Ok – before you groan about yet another rant from us about why athletes need to focus on easy efforts as much (if not more, for some) take a moment to get some perspective on why Easy is essential for any athlete, of any ability.
As coaches, we constantly see athletes pushing themselves through – what should be – Easy efforts, ignoring obvious signals form the body/ brain to ease back, follow the course, but instead hammering away at paces that far exceed what they realistically intend to run on race day.
And whilst we don’t always ‘see’ it, we certainly identity it when athletes begin to report excessive fatigue, or annoying niggles ready to explode into show-stoppers.
Of course, there is a way to avoid the above. RUN EASY. When the plan says easy, you do easy. Simple.
Except of course, most of us are driven with incorrigible ego’s – ultimately fuelled by fear – that push our minds past the point of reason and into the depths of stupidity.
Think that sounds a bit far fetched? It isn’t. I would happily peg 90% of my past injuries on going too hard when I was supposed to be going easy. And I bet I am not alone.
And really, the BEST reason I can give anyone to swim, bike, run easy is this:
You need to develop the fundamental skills of triathlon.
I don’t care if your goal is to visit Kona in October or simply race the clock for funsies. If you are an athlete (and you are) then you should be focusing on skill development. First.
Your body is a pretty amazing machine, and is as loyal as a German Shepherd. Until you push it too far and it pushes back.
The resilience of your machine has been forged over hundreds of thousands of years of needing to survive. That means when you tell your body to run really really really fast. It will, for a long as it can.
Stay with me here.
So this means, that when you head out for a session, and it says “easy”, and you say “F**k that, I feel good, I will run faster”. Your body will comply, remember it is loyal – almost to the point of stupidity.
And when it starts to fail under those increasingly excessive and unrealistic loads – due to (wait for it….) a lack of skill development….then your amazing, dependable machine will find as many compensations as it needs to get the job done.
And this is why Easy is essential.
Because you need to lay down layer upon layer of crucial skill development at an EASY pace before you can even condor reacting those skills under heavier loads.
Have you ever watched an Olympic Pool swimmer warming up. They go SLOW. And the technical aspects of their stroke are flawless. And as the speeds increase from the warm-up pool to the race pool, that form (positioning) remains intact.
The same is true across any sport I can think of.
You get fast by learning how to develop form and you can only do that by putting yourself in an environment that allows you to focus on the intricacies of your body position.
That is Easy.
Now if you had the time (meaning a full time athlete) you would probably have time to spend hours developing those positions to a finite point of near-perfection.
But you don’t. You have kids, a job, a dog; mouths to feed, email to answer and shit to do.
So you have to have a plan to develop your skills within the sport without compromising on the other areas of your athletic ability.
In my opinion, this is where your Easy efforts – generally at the start of any well though out session, become the most important weapon in your war-chest.
You can run at a truly easy pace and be aware of your body position, your cadence, your footfall, your muscles-firing (or not) and you can effect changes as you go.
You can’t do that when you are running fast. There are too many things happening at faster speeds that you really don’t have the peripheral to effect any form changes that might be required.
This is why going Easy is so important.
I laugh when athletes say “But Easy is so boring!”.
If it’s boring then you must have had perfect form!
If Easy is ‘boring’ then you are not concentrating. You are not thinking about your position. You are not creating awareness.
And if you can’t run Easy with good positioning, you won’t run fast (in endurance terms) with good positioning either. Maybe you can for a session or two, but remember that your body will find it’s way to compensate for the demands you are requesting of it.
You should relish the Easy because it is your best chance to set the body up for faster movement later.
Form doesn’t magically appear on race day. You have to work on it in your daily sessions. You have to divert you attention away from Strava segments and ego-driven hunger for speed and lay down solid foundations of movement.
So when that little voice tells you that you don’t really need to be moving that easy, kindly put it back in it’s place and revert your focus to the things that will actually make you faster.