Why every runner needs recovery runs

Why every runner needs recovery runs

What is a recovery run?

Recovery runs are easy-paced runs that give your body a chance to recover from harder sessions in your training plan. Physiotherapist Dr Kathleen Walker from Cardiff University explains: “What we’re trying to do is help any inflammation or soreness that has occurred as a result of exercise and help the nervous system recover from fatigue and it also helps us with mental fatigue from training. ”

While we know that rest days are important to our training, some runners prefer to use a ‘recovery run’ as a way of getting out and being active while also giving their body a chance to recover.

“Rest and recovery days should be seen as part of your training because that’s when the training adaptations occur” says Walker. “So I would argue a recovery run isn’t always true recovery. However, if a runner really wants to do a recovery run I would suggest a very low intensity run of 20-30 minutes. Any more than that and you’re going to build further fatigue.”

Why do we need recovery runs?

To get the most out of your training, you shouldn’t be running hard all the time. While it’s good to push through a hard interval session or tempo run, you need to balance that out with a recovery run.

“In my experience, most recreational runners feel time-crunched and have the perception that working hard will elicit the most ‘bang for buck’,” says Tom Bennett, a high-performance endurance coach from T2 Coaching.

“This, coupled with the rise in popularity in the media of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), has resulted in some runners neglecting the huge benefits to be had from long, steady and/or recovery running in their training plans.”

Studies have shown that while HIIT training produces a gratifying early bump in fitness over the medium term, moderate running can give equally beneficial changes of VO2 max in recreational athletes.

How often should you train hard?

Exercise physiologist Stephen Seiler, from the University of Adger, Norway, created the 80/20 rule. He argues that for maximum performance gains, 80 percent of your workouts should be done at a slow speed, coupled with 20 percent at a medium to fast pace.

This means if you train five times a week, only approximately one session should be in the hard zone (either Z3 or Z4-5 of your heart rate), such as an interval or threshold workout. “This means 80 percent of your training week should be spent on steady/easy running/exercise, that could easily fit into a ‘recovery running’ definition,” says Tom.

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