Recovery Running

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Tinman
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Recovery Running

Post by Tinman » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:22 am

I am copying a post I made in the "Training Talk" section of The Run Zone because I know most of our community members read the "Coaching Talk" section more. Here is what I posted (and hopefully is spurs further discussion, new ideas, and provides opportunities for others to share what they have learned through experience). Note that it's important for others to know that I don't have all the answers. I provide what I know, and I hope you (the community members) do the same.
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One thing to keep in mind is the utility of slow running. Oddly, you can run 70 minutes on your easy days and that can be a recovery run. The key, however, is to run slowly. It's the complete key to recovery. Most runners get it wrong: they think that shorter runs are for recovery, but one can run shorter and too fast or shorter at the regular pace and still not feel recovered the next day.

Another thing to understand is what is really meant by recovery. Does it mean one is full of pep or has bouncy legs? I think that's the common idea, but I don't think it's remotely right; either pragmatic or theoretical terms. One can have legs that are not bouncy but energy to run strongly in a workout or race is present. As a coach and former competitive runner; I fear bouncy legs, especially at the wrong times. Bouncy legs mean unstressed legs, and that can also mean legs that lack conditioning. Think of this: Bill Rodgers, one of the best marathon runners of all time (considering how many major marathon victories he had) used to say that he wasn't in good marathon racing shape until he could barely jump off the ground. If he could jump high that means he was not properly trained for the marathon - that he would bonk, basically.

Slow running is recovery running, up to a distance that you can manage well. For most runners, that's about 15% of their weekly mileage in a single run. If you run 60 miles per week, 15% is 9 miles. Anything over 9 miles, even at a slow pace, is no longer recovery running. However, in my view, anything under 10% is not recovery too simple because I've noticed the most runners don't seem any more recovered after running less than 10% than they do runner at or above 10%.

I actually think that a run at 10-15% is perfect for most runners, on their easy days. If you double that day, it's ok to split the total distance up, but don't make a habit of just doing one short run and then skipping the other one. You won't feel so great the next time you try to do a solid workout or race. There's "strength" in distance running, and you lose it when you skip it. You can feel strong during a 5km or 10k or 10-mile race while running 6-9 mile recovery (filler) runs during your 60-mile weeks, but feel terrible in your races when you cut your runs to 5% of total mileage. Yeah, that seems odd, but for many runners it is true.

Running a mere 3 miles the day or two before a race can make you feel less tired on race-day, but half-way through your race you feel weak and can't hold a decent pace. You lost your "strength," for lack of a better word. Thus, feeling chipper doesn't relate to overall racing performance. One can feel just "ok" in the morning of a race because there was very little change in daily mileage in the lead-up to a race, but during the race the capacity to sustain pace/speed is there.

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Re: Recovery Running

Post by ap4305 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:23 am

It is also important to consider the other side the equation, which is "what are you recovering from?"  You can set the stage for your recovery runs by not going too much into the tank in hard workouts.  I think the discussion about optimizing recovery run distance goes out the window if we blast ourselves on the track.  One reason some runners find that longer recovery runs don't work for them is their hard workouts create so much muscle damage that simply bearing weight on the legs is quite a stress.  Contrary to what some runners think, having chronically sore legs while walking up stairs is not a badge of honor.  If your recovery runs aren't doing their job, perhaps it is because you are leaving your body in too much of a mess for a recovery run to clean up and/or you aren't paying attention to other factors that can aid recovery such as mobility training, soft tissue/manual therapy, and nutrition. 

Schebo

Re: Recovery Running

Post by Schebo » Fri Jan 14, 2011 4:57 am

[quote="Tinman"]
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Another thing to understand is what is really meant by recovery. Does it mean one is full of pep or has bouncy legs? I think that's the common idea, but I don't think it's remotely right; either pragmatic or theoretical terms. One can have legs that are not bouncy but energy to run strongly in a workout or race is present.
Regards,
Tinman
[/quote]
I think this depends on what distance you are racing. If you are going to run a really fast 1500 you better have some bounce in your legs. I remember the morning before my 3,44 PB. I was so full of energy I could barely sit still during breakfast. A number of years later, before my 10k PB the feeling was completely different, but then I had been doing twice the mileage during racing season.

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Re: Recovery Running

Post by Tinman » Fri Jan 14, 2011 10:43 am

My stance is the having "bouncy" legs at times other than when one intends to set a personal best ruins the realization of potential. On many occasions as a coach I have dealt with runners that expected to feel for bounce in the stride before a regular race - they have the illusion that they have to set a personal best every time they race, so they expect me to taper them to run fast and regain their springy stride.

