Run, Recover, Repeat: How to Supercharge Your Training with Recovery Runs

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David Dack

As a runner, I can attest that recovery runs are an essential part of my training routine, and I’m excited to share why they should be part of yours too.

Have you ever finished a challenging run and felt like your body just couldn’t handle any more pounding? That’s where the Recovery Run comes into play. It’s like a gentle massage for your muscles, an opportunity to flush out lactic acid, and a chance to get your body ready for the next workout.

But it’s not just about feeling good. Incorporating recovery runs into your training program can help improve your running form, boost your endurance, establish base mileage, and even speed up your recovery time.

In this article, I’ll dive deep into the benefits of recovery runs, how to find the right pace, when to schedule them, how long they should be, and tips on incorporating them into race-specific training.

So grab your running shoes, and let’s explore the art of the recovery run!

What is a Recovery Run?

Basically, a recovery run is a short, slow run completed within 24 hours after a hard session, usually an interval workout or a long run.

A recovery run can be of any distance, but as a rule, shorter than your base sessions and performed at a pace 60 to 90 seconds slower than your average run.

Imagine your body as a car that just finished a grueling race. You wouldn’t immediately push it to the limits again, right? You would give it some time to cool down and recover before revving it up for the next race. This is exactly what a recovery run is all about.

Aside from helping your body recover from hard workouts, recovery runs also help to improve running form, build endurance, establish base mileage, and even speed up recovery time.

“Improved” Recovery

First of all, let’s clear up something from the get-go about recovery runs.

Although called recovery runs, research has not yet proven that these runs actually speed up the recovery process in one way or the other.

In theory, recovery runs may help flush the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.

Once this build-up is gone, the soreness should subside while healing increases.

However, research is still inconclusive. But,, recovery runs offer other benefits that can take your running game to the next level. Let’s check a few.

Fatigue resistance

One of the most valuable benefits of recovery runs is fatigue resistance. By completing a recovery run after a hard workout or during a state of lingering fatigue, you can improve your endurance and power output, according to research conducted at the University of Copenhagen.

May Prevent Soreness

Recovery runs can help prevent soreness in your muscles, particularly in your hamstrings and calves.

They also increase blood flow and loosen up your muscles, preventing them from contracting and tightening up if you do nothing but sit on the couch all day.

Add Volume

Recovery runs can help you increase your weekly training volume, which can also help you improve your aerobic capacity.

The better your base, the faster and farther you can run.

Improve Form

Perhaps the best reason to incorporate recovery runs into your training program is that they can help you improve your running form and biomechanics.

With enough energy to focus on your technique and nothing else, you can work on perfecting your form and preventing injuries.

How To Find The Right Recovery Run Pace

Recovery runs are an essential part of any running program, but finding the right pace can be tricky. It’s important to remember that a recovery run is not a race, and it’s not the time to push yourself to your limits. Instead, it’s a chance to give your body a break and allow it to recover from a hard workout.

Here are two methods to help you find the right recovery run pace.

Method 1: Recovery Run Heart Rate

One way to find the right recovery run pace is to use a heart rate monitor. During a recovery run, you should aim to keep your heart rate between 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. This is also known as zone 1-2. However, it’s important to note that we all have different resting and maximum heart rates.

So, to be safe, it’s recommended to perform your recovery workouts at the lower end of that range. For example, if your normal training pace is 6:30/mile, then your recovery pace should be around 7:30 or 8:00/mile. Elite runners can aim for a pace slightly slower than their marathon pace.

Method 2: The Talk Test

Don’t have a heart rate monitor? No problem! Another way to ensure you’re running at the right pace is to use the talk test. During a recovery run, you should be able to hold a conversation without panting or gasping for air. If you’re running with a buddy, try reciting the alphabet or the pledge of allegiance together.

If you’re running solo, try talking to yourself. If you can’t speak in complete sentences, then you’re going too hard. Slow it down and enjoy the run.

The key to finding the right recovery run pace is to listen to your body. Don’t worry about your pace or the distance covered. Instead, focus on how you feel. Are you relaxed? Are you breathing comfortably? Are you enjoying the run? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re doing it right.

Pick a Flat Course

There are some important factors to consider when it comes to nailing your recovery run pace. One key element is the terrain.

