The Complete Guide To Recovery Runs

Quality workouts, think interval sessions and long runs, get the majority of attention in most runners’ training plans,  but recovery runs are usually ignored.

In fact, the recovery run has been the often-than-not forgotten workout.

That said, recovery runs are one of the most valuable runs. As we are going to see, recovery runs are essential.

Running at a relaxed pace can help you develop proper form, build endurance, establish base mileage, and might even, as the name implies, speed up recovery.

As a result, in today’s post, I’m sharing with some training guidelines on how to do the recovery run right.

The Complete Guide To Recovery Runs

What is a Recovery Run?

A recovery run is defined as relatively short, easy-paced, run performed within 24 hours after a hard session, usually an interval workout or a long run.

In general, recovery sessions are the easiest training day of the week, other than rest days.

Recovery, really?

According to conventional wisdom, recovery runs are believed to enhance recovery.

These easy workouts may flush out lactic acid build up, which can help prevent delayed onset of muscle soreness and speed up recovery.

That said, there is no scientific evidence proves that recovery runs can enhance recovery.

But, all in all, and according to my experiences, the easy-paced and slow movement help make my stiff legs feel better. And that’s a good thing if you ask me.

The Benefits

So, why would you include a recovery run into your training?

Here are some of the main reasons you need recovery runs in your training program

For starters, recovery runs may increase your fatigue resistance.

The best time to perform recovery runs is after a hard workout, so they are performed in a state of lingering fatigue from previous training.

Training in this pre-fatigued state has been shown to improve endurance and power output, according to research conducted at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

For more on this study, check this post.

Also, recovery runs can help you to put more miles without leading to (unnecessary) fatigue.

For more icing on the cake, the recovery run may do all the before mentioned without inflicting too much stress on your body.

When To Do Them

As a rule of thumb, whenever you exercise again within 24 hours of performing a high-intensity workout or a long run, your next workout should be a recovery run.

Another option is to do a double. In fact, elite runners will follow a hard morning session with an evening recovery run.

You can also do an easy run following a sleepless night, or when you start noticing that you’ve been taking your running routine way too seriously. That’s something we are all guilty of, one way or the other.

Just keep in mind that recovery are only a must if you run more than three times a week. If you run just two to three times per week, each session should be a “quality workout” followed by a recovery, or cross-training, day.

Recovery Runs Pace

In essence, recovery runs are performed at an easy pace.

Nevertheless, easy is relative to your fitness level and speed.

So, what do I mean by easy?

As a general guideline, your recovery run pace should be done at 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. To err on the side of caution, perform your recovery workouts at the lower end of that range.

In layman’s terms, this is roughly 60 to 90 seconds  slower than normal training pace. In fact, I’d go as far to claim that there is no such thing a running too slow on a recovery run.

Hence, if you’re obsessing over pace/speed, you are doing it wrong.

So, for example, if you perform your regular training runs at 6:30/mile pace, then use the 7:30 or 8:00/mile pace as your guide on a recovery day.

For an elite runner (you know who you’re), recovery runs are run at roughly a hair slower than your marathon pace.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re finishing your recovery runs sweating like hell and completely exhausted, then you’re doing it wrong. The fact is, you should feel better at the end of your workout than you did at the start.

You Keep Talking While You’re Running Away

The ideal recovery run pace is the type where you could keep a conversation going without gasping for air.

You should be able to talk in full sentences easily without much huffing and puffing.

Try reciting the alphabet or the pledge of allegiance on your own. If you can’t speak in complete sentences, then you are going too hard. Slow it down.

Sample Workout

In general, recovery runs can last for 3 to 5 miles (or 25 to 40 minutes), preferably on the smaller end of this range.

Again, this depends on you and your fitness level and training goals. No suit fits all.

A typical park loop may be enough to qualify as a recovery run. Even if you are an established endurance athlete covering 30+ miles a week, I’d still suggest no more than 3 to 4 miles for a recovery run.

The mentality of thinking that more miles is always better can do more harm than good when it comes to your recovery runs.

But that’s always the case—especially when recovery is concerned.

Also, keep your speed steady. There should be no fluctuation in tempo or training intensity.

I know. I know. According to my experience, the hardest part of a recovery run will be resisting the temptation to pick up the pace. Don’t get lured into that trap.

Keep things under control.

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David Dack

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