Running · Running Essentials · Tips & Advice

Easy Miles Should Actually Be Easy – Calculate your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate.

I feel like I’ve been posting and talking a lot about my easy miles recently. I run all my easy runs, long runs, and recovery runs at at least 10+ min/mile and I am proud of that because it’s made me stronger and faster, and I’ve avoided injuries. Slowing down and monitoring your maximum aerobic heart rate makes you a more efficient runner (aka running further, faster) and lowers your risk of potential running injuries.

Slowing your pace by a few minutes 3-4 times every week doesn’t mean you’re slow, obese, insignificant, or any less of a runner than someone else out there. It’s a smart move, not something to be ashamed of. Just want to throw that out there.

In the fall of 2015 when I was training for the Richmond Marathon, my coach and I calculated my maximum aerobic heart rate (MAHR). Once we calculated the number, I was instructed to run most of my weekly runs slow enough so that my heart rate stays under this number. By doing this, I was training myself to be more of an efficient runner and also to lower the risk for any injury! Well, back in 2015 I had to run mile paces in the 12:30s to keep my heart rate this low! Yes, I was getting passed left and right by every single runner in Boston, but I didn’t care. I kept it slow because I knew in the long run I would become a stronger, faster, more efficient runner.

Fast forward to now, and I have! I can now run in the 9:00s to keep my HR lower than my MAHR. My MAHR has changed a little, and even though I’m stronger, faster, and a more efficient runner than I was 2.5 years ago, I still monitor my HR during easy runs, recovery runs, and long runs. I aim to keep my HR lower than my MAHR and even though I can run in the 9:00s and keep my HR under it, I just stick to the 10:00s because that’s even easier, gets my HR even lower, and gives my legs even more of a break.

So, yes, I run “slow” 3-4x a week to get faster and to avoid injuries. It’s proven, worked for me and is continuing to work. And I will continue setting this example and encouraging people to slow down.

By doing this for 2.5 years, I’ve shaved 3 whole minutes off my half marathon average pace (10:45 –> 7:45) and 1+ minutes off my marathon average pace (9:45 –> 8:30).

Many people reach out to me asking for tips on how to slow down. My biggest pieces of advice?

1) Be okay with having people pass you and don’t worry about what anyone thinks as they pass you.

2) SLOW THE F DOWN! It’s not hard. Really. Just slow down. It’s actually very easy and your body will thank you.

If you have a watch that shows your current HR, change your screen so your HR is the only thing that shows. Don’t worry about pace! That will take care of itself.

One of my many running goals is to become a running coach. I am so excited to teach my future athletes about the importance of actually taking easy runs easy and slow, and how beneficial it is to monitor your MAHR if you actually want to get faster and avoid injuries, just like my coach has done for me. Thank you, Siobhan, you are the best! 🙂

Now, will I always run my long runs, easy runs, and recovery runs at 10+ pace? I don’t know. My goal is to get even faster and stronger, and as my paces continue to change, I’m sure that I will be able to run even faster with my HR still under my MAHR. But that’s something I’ll talk to my coach about when the time comes.

Here is a link to an article about MAHR training and “The 180 Formula”, which my coach and I used to calculate my MAHR.

What are your thoughts about slowing down?



11 thoughts on “Easy Miles Should Actually Be Easy – Calculate your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate.

  1. I’m a big fan of slow, easy runs (my coach makes me do ’em too!). I was skeptical at first, but I realize that Im definitely running more miles now than before I incorporated these into my week. Someone once drew the analogy to lifting weights– I don’t go and lift at my max weight every time I’m at the gym, so why would I run at my max pace every time I run?


    1. Hi Catherine, I’m a big fan of them too! Progress doesn’t happen overnight but when you start to see it, it’s totally worth it! Comparing it to strength training is a good way to think about it.
      Happy running!


  2. This is an awesome blog post!! I’ve noticed in the world of social media everyone is fixated on “pace” and it’s not all about that. It is refreshing to know where I need to focus my attention and that is on my heat rate . I will try this method and see how it works for me. Thank you much 👍🏽❤️


    1. Thanks Ashley!! I’ve noticed that too, and pace is by no means the only important factor in becoming a stronger runner. HR is HUGE! I recommend this method, just know that results don’t happen overnight.


  3. This is interesting and I will definately try this because I wanted to increase my speed. However, I feel that I can run a lot longer now than before.


  4. Hi, Elizabeth!

    A girlfriend shared your blog with me (I’m a fellow blogger 🙂 ) after she read this post. I’ve been fighting off an injury for almost a year now. This post hit home. I’m pretty sure I started down the injury road when I amped up my miles AND amped up my pace way too fast. My hamstring was the first indication of something being off. I ran through pain for about 8 months – I had a back-to-back trail run I wanted to do. I know that’s stupid, but I said I’d take a break after that race. I did take a break, but not a very long one. I was back to running after 3 weeks off and my hamstring pain came right back. I had signed up for my first full, so I was a little devastated. I knew I needed to drop to the half (which I’ve done about 16 times). I again took time off, this time 4 weeks. I started back SLOWLY, and had ZERO pain. Well, being the stubborn person I am, I talked to my coach and told him I wanted to PR at the half I’m doing in April. I know, stupid. After building for 4 weeks, running slow, and having zero pain, I started picking up the pace. A little too quickly in my opinion, but I did it anyway. I’m RIGHT back to where I was – after only three damn runs. And now, my knee is hurting, too. It’s just SO frustrating.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, I get a little carried away. Just know, your post inspired me and once I’m back to running, it’ll be SLOW.

    Also, I saw your picture of Leadville. I ran the heavy half! When did you run there? My fiancè is a Leadman! He just finished the series this past summer – he proposed when he crossed the finish line after the 100! : )

    Have a good day!


    1. Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. Ouch!! That all sounds really painful. I know, it’s so hard to take a break from running but it sounds like it’s necessary now. I hope your hamstring and knee feel better! Yes, I highly recommend starting slow. Remember, just because you run slower a few times a week doesn’t mean that that’s your race pace or you can’t go any faster – quite the opposite actually!
      Oh cool! I did the heavy half twice and the full trail marathon 3 times. My fiance actually proposed at the finish line of the full in 2016. Too funny that we both got engaged there!! Congrats to your fiance on being a Leadman and completing the 100! I will be out there again this June running. If you’ll be there, it’d be fun to meet up.
      Wishing you a speedy recovery,


  5. Excellent info! I’ve been reading admit this and I’m hoping to implement it too. Can you do a post to address increasing your cadence? I know it’s important but not sure how to go about it! Keep it up, it’s been fun following your journey!


    1. Hi Eunice,
      Thank you! Even though it takes time, it really does work! And sure, I’ll write a post about increasing cadence. I’ve definitely noticed how much it helps. Thank you! Happy running!


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