The Recovery Run

The Recovery Run

Runners, whether beginners or experts, very often have an obsessive and compulsive approach when it comes to training.  Any running, as long as it is harder or faster than the day before, can be conceived as good training according to the wiring of our brains.  However, “harder, faster, stronger” does not always equal “better”!

The body is a highly complex machine that responds to training stimulus only in conjunction with rest and recovery.  This point is extremely important to understand.

The body does not have an infinite ability to heal itself and become faster and stronger; it requires sufficient rest between the hard workouts that we put it through.  For runners, this means that we must include recovery days as an essential part of our training, and more importantly, we must adhere to the correct pace during these recovery runs.

For some, a recovery day will mean a day of complete rest from training, and for others it means taking the training run very easy.  A true recovery day should not be hard in the slightest.  You should be training at a pace where you are barely breathing hard and you can very easily maintain a conversation whilst exercising.  Even if you feel strong or fresh, you should not push the pace on a recovery day; otherwise you are defeating the purpose of the recovery workout.

Most people are surprised at how slow they must run in order to achieve the purpose of the recovery run, and often it can feel almost painfully slow!  The exact pace needs to be carefully calculated (if you are using one of The Running Plan training plans then you will have an exact pace already for this – “Gear 1 Run pace”), but as an idea it will be between 60-120 seconds slower than your race pace.

The idea of running very slowly often feels counterproductive to our inherent desire to continually run faster and achieve new Personal Bests (PBs), however all the quality workouts (speedwork, fartleks, hill work, tempo runs, etc.) and long runs are less effective if you do not allow your body to recover from the effort and to allow your body to repair the muscle damage that occurs when you train.

It is important to understand that our bodies get stronger and faster by breaking down muscle (hard training) and then building back up stronger than before (recovery phase).  So, give yourself a break, and don’t forget that ‘faster and harder is not always better’!


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