Recovery is more than post workout and a good night’s sleep

As mileage increases and training intensifies, recovery becomes crucial.  We can stress the body with training to trigger the adaptations we want, but it does no good if we aren’t including the recovery to ensure those adaptations actually take place.

I used to think of recovery as two-fold: what I did after the run and getting enough sleep.

From trial and error (and my share of injuries) I’ve learned that recovery means so much more.

Recovery days between hard workouts:   

It’s so important to allow 1-2 days after a hard workout for the body to improve and adapt.  This allows the body to repair muscle fibers and tissue and reboots the nervous system (which you want to prevent from becoming fatigued).

Depending on your age and fitness level, you may need 2-5 easy days between a hard workout.  These can be a mix of easy running days, cross training and complete rest.

In my late 30’s, I’m learning that 3 days between hard efforts is ideal.  Although I used to train with a speed, tempo and long run day, I’ve been shifting to 2 hard workouts a week (tempo and long or speed and long) and used this method to hit my half pr in the spring.  More workouts is not always better!

Remember that hard strength days stress the body too! So often a schedule of run, strength, run, strength also accumulates stress rather than allowing for adaptations for improvement.

Recovery between reps: 

We can manipulate recovery time between intervals to work different energy systems, but regardless the rest between interval reps is necessary to control fatigue and allow you to perform a greater volume of pace training.

Like the recovery between hard days, less is not necessarily better!

Recovery from life stress: 

Work, sleep, family responsibilities, evening meetings- these all take a toll on our body and raise our stress hormone (cortisol) and can even lead to injury.  As stress rises, it can also affect our motivation to train.

Practice stress reducing activities: deep breathing, mediation/prayer, a few minutes of yoga, reading, writing or whatever else helps you rebound from life stress.

Recovery seasons of training:

Not only do we need days to recover, we need the occasional chunk of a whole week or two or three to step back from running and let our bodies recover.  An ideal time is after a goal marathon or half marathon, or at the end of a season (the coldest part of winter or hottest part of summer is also ideal).

I’ve gotten better at taking those post-race seasons seriously and embracing two weeks of rest or relative rest after a marathon and a week after a half at the end of a season.

Of course, good recovery is also all the little things you do post-run (nutrition, stretching, rolling, elevation or compression) and solid sleep.

What about you? When do you build in seasons of rest?

How many days to you place between hard workouts?

I’m linking up with  SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner, and NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

14 thoughts on “Recovery is more than post workout and a good night’s sleep

  1. I totally agree with you on the “more workouts are not always better” thing. I normally go for 2 to 3 days of recovery with a combination of total rest and moderate cross training during those days. But mostly i really really need sleep after a tough workout or a race. This is the defining factor in how quickly i am able to recover.
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  2. Thanks for posting that table — so helpful! I definitely have noticed that I need more recovery time in the past few years. I don’t bounce back as quickly as I used to!

  3. All such great advice. I do think too many runners ignore recovery — and pay the price. It can be so hard, though, to cram it all in!

    One of my best tools this year is to keep track of my resting heart rate. It’s been an incredibly useful tool for me! I’ve probably skipped more runs due to that vs actual illness than I ever have — but racing has gone really well because I’ve paid attention and tried to run smart.
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  4. Laura, thank you so much for the wonderful articles. I’m inspired by you, because I started to run for 1 month and I’m loving it, I’ve already participated in 2 races and I’m finding it wonderful. Thank you very much!

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