Do recovery runs work? The topic is up for debate. Most people categorize runs based on the length of the session. But those who have been running for years will often attest to the fact that recovery runs are as important as the primary workouts.
Some of the benefits of recovery runs include improved blood flow, mind-muscle memory, adaptation to training volume and stress, and maintenance of good workout habits. These types of runs are considered by amateur and professional runners alike as a way to improve fitness.
Running stress is often used to describe the limits of your current fitness level. Recovery runs are placed in the workout schedule between high-intensity days to maintain the pattern of workouts, and to improve the body’s ability to handle stress. The body does not have an infinite capacity to handle stress and recovery from intense training sessions can take time. These types of runs provide that time, while allowing the runner to maintain the mechanics and habit of running.
This is why a typical runner’s week is often based on a couple days of high-intensity training, maybe a day of long-distance running and two or three days of shorter recovery runs, always with at least one day off (no exercise at all). Some runners even prefer to run twice per day. This would mean they have a high-intensity session in the morning, followed by a slower recovery run later in the afternoon.
The specific schedule depends on the particular runner. But, alternating intense running sessions with slow-paced relaxed runs can be one of the methods to ensure the body gets enough time to rest for the ultimate performance, while not being completely sedentary. This can lead to the body being able to handle higher volumes in terms of distance and time for future runs.
Here are a few tips related to recovery runs:
Recovery Runs for Beginners
Not all runners are professionals. In fact, most people see running as a hobby. For these runners, a simple rule of being able to maintain short conversations while running for recovery applies well here. A surface which is flat and not demanding is recommended. Avoid hilly areas. Runners should feel comfortable during the entire duration of the running session, and should not be out of breath at any stage of the run.
The Pro Runner and Recovery Runs
If you are a professional runner or if you are training at the highest level, you may want to approach recovery runs with a more serious intent. Maintain a pace that provides a good rhythm, but is not too demanding on the cardiovascular system or muscles. To get an idea on how slow you really need to run for recovery, examine your normal workout pace, as well as your heart rate. It might be helpful to maintain a heart rate one or two zones below your normal workout.
How Many Recovery Runs Per Week is Ideal?
The ideal number of recovery runs per week largely depends on the fitness level of the runner. Most runners should ensure at least one day of complete rest every week. This means no running or physical activity at all. Many experts also recommend that at least one day per week should be dedicated to recovery running. But beginners can use recovery runs as many times as needed. The length of the run is also something that can be adjusted, as needed. However, it should not interfere with the recovery aspect of the exercise, and keeping it short is recommended.
Nutrition for Optimal Recovery
The right nutrition can be at least as important as the running sessions for muscle recovery. Anti-inflammatory foods are highly recommended for this purpose. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are recommended. Other sources of healthy fats can come from nuts and seeds.
Protein and amino acids are also needed for muscle recovery. The amount of protein to consume depends on the weight of the runner and on the goals in terms of muscle development. However, protein from whole foods is highly recommended for proper recovery. Vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables should also be included.
Hydration should always be among the main priorities for runners. There are multiple ways in which to tell if you are hydrating properly. One way to do this is to ensure that your urine is not dark in color. It should be light, with a lemonade color when hydration is at optimum levels.