Recovery is an essential element of any activity, especially one as physically demanding as running. And while most of us include regular rest days in our training, many runners fail to incorporate another valuable aspect of training: recovery runs.
What is a recovery run?
A recovery run is essentially just what it sounds like – a run that offers your body the chance to recover from a taxing workout, mileage buildup or long run.
These types of runs are completed at a very easy pace, usually significantly slower than your goal pace or even long run pace. They typically take place within 24 hours of a hard workout or long run.
In general, recovery runs are relatively short and require little physical effort compared to other training days.
Are there benefits to recovery runs?
While the concept might sound a bit hypocritical – running to recover after a run – the recovery run actually provides quite a few benefits.
Completing a recovery run in addition to your regular rest day can provide a plethora of benefits during hard training. While rest days provide time for your body to recharge and refuel in ways that are a bit more sedentary, recovery runs build upon this idea through the use of active recovery.
Related: 7 Ways to Make the Most of Rest and Recovery Days
During a recovery run, your body completes a physical activity while already in a state of fatigue. The ease in pace and effort during your recovery run makes this possible without adding to your level of fatigue, which may help improve your overall stamina and endurance.
As your body adapts to working through fatigue, you’ll benefit during hard workouts by being able to run faster or further before beginning to tire.
Recovery runs are a great tool to help boost your endurance.
In addition, recovery runs can help get your blood flowing to aid in muscle building without adding extra stress. They help keep your legs feeling fresh and avoid that stiffness that often comes from a sedentary day of rest.
When completed properly, recovery runs don’t add any addition stress to your body during training. Their sole purpose is to help improve your overall fitness without wearing your body out. They are a great way to safely increase your weekly mileage without increasing your stress load.
Why do some runners skip recovery runs in their training?
It can feel challenging to find a place for recovery runs during hard seasons of training. Taking a day out of your schedule to complete slow, easy miles can often feel like a waste of time when you could squeeze in another speed workout or interval run.
However, it’s important to remember that recovery runs do have a purpose – and a great one, indeed. In fact, adding a few recovery miles might even be more beneficial than a second hard workout.
These short, easy runs help runners stay injury free and prevent burnout, all while still helping improve their physical endurance.
When to do recovery runs
The timing of a recovery run is key to its success and benefit. Completing a recovery run 4 days after a tough workout will provide very little benefits in terms of recovery.
The best time to do a recovery run is within 24 hours of a hard workout or long run.
Related: How to Recovery from Long Runs | What to Do Post-Run
This is the point when your legs and body are still fatigued from the effort, but have had enough of a break that they are capable of completing a few extra miles.
Try to fit in a recovery run mid-week after a tough speed workout or interval run, or near the end of the week right after your long run. Space them out so you don’t complete multiple recovery runs in a row, and remember to keep them short and simple.
How to structure a recovery run
The key to a successful recovery run is making sure you are running easy enough. It can sometimes be tough to slow down when you are in the middle of working towards a mighty goal.
When you are making progress or aiming for new PR, slowing down on the run might feel a bit contradictory.
However, it can have massive benefits.
The first thing to consider when planning your recovery runs is pace. In general, you’ll want to run about 60 to 90 seconds slower per mile than you regular training pace. This usually equals about about 65-75% of your maximum heart rate.
>>Find out how to calculate max heart rate here.
How fast should you complete a recovery run?
The best way to determine whether or not you are running safely is to listen to your body. When completing a recovery run, you should not feel as if you are exerting a lot of effort. Keep things simple, short and easy for the duration of the run.
Run at a pace that feels comfortable. Evaluate your breathing and heart rate to make sure you are keeping thing easy and slow.
You might be surprised by how challenging it feels to slow things down on the run. Once you get started, it’s easy to fall back into your regular training pace without even realizing it.
Success during a recovery run involves making a conscious effort to run slower than usual, and adjusting your plan based on any pain or fatigue you might feel.
The easiest way to make sure you are running easy enough during recovery is to talk while running. Recovery runs should be completed at slow enough pace that you are able to maintain a conversation easily the entire time.
Recovery Run Workout Example
Remember that the duration, pace and frequency of recovery runs will vary for everyone depending on the amount of training days you have each week, your training pace and the types of workouts you complete.
In general, recovery runs should be short in length – around 3 or 4 miles. These runs should take place the following day after your long run or hard workout, whichever makes the most sense during your training.
Make sure to keep things slow and easy, and resist the temptation to just fall back into your “normal” pace. Use these runs as a way to help your body rest while still building mileage.
Always keep things safe, and take a break if you ever feel abnormally fatigued or notice any pain.
Recovery runs can be incredibly beneficial when implemented correctly. The simple addition of one weekly recovery run will help you increase your overall mileage, boost endurance and build mental strength.
Try one out this training cycle!
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