Why are recoveries so hard?

I know I asked about this recently but I'm getting really frustrated with my recovery runs and HRs. In the last week I've had 3 rest days, only one hard session (6 mile tempo run), and my 3 'easy' runs have been really hard. My HRM was showing my HR to be between 55-60% WHR but my breathing felt really hard and it was an effort not to slow down. Last night I was trying to hold a conversation with my daughter riding her bike along side, again at the same low HR and I felt I was really out of breath even though my HRM was telling me I was well within 'conversation pace'. What's happening? It just doesn't seem to fit what I know about training with an HRM.
This year I've trained for 2 marathons and a 23 mile fell run, could it be that it's finally caught up with me?


  • Laura

    Just a couple of thoughts for what they are worth:

    Inability to achieve or maintain a sessions target heart rate is normally an indication of not been recovered enough for the session – even those in the 55-60% range

    If you do not already, you could start taking and recording your heart rate each morning to monitor your body’s readiness to train – an increase of just 2-3 beats could indicate that you have not fully recovered.

    Are your rest days total rest days? or are you tempted to “just do a little bit of cross-training”? - your body needs at least 1-day of total rest a week

    Another thing that may be worth consideration is to cut back on your training (both duration and intensity) for 1-week in every 4.

  • Laura,

    "Easy" runs feeling hard with relatively low HR sounds like a classic overtraining symptom.
    Having said that, you did have a great hilly run a couple of nights ago didn't you? Maybe that took more out of you than you thought.
    I suspect the only thing you could do is try to go even slower on your easy runs - which is something I would hate & mentally find very difficult. I'm doing a fairly short recovery myself tonight on grass and am not looking forward to it - basically just regard it as a necessary chore.
    Failing that, schedule yourself an extra rest day each week until such time as you feel a bit perkier.

  • Thanks, you're probably right about over training, it's just that I don't feel as though I've trained that hard of late. After all I was clocking up practically double the mileage a few months ago.(the again I couldn't do both long runs and speed work in the same week then) I did have a really good hilly run Tues, but find it hard to accept that it could really have taken that much out of it.

    I know I'm not alone in finding it difficult to rest more and take time to recover - us runners are an impatient lot generally aren't we?

    Think I'll take up your suggestion and record my HR first thing, used to do this but have got out of the habit.
  • I think you're right Laura. I'm finding my recovery runs are harder than my tempo runs these days and I'm not training any harder than I have done previously and am taking plenty of rest. The strange thing with me is that I actually seem to suffer less if I run a bit faster, yet if I slow down, it just gets harder. How can that be so?!?!
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Laura, another idea for you which I use religiously if I think overtraining or insufficient recovery may be a problem.

    My RHR is generally between 37 & 39 but during intensive training periods it may hover around the 43/44 mark the day following a hard session. When that happens I'll do a very easy recovery run and know that the following day it'll be back under 40. Under no circumstances will I do any running if it hasn't dropped below 50.

    Today, for example I did 5.4 miles at 7am, a tough weight session in the afternoon and was ready to go for another 5.4 mile run at 5pm, but my HR was too high. Had to wait until after 6pm before it had dropped below 50. If it hadn't I wouldn't have went out.

    As for the recovery runs feeling too hard - don't use your HRM.

    Another thing to be aware of is the fact that most of us are guilty of assuming that when our times are getting slower or our training seems less effective that we are overtrained. However, similar effects can be achieved by not training hard enough or not doing the correct workouts. It could be that a review of your training is required.
  • Food for thought Drew, I've just been browsing the PP online library and thinking I should be more structured with my training. In fact I'm seriously considering going back to the local club sessions this autumn; they're on Mon nights which I couldn't manage when I was doing long Sunday runs.
    I've never paid my resting HR much attention so that's an idea to try. Think I'll also schedule in a 'time trial' on one of my flat routes to see if I've actually improved or not of late. Watch this space, I'm sure to moan as hell if I haven't!
  • Laura

    I'm as big a fan of HRM's as anyone but I would have to agree with the above, sounds like an accumulation of overtraining. If you don't feel tired, go for a run, but leave the HRM at home - at most I use mine twice a week and only for specific session - you need to recover mentally as well as physically and worrying about your recovery HRM doesn't sound right to me.

    Two additional thoughts

    1.Have you redone a stress test recently? With all the training you've been doing it could be that you max has moved.
    2. If you're using Karhoven (sounds like you are) then remeber that 55-60% of WHR would put you much higher on some of the straight max measures. You may just be running too hard!
  • Good point Martin! Just recalculated using % of straight max - 135 would put me at 65% rather than embarassing 55%. My last (and only) stress test put my max at 206, but I thought max HR stayed pretty well constant.
    Have you read Parker's Compleat Idiot book on HRM training? He's so insistent that most runners find running under 70% frustratingly easy. That's why I've worried why I'm finding it difficult, on some days, to get anywhere near.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Laura, I know you had a stress test showing your MHR at 206. Is there any possibility that the test was flawed with spurious readings? What's the highest rate you tend to experience when you're training.
  • I rarely get above 198, but in my last race I ran the final 1/2 m at 205; felt it!
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