How to Improve Your Easy Run Pace, According to Experts

Steal these tips for getting faster on your zone 2 runs — while still keeping them easy.


Good news: We’re giving you permission to take it easy. Whether you’re gearing up for a race or running regularly to stay in shape, you should be doing the vast majority of your weekly mileage at a totally comfortable effort.

“An easy run should be at a casual pace that feels easily sustainable and not taxing — when you’re done, it should feel like you could keep going and going,” says Meg Takacs, a run coach and founder of the Movement & Miles app.

Although the whole focus of this type of run is to go easy and not stress about your pace, when you’re able to run faster (while still feeling relaxed), you’ll tick off more kilometres in less time — and be able to get on with the rest of your day sooner.

The Benefits of Easy Run Pace
The name is pretty self-explanatory: An easy run is any workout that’s not a long training run or speed work, and it should be done at a relaxed effort. The purpose, explains Takacs, is to build up your aerobic system, which uses oxygen as its primary source of energy. “When your aerobic system is strong, you can optimise your performance on anaerobic runs — a.k.a., speed days — as well,” she says.

There are a lot of adaptations happening in your body during these slower efforts. “Easy runs are extremely beneficial from a physiological standpoint: They increase capillaries, which supply blood to the muscles; increase mitochondria, which converts fat and carbs into fuel; and improve aerobic capacity, the amount of oxygen your body can use while running,” says Takacs.

They also help your body bounce back from harder efforts — like long runs or sprint repeats, for example — and help combat injuries. “Easy runs, especially for people who run endurance races, are a form of active recovery,” says Gabe Gonzales, head coach and master trainer with STRIDE Fitness in Lubbock, Texas. “Moving your body at a slower pace and keeping your heart rate down flushes lactic acid buildup, avoids putting excess strain on your muscles and joints, and helps your body get stronger and ready to go again.”

How to Find the Right Easy Run Pace
To find your groove on an easy run, use the talk test, says Gonzales: “You should be able to easily hold a conversation with someone throughout the entire run,” he says. “If your heart rate starts to go up and you start having a harder time breathing or talking, you need to dial it back.”

You can also gauge if your pace is relaxed enough by aiming for a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of no more than 5 or 6. Or if you’re into tracking your heart rate, go for zone 2, or 60 to 70 percent of your max, advises Takacs.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to kick it up a notch — even if you’re listening to music that makes you feel good and makes a moderate effort feel easier than usual. If you do so, “your recovery is harder, it’s more taxing on the body, and you’re more susceptible to overuse injuries,” says Takacs. Plus, she adds, you’ll miss out on those physiological benefits, “which are key to building a solid foundation for being able to run faster and farther.”

How to Make Your Easy Runs Faster
Okay, yes, wanting to do an easy run faster is a bit counterintuitive. You’re not supposed to care how fast you’re going, after all. But while you shouldn’t actively try to push your pace during easy outings, the volume and intensity of your weekly runs can help you gradually get faster without pushing the effort level up (which would, in turn, nix some of the easy-run benefits).

Gradually Build Mileage
In terms of total weekly mileage, there’s not a magic number that will help your easy run pace improve, says Takacs, as it depends on your fitness level and heart rate. She recommends gradually building up your mileage, always keeping around 80 percent of your runs throughout the week at an easy effort.

Adding some workouts incorporating hill repeats can also help, he says, because they strengthen the lower body and will help increase your power output overall — making an easy effort eventually feel even easier.

Build Strength
Along with speed work, make sure you’re getting in some resistance sessions, too. “Strength training is a very important factor in building endurance and durability of your muscles, and it improves your power output,” says Gonzales.

It may also help make you faster by making you a more efficient runner; exercises such as leg presses and plyometric jumps lead to significant improvements in running economy, according to a 2022 review published in the journal Sports. Plus, says Takacs, resistance training improves joint strength, which can increase your speed by improving your mechanics.

For the biggest benefit, Gonzales recommends lower body moves that work your glutes and hamstrings — like squats and deadlifts; core moves like Russian twists or mountain climbers; and moves that strengthen your shoulders, like overhead presses, lateral raises, and dumbbell flys — to add power to your arm swing. For each of these moves, he suggests doing two to three sets of eight to 10 reps at least twice a week.

Give Yourself Time
Becoming a faster runner during easy session is a long game. Even if clocking a faster easy run pace is one of your goals, prioritizing the time on your feet and a relaxed effort — rather than pushing into a moderate effort on easy runs — will be the most beneficial in the long term, notes Takacs. “The longer you can sustain an easy effort, the easier it is to gradually increase your pace while maintaining that easy, zone 2 heart rate,” she says.

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