Recovery runs are well used by elite runners and can be a beneficial tool in the training toolbox of any runner who runs four or more times a week. In this blog I’ll explain the what, why, when and hows of recovery running.
What Is A Recovery Run?
A recovery run is a short, easy run which helps a runner to recover from a race or hard training session.
Why Is It Beneficial?
A hard run can mean lactic acid build up in the muscles, this leaves behind waste products which can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps and soreness. A recovery run can help flush these waste products out of your legs, removing some of the discomforts they bring on.
How Long Should It Be?
For newer runners with reasonably low weekly mileage (less than 30 miles) a recovery run can be as little as 2-3 miles. However you can increase the length of your recovery run as your weekly mileage increases, up to about six miles at the most. The run should be seen as a recovery from the previous training session or race, rather than a training run in its own right.
When Should I Do It?
Elite runners will do a recovery run in the evening, if they have raced that morning. Depending on your fitness you may feel too tired to get out and run the day after a half marathon, and a recovery run two days after the race may suit you better. If you leave it any more than two days after a hard session or race the recovery run will lose it’s effect. I like to do a recovery run the day before a race: If I’m racing a 10k on a Sunday I’ll probably do about 5 miles with some strides on the Thursday and then do an easy 4-5k on the Saturday to get the weeks training out of my legs.
Is There An Alternative To Recovery Running?
Yes, for runners with lower weekly mileage cross training is a good substitute for recovery running – a swim, a gentle bike ride or even a walk can help the legs feel better.
A recovery run can flush waste products out of the legs meaning aches, pains and cramps diminish more quickly following a hard run
If you run three or less times a week consider cross training (walking, cycling or swimming) 24-48 hours after a hard run as a way to help you recover
If you run four or more times a week run a very easy 2-3 miles a day or two after a hard run