Another point: It's one thing to have a "bouncy" stride due to plenty of tapering, which leaves you short of endurance-strength, and it's another thing to have a bouncy stride because you trained at a solid level for many weeks and then you reduced out the amount of hard running in the last 2-3 weeks prior to an important race. The latter approach created "bounce" by reaching a high level of fitness but fatigue was present; and then fatigue was reduced by cutting back on the the amount of hard training for a peaking period.
Last edited by Tinman on Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Schebo

Re: Recovery Running

Post by Schebo » Fri Jan 14, 2011 11:02 am

[quote="Tinman"]
My stance is the having "bouncy" legs at times other than when one intends to set a personal best ruins the realization of potential. On many occasions as a coach I have dealt with runners that expected to feel for bounce in the stride before a regular race - they have the illusion that they have to set a personal best every time they race, so they expect me to taper them to run fast and regain their springy stride.

Another point: It's one thing to have a "bouncy" stride due to plenty of tapering, which leaves you short of endurance-strength, and it's another thing to have a bouncy stride because you trained at a solid level for many weeks and then you eased out the amount of hard running in the last 2-3 weeks prior to an important race. The latter approach created "bounce" by reaching a high level of fitness but fatigue was present; and then fatigue was reduced by cutting back on the the amount of hard training for a peaking period.
[/quote]

Of course you can not have fresh legs in every race during racing season. Then you´re not training hard enough!

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Re: Recovery Running

Post by Tinman » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:47 pm

Schebo -

Of course you understand that point, having trained hard and reached a high performance level, but very often the average runner doesn't know this or appreciate how sacrificing a few seconds per mile on their performance in regular races is necessary to reach one's potential at the end of the racing season. As a coach of many runners that are average by national standards, I deal with runners that expect to run fast in every race, setting a new personal best each time. Some get frantic that they don't feel fresh or have bouncy legs in the week leading up to a local 5km road race. My point is I can reduce the workload and artificially create fresh, bounce legs, or I can wait until a runner has several weeks of steady, sometimes taxing, training accomplished and then reduce their workload prior to an important race.
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Re: Recovery Running

Post by BoilerTom90 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:18 pm

This is a good thread and topic.

One additional question I  have after reading the thread is knowing the difference between a recovery run and an easy run. 

For someone following a two-big-workout training model, should all non hard/big days be considered recovery runs, or just the day after a big day? The next day is an easy run?

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Re: Recovery Running

Post by ap4305 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:55 pm

[quote="BoilerTom90"]
This is a good thread and topic.

One additional question I  have after reading the thread is knowing the difference between a recovery run and an easy run. 

For someone following a two-big-workout training model, should all non hard/big days be considered recovery runs, or just the day after a big day? The next day is an easy run?
[/quote]

I think comparing a "recovery run" to an "easy run" is a distinction without a difference.  In the Big Workout context, the other five days of the week all have both a recovery component and a conditioning component.  Two or three days after a Big day, your body is still in a partial state of recovery.  Every non-hard run has a conditioning component as well, but the conditioning effect results more from how that run interacts with the rest of your training than what that run does for you in isolation. 

Ninetonite

Re: Recovery Running

Post by Ninetonite » Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:09 pm

Tom et al,
I might be running too fast on my recovery days. Sometimes I don't feel all that refreshed.  I seem to have one gear for warmups, easy days and recovery: it's about 1:15-1:30 min slower than 10km pace per mile.  And if I feel good I tend to push the pace on my easy days. I gues I should stop doing that.

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Re: Recovery Running

Post by Tinman » Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:16 pm

If you want to emphasize your key workouts; slow down on your easy, filler runs (recovery runs). If you have no key workouts, it's fine to run at a more moderate pace on a daily basis. But, don't make the mistake of injecting a hard workout or race into your schedule and not compensating for it by running quite easy during the next 2-3 days. Balance your training approach! The density of training must be at a level that can be absorbed without injury, illness, chronic fatigue and soreness, or mental burnout.
Last edited by Tinman on Sat Jan 15, 2011 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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kpt4321

Re: Recovery Running

Post by kpt4321 » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:12 am

[quote="Ninetonite"]
Tom et al,
I might be running too fast on my recovery days. Sometimes I don't feel all that refreshed.  I seem to have one gear for warmups, easy days and recovery: it's about 1:15-1:30 min slower than 10km pace per mile.  And if I feel good I tend to push the pace on my easy days. I gues I should stop doing that.
[/quote]

I think that the proper "ratio" of race pace to easy pace depends on how fast you are.  I run about two minutes per mile slower than 10k pace on my easy days (6:00 vs 8:00 pace), but it varies depending on how I feel and the terrain.

road dog

Re: Recovery Running

Post by road dog » Sat Jan 15, 2011 12:38 pm

Tinman,
I would agree w/ your assessment that a recovery run should be moderate length(10-15% weekly mileage), and at a slower pace.

For myself, my recovery runs are 7-8miles@745-815/mile.  Note - my mileage is 60+miles/week, and my 5k time is 17:50.

-road dog

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