For most of my running life, I’ve done longer runs on Saturdays, and taken Sunday completely off. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with a recovery run on Sundays, at an extra slow pace, as Sundays are an easy day for me to get a few miles in (family run time).
I was curious to learn more about the rationale behind recovery runs, and did a little research. Most articles agreed that a recovery run is more beneficial to your body than a complete day of rest after a long run, but for differing reasons. Many stated that recovery runs help rid your legs of lactic acid, or increase blood flow to accelerate the healing process.
However, I found this article most helpful. Fitzgerald disagreed with the above reasons and says there is no research to back up the claims that a recovery run actually helps your body recover. Instead, he argues that the recovery run is important because of its potential to increase your overall fitness by asking your body to run in a fatigued state.
One of his articles was written for active.com, and he cited the following research:
Evidence of the special benefit of pre-fatigued exercise comes from an interesting study out of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study, subjects exercised one leg once daily and the other leg twice every other day. The total amount of training was equal for both legs, but the leg that was trained twice every other day was forced to train in a pre-fatigued state in the afternoon (recovery) workouts, which occurred just hours after the morning workouts.
After several weeks of training in this split manner, the subjects engaged in an endurance test with both legs. The researchers found that the leg trained twice every other day increased its endurance 90 percent more than the other leg.
He concludes that a recovery run after a hard run can teach your body to become more efficient and improves running economy. It also allows you to find the maximum balance of training stress and running volume, by keeping miles higher than they would otherwise be without overtaxing your body.
I’ve really come to enjoy my recovery runs, and generally run as slow as I want to for 4-6 miles, usually doing at least 3 as part of a family jog. I’ve come across a number of runners who swear by recovery runs, and others who rarely use them.
Fitzgerald’s article convinced me to hold onto the recovery run, with the understanding that it’s not actually recovery, but an important part of my training week. (To clarify, a recovery run should not be used in place of a complete day of rest.)
I have another race tomorrow morning, a 5k. My quads are wiped out from a killer hills spinning class this week, so I hope they’re ready to race. I feel like I always have excuses when I get nervous before a race… need to work on confidence. 🙂
I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!
Do you use recovery runs? Why or why not?
Do you find yourself making excuses before a race?