Benefits of Recovery Runs – Why Running Slow is Good For You?
We are in it for the long run. We are committed to training or maintaining our running fitness. But as just as important is those long runs and speed work is the recovery run.
The problem is that many seem to overlook the importance of this type of run. Runners might now even know what it is.
What is a Recovery Run?
A recovery run is one done the day after an intense or endurance-based workout such as a long run or interval session. This is done at an easy, conversation pace where the runner should focus on being relaxed than speed or distance.
Many runners skip the recovery run when training or a half or full marathon. That’s because they often take a rest day during the week and one the day after the long run. After running 12 miles on a Saturday morning, many opt to take Sunday as a day of rest.
But it’s beneficial to go for a recovery run. Here’s why.
1. Prevent Soreness
There is a joke within the running world about not being able to get into a squat to use the bathroom or climb the chairs after a long run or race. Part of the reason why the recovery run is important is to prevent stiffness from happening.
It’s best to shake things out and loosen muscles up after that strenuous workout. Even if it is just for a mile or two, getting moving is important. Doing so releases that lactic acid build-up, a byproduct of an intense workout.
It also helps to prevent feeling sore in the days after that marathon or training run.
2. Jumpstart Muscle Repair
Many assume that allowing for the body to rest the following day is what the muscles to rest and repair. The last thing we want is an overuse injury.
But going for a recovery run is a way to repair the muscles and tendons that might be inflamed and have tiny tears from the intense run the day before. Running at a relaxed pace means blood is flowing to the muscle fibers for restoring and repairing.
During an easy run, its slow-twitch muscle fibers that are being worked. These fibers have more mitochondria, which results in more aerobic enzymes. It also means more blood flood to the muscles compared to when using fast-fast-twice fibers during high-intensity runs.
This means the runner won’t be able to perform as well for speed work days without having those easier runs.
3. Avoid Injury Or Come Back Safely From One
Easy runs decrease the risk of an injury. This is because the muscles aren’t always working so hard. Instead, the muscles still get that workout in, making them stronger without pushing to the limit of exhaustion or too much wear and tear.
It’s also important to add lots of recovery runs when coming back from an injury. If the body is still healing, strenuous activity isn’t a good idea. But when cleared to run, starting off slowly and gradually working up to mileage and speed is best to avoid a repeat injury.
4. Resets The Mind
Another positive aspect of the recovery run is the chance it gives the mind to reset after a long week of training.
Instead of focusing on mileage or pace, the runner just needs to run. It means no pressure and a way to reset the mind to forget about maybe a hard run the day before and start the next big run with a fresh outlook.
The runner doesn’t need to focus on anything other than enjoying the fresh air and surroundings. Sometimes we just need to go back to the basics of why it is we run. The recovery run helps the runner do just that.
Hit The Right Pace
For the recovery run to, well, help the runner recover, having the right pace is crucial.
The pace of the run varies based on an individual runner’s average pace. The rule of thumb is that it should be a low-intensity run in terms of effort. This means a conversation pace. The runner should never feel like they are pushing it. Aim for around 60- to 90-seconds slower than normal average pace.
The recovery run doesn’t need to be really long when it comes to distance. However, this is also subjective. After a long training run in preparation for a marathon, a recovery run might be anywhere from three to six miles.
Even when not training, a recovery run can be higher in mileage like six to eight depending on what that day’s goal is. A recovery run in this situation isn’t a tempo run or fartlek workout for speed. It’s those miles that are just miles that add to a weekly total where the pace isn’t at the forefront.
There is no short thing as run-in too slow during a recovery run as long as the form is intact.
When To Take It Easy
Recovery runs are best to do the day after a long or hard run. It’s also best to go for an easy run if feeling soreness.
These types of runs are beneficial both when training and when building up overall fitness and slowly increasing mileage. Going for easy-paced runs is a great idea when stressed from too much routine in workouts or focusing too much on pace.
However, if the runner often is injured it might be best to take more days of rest opposed to going for a recovery run.
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