Women on a recovery run

I added recovery runs to my training routine and you should too

Ask any runner what the most important part of their training is and you’ll get the same answer – recovery. Seriously, when it comes to running, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Running isn’t always about hitting a PB or going further than before, it’s also about enjoying the journey and finding pleasure in moving your body. To achieve this you need to nail your recovery – so today is the day to start recovery runs.

Short and sweet, they’re the perfect way to mix up your routine and stay active, while also being relaxed and mindful. Now that I’m training for another half marathon, I’ve made sure they’re a regular part of my training – and I’m here to tell you that they should be in yours, too.

What are recovery runs?

The name says it all. Instead of a run where you focus on going further and faster than before, a recovery run is short and slow. Recovery runs are designed to take place shortly after you’ve done a bigger, more intense run, thus helping you to, well, recover. This makes them great if you’re training for a 10K, half marathon or marathon, when you’re regularly tackling those longer distances.

An ideal recovery run should be stress free. You aren’t focussing on times, cadences or hills. You’re simply enjoying the ride and putting yourself out there. If you’re excessively sweating, getting a stitch or struggling to breathe during your recovery run, you’re almost definitely going too fast.

Why are recovery runs so important?

Recovery runs are awesome and when it comes to training for a longer race, they help in a number of different ways:

Reducing soreness

Ever felt aches and pains after a long run? I know I have. Before recovery runs, my calves were in a constant state of turmoil and I relied on ice packs and warm baths for relief. Since adding recovery runs into my schedule, I’ve noticed a huge difference. While the thought of being horizontal all day is tempting after a big run, it actually doesn’t do your muscles any good. They’ll become tight and stiff from a lack of movement – so your recovery runs help to loosen them up and keep the blood flowing.

Improving form

From posture to gait to everything in between, the right form can be the difference between winning and losing, succeeding and failing, enjoying running and loathing it. And, while you can improve your running form by doing strength training and wearing the right shoes, recovery runs can also help. Seeing as it’s a slow and enjoyable run with nothing else to think about, you’ll find that your form is more relaxed and you notice what you need to work on. You can then apply this knowledge to your longer, faster runs. 

Boosting mental health

Sometimes, the thought of going for a big run can be daunting, especially when you’re tired, stressed or lacking in motivation. Recovery runs are great because they get you out without the added pressure. And, when you’re feeling low, the endorphins and fresh air can work wonders. A recovery run can be a great opportunity to take some time for yourself, tune into a podcast (I’d recommend Rich Roll) and run any worries away.

How often should I do a recovery run?

How often you should do recovery runs relies on how regularly you’re running, and what you’re training for. If you’re training for anything over a 10K you probably run at least 3 times a week, and if so you should be doing a recovery run once a week. And, the best time to do a recovery run is within 24 hours of a longer one.

However, what I love about recovery runs is that there are no set rules. I might do a “recovery run” two or three days after a longer one – and that doesn’t make it any less valid. Your body knows what recovery feels like, so you call the shots.

What should a recovery run look like?

A recovery run should be flat like a pancake and short like a haiku. Seeing as recovery runs exist to soothe your muscles while keeping you active, it’s not the time to be speeding up hills or trekking through uneven terrain.

I think recovery runs should be enjoyable. So, I always choose my favourite route – a nice, flat nature walk with plenty of trees and little traffic noise. Find a place that you find peaceful and make it your goal to run there when your body needs it. Or, if you’re training for an event with a group of friends then why not link up with some of them for your recovery runs? With the slower pace of a recovery run, you should be able to chit chat away the whole time.

Tips for recovery runs

#1 – Get a fitness tracker. This will help you to run slower at a slower pace than normal and maintain it.

#2 – Run with a friend. Or on the phone. Either way, a conversation is ideal for a recovery run, because you’ll stick to a comfortable pace.

#3 – Don’t forget to stretch. Yes, it might be slow and steady, but stretching is still incredibly important. Stretching helps tune into your body and sense any aches or pains.

What’s you favourite method of recovery? Let us know in the comments below.

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Briony is a writer currently living in London. While she spends a lot of time hunched over a desk trying to craft sentences, her other passion is running. She enjoys setting her own goals and is currently training for her second half marathon.

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