, put your activity on private or just leave the watch at home. Personally I walk up steep sections of hills on these runs just to keep a lid on my exertion.
A steady run is different from this, some days a steady run will feel easy and some days it will not. We describe ‘steady’ as a pace you feel you could maintain for 3 hours (we avoid phrases like ‘marathon pace’ because it means very different things to very different people). The purpose of a steady run is to improve endurance and the duration of these runs can be anywhere from 10% to 30% of your weekly volume.
In summary, an “Easy Run” is slow with the emphasis on easy designed to aid your recovery and get you ready for your next session. A steady run aims to bolster your endurance and could feel easy or be quite tough depending on your other training going into the session. If you have any other questions on training then let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll write an article just for you!