Why Runners Should Do Recovery Runs

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“Some days call for a ‘recovery run’ on my training schedule. What’s a recovery run and should I include them in my training?”

Recovery runs are an important, beneficial part of a training program, especially if you’re getting ready for an endurance event such as a half or full marathon.  The purpose of a recovery run is exactly what it sounds like – to help you recover. After a hard speed session or a long run, your legs are sore, tight, and fatigued.

Going for an easy, short run can help flush out any remaining lactic acid, gets your blood flowing, and loosens up those tight muscles.  Whether you’re running, run/walking, or walking, it’s much more beneficial than sitting around. The goal is to feel better at the end than you did when you started.

How to Do Recovery Runs

Before you start, do a few warm-up exercises to get the blood flowing and your heart rate up. Then start running at an easy pace (conversational pace, you should be able to talk in complete sentences) but with short, quick steps. Take small strides and try to spring up quickly. You should aim to keep your cadence as close to 180 steps per minute as possible and maintain that quick, rhythm throughout the run. Ideally, you want to be doing all your runs with those short, efficient strides, so you don’t want to get out of the habit during recovery runs.

Do your best to avoid plodding along with slow, heavy steps.

You should be landing on the mid-sole of your foot, not your heels. And your feet should be landing under your hips, not in front of you.

I usually recommend that runners do recovery runs by time, rather than distance, so that they don’t focus too much on their pace or how far they’re going. If you go out for a 30-minute recovery run, for example, you’re less likely to be tempted to go too fast and overdo it.

  Try to keep your recovery runs between 20-30 minutes. You should always end your recovery run with a feeling that you could run more. The goal is not to feel totally wiped out and like you couldn't have kept going. You should feel fresher and less sore and tight than when you started.

If you find it too difficult to run without pushing yourself, then do another activity, such as walking or swimming as a recovery. Take the same approach as you would with a recovery run. Go at an easy, comfortable pace with the goal of feeling less tight, more energized and relaxed at the end.

After your recovery run is the perfect time to do some static stretching. Try these essential post-run stretches.

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