Excerpted from Running With Joy:
“Most runners run too easy on their fast days and too hard on their slow days. The basic principle of running is to break your muscles down on the workout days and then allow them to rebuild on the easy days. Take your easy days seriously and allow your body to recover. There is no point working the broken-down muscles again and again—your body will see little or no adaptation.
I used to hammer my workouts every day. I prided myself on being a hard worker and often competed with my teammates at Stanford when I should have been recovering with an easy run. My body could sustain such a training load for a little while, but before we reached the championship portion of our season, I was tired and regressing rather than building fitness. I had a hard time understanding why I was working harder than everyone else and yet seeing the least amount of improvement.
When my pride finally gave way to frustration and I was forced to take my easy days seriously, I gradually began to improve. Now, having observed the best runners in the world, I realize that those with the most confidence run their easy runs the easiest. My coach at Stanford, Vin Lananna, used to say, “Where does the big elephant sit? Wherever it wants.” Don’t let others dictate your pace. Reject the need to compete and to prove yourself on every run. I do a lot of my easy runs with Sara and the other girls on our team because my body is telling me to take it easy.
Learn to pay attention to your body on easy days and hard days. No one else can feel what you are feeling or determine what is best for your body. When I am working out, I constantly ask myself, Am I making a deposit today or a withdrawal? Only you can answer that question.”