Maximize Your Running with Planned Recovery Days
As a continuation of my series on Running with a Purpose, I want to talk about the importance of easy recovery runs.
Runners, whether they are beginners or experts, have an inherently obsessive and compulsive mind set when it comes to training. Any running, as long as it is harder or faster than the day before, is good training according to the brain. However, despite what Kanye West might think, “harder, faster, stronger” does not always equal better.
The body is a complex machine that responds to training stimulus only in conjunction with rest and recovery. The body does not have an infinite ability to heal itself and become faster and stronger without the proper rest in between hard bouts.
For runners, this means you must factor in recovery days as an essential part of your training program and follow them as they were meant to be. For some, this will mean a day of complete rest from training, for most it means taking some training sessions easier and not pushing yourself hard.
So what is a recovery day? How do I know if I am running easy?
A true recovery day should not be hard in the slightest. You should be training at a pace that you are barely breathing hard and could maintain a short conversation. Despite how good you feel when running easy, you should not push the pace on a recovery day; otherwise you are defeating the purpose of the workout.
Most people are amazed at how slow they must truly go in order to accomplish this task, and sometimes it can feel almost painfully slow. For example, a half marathon runner should run their recovery runs almost 1-2 minutes slower than their half marathon pace in order to maintain a true recovery pace. For marathoners, this pace is closer to 60-90 seconds slower than marathon goal pace.
For some athletes the idea of going slow may seem counterproductive to what they are trying to accomplish; however, all the hard training runs, interval workouts, and long runs are useless if you do not let your body recover from the effort and repair the muscle damage you have done.
The body gets stronger and faster by breaking down muscle (hard training) and then allowing the body to build itself back up stronger than before (recovery) and repeating the process until you are in shape and ready to race. To see a more in-depth visualization of this process, watch this slideshow.
So, the next time you are out training, ask yourself “what is the purpose of today’s training session” and make sure the answer you give is what you go out and do.