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What Are Recovery Runs And How Do They Work


What Are Recovery Runs | Benefits | How Often | Pace | Distance

There are plenty of ways to improve your running performance, from interval training to diaphragmatic breathing. One tool that is often underused is recovery running.

Recovery runs can help both beginner and seasoned runners to up their mileage, improve performance, and boost recovery. Here, PureGym PT and keen runner Zach Kingsbury explains what a recovery run is, what the benefits are, and how to implement them into your training.

What Is A Recovery Run?   

A recovery run is a very low-intensity run, usually planned in for the day after a taxing or high-intensity run. Recovery runs are gentle on the body, with the purpose of improving recovery rather than taxing the body.

What Are The Benefits Of Recovery Runs?

Recovery runs are typically overlooked in favour of complete rest, or harder runs, but there are several benefits to swapping out some of your rest days or more taxing runs for a recovery run:

  • Increased mileage

    If you’re training for an event, or simply trying to boost your running fitness, you know that weekly mileage is important. However, constantly pounding the pavement away can be incredibly taxing on the body. Recovery runs are a great way to step up your mileage without putting too much stress on the joints or central nervous system. This means more overall miles without increased risk of injury.

  • Increased blood flow

    One of the main benefits of recovery runs over complete rest is that they promote increased blood flow. This delivers oxygen and fresh nutrients to the muscles, helping to flush out any lactic acid leftover from your harder training sessions. This can speed up recovery time and help you to feel fresh and rejuvenated for your next run.

  • Allows opportunity for assessment

    When you’re doing a high-intensity run, your focus tends to be on getting through the run, not how your body is feeling. Recovery runs allow you to mentally step back and assess how your body feels and identify whether your running or breathing techniques need improvement.

  • Mental reset

    For all the joys of running, it can be mentally taxing – particularly if you’re training for an event like a marathon. Recovery runs are great for helping you to relax, take in the fresh air and scenery, and refresh your mindset.

When Should You Do A Recovery Run?

Recovery runs should be done within 24 hours of a hard run. While this is normally the day after, a light recovery run in the evening is also an option if your regular run was in the morning.

When and how often you should plan in recovery runs depends on your current training routine. If you’re racking up three or more runs a week, you’ll benefit from adding one to two recovery runs a week – just make sure to scale back the mileage elsewhere to avoid over-exerting your body.

If you’re running less than three times a week, you may not feel a huge benefit from regular recovery runs. However, they can still be useful if you’ve done a particularly tough run.

What Pace Should A Recovery Run Be?

A recovery run should be light and easy-going, at a pace that allows you to carry out a conversation easily. The exact running pace will depend on several factors, including your current running fitness level, and it may even differ week to week depending on energy levels, soreness, hydration, and more. Rather than aiming for a specific pace, it’s best to aim for a 3 or 4 out of 10 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). If you’re feeling breathless during a recovery run, it’s time to slow down!

How Long Should A Recovery Run Be?

Recovery runs should be long enough to get the blood flowing, but not so long they are taxing. I recommend keeping recovery runs no longer than 20-30 minutes, and no more than 4 miles distance.

If you’re looking for more running advice, make sure to check out our Running Hub here – we cover everything from running knee pain to strength training for runners.

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