You have just started running and you are now getting to know some runners. It won’t take long before some runner tells you that they did a recovery run during the week. If you are too scared to ask just what they are on about, fear not. You are about to become a ‘recovery run’ expert.
What is a recovery run?
A recovery run is a slow run of shorter distance than normal. It has both physical and psychological benefits.
What it is not.
It is not used to flush out waste products out of the body. Lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour of even hard training sessions.
There is no evidence that a recovery run promotes muscle tissue repair.
There is also no evidence that a recovery run helps promote glycogen replenishment.
What is the benefit of a recovery run?
Recovery runs increase fitness. It is believed that they might increase fitness as much as faster runs do. The reason for this is that they force you to run in a pre-fatigued state. Fitness increases when you exercise beyond your initial fatigue point. Your key workouts will ensure that you take your body beyond its fatigue moment. When you go for a recovery run after these workouts, you run carrying the fatigue of the previous run and thus boost fitness, even though running at a slower speed and shorter distance than normal.
It is critical to vary your training. Simply sticking to hard runs in between key runs will have the effect of breaking your body down.
Rest is critical to getting fitter. You will not lose any fitness by having easy days scheduled into your program.
- If you run within 24 hours of a key run, you should usually put in a recovery run.
- A key run is a run designed to stretch you physically. These include hill repeats, intervals, races and threshold runs.
- Recovery runs are only necessary if you run four times a week or more.
- There is no purpose for recovery runs during the build-up phase of training as your build-up runs will be below threshold.
- You recovery run should be at a comfortable speed and distance.
- Your recovery run should not be detrimental to your performance during your next key run.
A recovery run is therefore beneficial physically in that it increases fitness levels. It also beneficial in that it gives you a break from the stress that a harder run brings about.