First of all, consider the terrain. Recovery runs are not the time to tackle steep hills and rugged trails. You want to give your legs a break from the pounding they endured during your last run. Opt for a flat course instead, such as grass, flat trail, or gravel. Concrete and asphalt are not your friends during a recovery run because they can be hard on your feet.

Timing is also crucial. The best time to do a recovery run is within 24 hours of a challenging workout or long run. In fact, some experts recommend doing a recovery run in the morning if you completed a hard session the previous day. This is known as a “double” in the running world, and it’s a common technique used by elite runners to pack in as many miles as possible.

But don’t overdo it with your recovery runs. Even though the pace is slower, it still counts as running, which means there’s impact stress on your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. If you’re finishing your recovery run sweating profusely and feeling completely exhausted, you’re doing it wrong. You should actually feel better at the end of your workout than you did at the start.

Balancing It Out

It’s important for runners to find the right balance between recovery runs and other types of training.

As a general guideline, aim to do no more than two recovery runs per week and should adjust the frequency and duration of recovery runs based on your recovery needs.

Additional Resource – Your Guide to fun runs

Timing – Recovery Run After a Long Run

According to experts, it’s best to complete your recovery run within 24 hours of a challenging workout or long run. And if you’re a hardcore runner, you can even do your hard session in the morning, followed by a recovery run in the evening.

That’s how some elite runners can pack in as many miles as possible. However, keep in mind that recovery runs are only necessary if you run more than three times a week. If you run two to three times per week, then each session should be a quality workout followed by a recovery or cross-training day.

What’s more?

Keep in mind that just because you’re doing a recovery run doesn’t mean you should skimp on other types of recovery.

Stretching, diet, and sleep should be the bread and butter of your recovery routine.

Don’t Overdo Your Recovery Runs

Every time you pound the track, it still counts as running, no matter the label in front of it.

This involves impact stresses on your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Even the easiest recovery pace may aggravate a stress fracture.

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.

How Long Should a Recovery Run Be

What’s the point of recovery runs if you don’t know how long they should be? Generally, recovery runs can last for 3 to 5 miles or 25 to 40 minutes, depending on your fitness level and training goals.

However, even if you’re an established endurance athlete, covering 30+ miles a week, I’d still suggest no more than 3 to 4 miles for a recovery run. And remember to keep your speed steady and your breathing under control.

Race-specific Recovery Run Tips…

If you race often, then recovery runs should be a part of your post-race recovery strategy.

How quickly you pick up running again after a race depends on the length of the event you’ve just completed, your conditioning level, and when you plan to compete next.

Nonetheless, here is some general advice on when to plan your return to training.

  • Recovery Run After a 5K or 10K. Resume normal training within a few days, depending on your fitness level. The first day after the race, examine how your body feels. Usually, you’ll want to do a recovery run for at least 20 minutes, then stretch your body.
  • Recovery Run After A Half-Marathon. Completing a half marathon pretty much guarantees that you have inflicted some damage to your body. After three or four days, go for a 20 to 30-minute recovery run to help you get back into the swing of things as soon as possible.
  • Recovery Run After A Marathon. The following day following the race, walk around and stretch your body. Avoid running or any form of intense cross-training. Then, after two or three days, lightly cross-training. Next, schedule your recovery run at least a week post-race.

How to Do A Recovery Run  – Listen To Your Body

With all of this in mind, the key to making the most out of your recovery runs—and training in general—is paying attention to your body.

Take a few minutes every day to close your eyes and shift your attention inward to assess how you feel.

Start by performing a full body scan from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

My favorite time is in the morning.

Usually, during that time, your body will show its true color, so you can easily decide what to do next.

Pay attention, and why not keep track of everything you feel.

Your body is your best coach—it knows best.

Train hard when you’re feeling good, and take it down a notch when you feel like you are coming down with something or don’t have enough energy.

Recovery Runs – The Conclusion

In conclusion, recovery runs are a crucial component of any runner’s training routine, offering a multitude of benefits that can enhance your overall performance. These gentle, slow-paced runs act as a soothing balm for your muscles, allowing them to recover and prepare for future workouts. Beyond the immediate relief they provide, recovery runs contribute to improved running form, increased endurance, and expedited recovery times.

Please leave your questions and tips in the section below

Thank you for dropping by

David D.

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