The Recovery Run

What is the point of the recovery run?
I don't understand what it is meant to do. I know you're meant to do one the day after a long run. Surely it stops your body from repairing itself? How does it provide a benefit?


  • Used to confuse me terribly, Effie. Being told that we should be running 3-4 days a week and cross-training at least one day while having an "easy" day the day after a run and a "rest" day two days after a run had me wondering how runners manage to have so many days in their weeks. I mean, exercise makes us more efficient, but that's taking things too far.

    A "recovery run" (or you might hear it called a maintenance run or some such term) is shorter and/or slower than a training run and is used by experienced runners to keep up their mileage and to stimulate blood flow into their muscles to clear away all the rubbish and lactic acid and bits of broken muscle cells that are left behind after your legs have taken a good battering on the roads.

    There's no reason why your "recovery run" shouldn't be a "recovery swim" or a "recovery cycle". I'm at an early phase of my training, so my recovery runs are brisk walks.

    There's some controversy about at least some ares of the recovery run concept - for example, few runs can create more muscle-cell carnage than a marathon, yet it has been demonstrated that people who sit on the sofa for a month after a marathon recover more quickly than those who head back into a reduced level of activity straight away. But I know there will be at least one Forumite who will testify to the opposite...

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers, V-rap.
  • Thank you. Your explanation helps me loads. I'm going to change my swimming session into my recovery session as it is a good all over body workout, (followed by a sauna).
  • I ran the Moray Marathon on Sunday and I've been resting since.I feel ok just a bit stiff. I did the same race last year and took advice and laid off running for a month. I found it very hard to get going again so this year I'm going to start again almost immediately albeit with 15 min jogs.
    After all 3 weeks ago I did a 20 mile training run and I only rested for 1 day. How much difference can just 6 more miles make?
  • The trouble I have with recovery runs is that, at my pace, running slower than in my training runs is somewhat tricky! I understand the concept, but prefer plumping for the suana option too.

    Seriously, I reckon a good 20/30 minute stretching session the day after a long run is pretty useful if you don't feel like running. Did one this morning pre-work and the old muscles don't feel too bad now.
  • You get a certain amount of confidence adding a couple of 4-5 mile recovery runs to your weekly schedule, it bumps up your mileage for a start ! Swimming or cycling is more fun and makes a nice change, anything's better than slumping in front of Eastenders !!!! Now that is agonising.
  • ChaosChaos ✭✭✭
    Arnie - what sort of warm-up do you do prior to your stretching session? I find I end up needing to do a 15 minute run or so just to get the muscles warmed up & flexible enough. What I'm anxious to avoid is stretching cold muscles which might make things worse.

    Perhaps this is what recovery runs are all about - i.e. just a way of warming up enough to stretch. Wotcha think, all?
  • Mark - I used to do a pilates class at my gym, so I use some of those moves as a warm-up before really getting into specific muscles. In case you don't know, pilates - without trying to sound like I'm reading from a manual - is about improving your posture by strengthing the core muscles in the stomach and back. I'm quite tall and slouch when tired during a run, so it's great for me.

    And yeah, I guess the whole recovery run thing is to just loosen everything up a bit after a heavy workout.
  • I am actually Chris Newcombe but I have now confessed my nickname.
    15 minute recovery runs are going well.Two days total rest after the Moray marathon seems enough.I think that rest following a marathon must be an individual decision based on experience. Beginners should err on the side of caution.
    If things go ok I'll run another 15 mins tomorrow,rest Saturday and do a 60 mins run Sunday.
    I'll let you know how I get on Monday.
  • I thought the recovery run, cycle,whatever was to let your body flush the bad stuff out of your joints, it does also warm you up and let you stretch more effectively. You just have to make sure you take it slow and not try and sneak in an extra couple of miles, that is not what these runs are for.
    A sauna is good too, maybe not straight after a hard session, dehydration and all that, basically something to warm the muscles up and get your blood flowing a bit. Remember to take it slowly.
  • Recovery runs are very beneficial for both clearing out the bad stuff as well as reducing achy legs after a hard session. I have done a 3 mile warm up, 10xhill rep, 2 mile warm down today (turned out to be a very tough session-pushed myself hard) tomorrow regardless of how I feel I shall go out and do a 4-5 mile recovery run, I'll stick my HRM on and make sure that I don't go over the 55-60% mark even if I feel like running fast. That way on Saturday I'll be refreshed enough to have a quality training run again! Hardest thing about recovery runs is it can be very difficult/frustrating to run slow, the HRM is very valuable for this.
  • I usually do a 3-4 mile recovery jog on Monday after the weekend long run.I find that it prevents stiffness.If I've raced particularly well (so obviously not often then I hear you cry) , then I do take a rest day.

    I always wear the HRM to ensure I run slow enough otherwise it becomes another run.So for me easy pace is around 8min/miling and I do the recoveries nearer to 8m45 by keeping the HR at some derisory level.
  • I ran a 60 mins easy yesterday, that's 1 week after the Moray marathon and it went just fine so I reckon I'm pretty much recovered.
    I would like to hear from experienced marathon runners on how much rest they recommend following the event.
  • I've run 6 marathons (does that make me experienced?) , and normally rest until my legs don't feel too bad,this normally takes until about Wednesday (3 days), and usually find that I can do an easy hour a week or so later.
    This year did a halfM two weeks after FLM and ran a pb, off 3-4 lighter runs post marathon.

    I do think however it is horses for courses.The text books say you should leave a day for each mile - so thats about a month then.
    I normally find 2 easy weeks sufficient.
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