Recovery Runs: The Secrets & Strategies for Active Recovery

Many runners seek to strike a healthy balance between training hard and finding the right time to rest. A recovery run is an option that simultaneously provides some of the benefits of exercise and recovery. The following article will walk you through what a recovery run is, the benefits of recovery running and how to optimize your results when doing so.

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What Is a Recovery Run?

A recovery run is a shorter, slower run that is usually done following hard workout sessions as a form of active recovery. After long runs, such exercise can help get more blood flowing to tired muscles, breaking down lactic acid and reducing fatigue as a result. You can technically go any distance you’d like on a recovery run, but as a rule of thumb, it should still be shorter than your original run. 

When Should You Do a Recovery Run?

Recovery runs will be most beneficial within 24 hours of interval workouts or long runs. You can also swap in a recovery run on days where you’d generally train but feel slightly off or show signs of overtraining. Still, it’s important to listen to signals from your body and ensure you’re getting proper rest, especially if you are sick or injured.

How to Find the Right Recovery Run Pace

Above all, a recovery run pace is an easy pace. If you’re considering using this technique, here are a few suggestions to help you find the appropriate recovery run pace. You can also find recovery run pace and distances in many training plans from Half Marathon Guide. Paces will depend on your overall fitness level, training volume, training sessions per week, and cross training program.

Monitor Your Heart Rate

You can use a heart rate monitor to find the right running pace. Recovery runs ideally put you between 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. It’s wise to stay on the lower end of that threshold to facilitate more recovery benefits and not exhaust yourself.

Related: Everything you need to know about running heart rate zones

Try the Talk Test

You can find a good pace even without the need for a heart rate monitor. Instead, try talking as you run. If you can sustain a conversation without feeling short of breath or beginning to pant, you know you’re going at the right speed for recovery.

Run a Flat Course

Steep hills and trails can increase fatigue, even when running at slower speeds. Grass or gravel are excellent surfaces to take pressure off your legs and feet during a recovery run. Keeping your path flat and easy on your feet will help you keep a more comfortable pace.

How to Incorporate Recovery Runs into Your Training

Runners with packed training schedules may wonder where this new type of run will fit in for them. You could choose to complete a recovery run as a secondary workout or cooldown if you’re an advanced runner, but otherwise, the best approach is to add on a lighter easy day run after your most strenuous hard run workout of the week.

6 Top Benefits of Recovery Runs

Active recovery is growing in popularity because of its impressive list of benefits. Here are some of the most noticeable advantages of incorporating recovery runs into your training.

Improved Performance

Slower runs help increase endurance, which long-distance runners always try to build and maintain. Faster, more intense runs boost fast-twitch muscle fibers to help you push through and pick up speed, but recovery runs can work slow-twitch muscle fibers that help your body maintain healthy speeds without tiring out. They can also help you train better by improving your overall aerobic capacity.

Improved Running Form

Since you’re going slower during one, a recovery run makes for an excellent time to work on your fundamentals. Focusing on your technique and form during your recovery run can help you train smarter the next time you go for a typical run. 

The improved form is also instrumental in helping you push your training without injuring yourself, so going back to basics with the easy run workout that recovery running provides is effective.

Mood-Boosting Effects

Everyone heralds runs for their mood-boosting effects, and it’s a shame you can’t always get that rush on your rest days. With a more relaxed run, though, you can still feel fantastic without overexerting yourself, as you get all of the endorphins without the mental stress of focusing on pushing yourself to your limits.

Reduced Risk of Overuse Injuries

The more leisurely pace of a these runs helps strengthen the vital body parts you use during your runs, like muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. The lower the impact on these parts, the lower the chances of sustaining an injury are. The increased blood flow to muscles also helps them flush out metabolic byproducts, like lactic acids, which can overstress muscles and lead to injuries.

Overtraining Prevention

Training regularly is crucial for runners, but overtraining can hinder progress immensely. Recovery runs work to prevent overtraining by giving your body a necessary break without sacrificing a full day of training. They’re an excellent happy medium for staying active and motivated while also taking care of yourself. Even professional runners can’t handle high-intensity training day after day.

Access to Different Energy Reserves

The body burns fat as a form of energy during low intensity exercise. Therefore, accessing that reserve during a recovery run teaches the body to be more efficient during more challenging runs, making it more likely to tap into fat as fuel instead of running on empty after it depletes glycogen stores.

Maximize Your Training with Recovery Runs

Incorporating a recovery run into your training could be the key to helping you perform your best without sacrificing your body’s need to rest. It’s an easy run, relaxed pace workout that seamlessly fits into any training schedule, and all you need is to find a comfortable pace and place to run to start benefiting from one today.

FAQ

How Slow Should a Recovery Run Be?

Your average recovery run should be slower than your other standard-length runs. A good starting point is around 55-75% of your average speed when running a 5K or 10K. A recovery run is certainly considered a slow run compared to a daily training run or track workout.

What Is an Example of a Recovery Run?

If you’re used to running a 7-minute mile, your new goal should be an 8 or 8-and-a-half-minute mile on your recovery days. Any run in which your heart rate is in the 60 to 70 percent zone of its maximum is considered to be a recovery run, and the time difference can vary from runner to runner.

Is a Recovery Run Better than a Rest Day?

Recovery runs are most beneficial after long runs or speed workouts and could help you feel less tired and sore than on a typical rest day. However, your recovery routine should still involve plenty of sleep, a good diet and stretching; recovery runs are not a substitute for giving your body ample rest time.

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