Why are recovery runs so important?

06 May, 2019 • by Admin

If you’re running more than three times a week, you should be doing recovery runs

It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive. After a hard run or race, we are more inclined to sit back, relax, chill and do nothing. However, what your body really needs after a hard race is for you to go out on a run – the recovery run.

If you asked a stadium-size crowd of other runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs.

I won’t go quite so far as to say that recovery runs are more important than tempo runs, long runs, and intervals, but I do believe they are no less important. Why? Because recovery runs, if properly integrated into your training regimen, will do just as much to enhance your race performances as any other type of workout. Seriously.

What is a Recovery Run?

Basically, a recovery run is one where you are running on tired legs in order to “train” your brain and body to become a more efficient runner. Many elite coaches use recovery runs.

The purpose of the Recovery Run is to facilitate recovery. It is designed to be short and easy-paced and most importantly relaxing. You should not come out of a recovery run feeling exhausted and breathless. Do not defeat its purpose by going any faster than necessary.

Pre-fatigued running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route. The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office, you might find a faster way–or at least a way that’s faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route

Why is Recovery Run important?

The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume

Studies have proven that recovery runs do not actually speed up the recovery process. There are some who say that the recovery run helps flush the buildup of lactic acid. With the acid gone, theoretically, soreness will decrease while healing increases. Scientists claim that there is no direct correlation.

Hardcore runners sometimes wave it off as a practice for joggers (that feud is unending), but recovery runs are a necessity for hardcore runners. To be more specific, if you’re running more than three times a week, you should be doing recovery runs.

Often, runners will feel stiffness and soreness in the hours after a run, and much more the day after. The soft recovery run allows those muscles to warm up a bit. On a biological and chemical level, the recovery run will release endorphins into the bloodstream, giving you a feel-good boost. The extra blood circulation to the legs will also give you some relief for the stiff or aching muscles.

How to do Recovery Run properly?

Always remind yourself the purpose of the recovery run – it is to facilitate recovery, not induce more fatigue. You should feel comfortable throughout your whole run. In fact, it is best to do this with a running buddy and be able to chit chat all the way. This is a sure way to ensure that you aren’t going too fast.

Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it's time to begin doing recovery runs in roughly a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.

Experiment to find the best recovery run formula for you, don’t be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing.

Preferably, you would run on a softer, flatter surface, no inclines. Some even go for barefoot runs on grass, others will, after a recovery run, do barefoot lunges on grass for ten minutes at a clip. This is hardly mandatory but feel free if you have the desire and capability; again, be careful about overexertion.

How often should you run?

  • If you’re running 3 times a week, you don’t need to do a recovery run
  • If you're running 4 times a week, your recovery run should be done on the same day as the run
  • If you're running 5 times a week, at least one of these runs should be a recovery run
  • If you're running 6 times a week, at least two of these runs should be a recovery run
  • If you're running 7 times a week, you are running too much, nobody should be running seven days a week!

The more running becomes a part of your life, the more you realise there’s so much to learn about this sport. Training regularly will improve your ability and performance, but overtraining, and neglecting rest, can lead to injury and illness.


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