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Recovery Run: Complete Guide for Beginners
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Recovery Run: Complete Guide for Beginners

Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Published on 2022 July 27
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6 min

Recovery runs are the unsung heroes that are mostly overlooked in training processes. The secret to keeping fit without overtraining is engaging in recovery runs; read on to discover how to do a recovery run right!

recovery run

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There are a lot of ways to be a runner; you don’t have to engage in any high-intensity run to be qualified as a runner. Some people engage in marathon training, 5K/10K runs, and even trail training. Still, some people have never competed in any race before, but they diligently run five times a week.

There isn’t any general rule that dictates a fixed way to be a runner – it all depends on the goals you intend to achieve. 

What Is a Recovery Run?

A recovery run is a low-intensity workout that involves easy runs at a slower pace than a marathon pace. Most runners do a recovery run within 24 hours of a hard workout, meaning you’re pushing your body at a pre-fatigued state.

A recovery run is a form of active recovery for serious runners who engage in intense workouts four to five times every week.

In a recovery run, you’re running at a conversational pace, and this is important in getting rid of lingering fatigue, so your body can bounce back from the high-intensity workout you engaged in.



Why Should You Do a Recovery Run?

You may think that running at a relaxed pace doesn’t count as a quality workout, but that’s very untrue. Being a better runner isn’t about how much mileage you can cover in a short time but about how running impacts your fitness level and personal record.

The benefits of recovery runs are valuable, and although they might not help with reducing the lactic acid build-up or speed up your recovery process, they have other benefits that’ll surely help you.

Increases blood flow

Exercising helps improve blood flow, so doing a recovery run after hard workouts will help loosen up your muscle fibers and get your blood flowing easily.

When you stay at a place after your hard training, your body’s muscles will tighten and contract, making it stiff for the next day’s training.

Also, proper blood circulation is necessary to get rid of waste in your blood system because that can inhibit your body’s ability to train to its fullest.

Improves your running form

Recovery workouts at an easy pace give you time to focus on your form and nothing else. For instance, when running a half-marathon, you will most likely not care about the ideal form because you are focused on building your base mileage.

Recovery runs are the perfect time to connect to your inner self and run with better posture and improve your biomechanics.

Boosts your mental state

We can’t talk about the benefits of recovery runs without including the mental benefits. Typically, exercising helps in improving one’s mental health, but during marathon training, it’s fairly easy to get lost in beating the clock and dissociating from your environment.

However, a slow run will help you clear your head more than a hard workout. Plus, the release of endorphins will make you feel better mentally.

Improves your performance

Same as a recovery day, recovery runs give your body the chance to recover slowly. When you run slow, regardless of the perceived exertion you feel, you’re breaking through your exercise walls.

Recovery runs are done at a proper pace that doesn’t leave you in oxygen debt, and this will even make you a better runner in the long run.

Reduces your risk of injuries

When you run at the right recovery run pace, you’ll not only get some weekly mileage in, but you’ll also reduce the strain on your muscles and joints.

Faster runs have high impact forces, and the repetitiveness of running at the same pace all the time increases your risk of overuse injuries.

Helps in reducing body fat

If you need a way to burn more fat, then it’s time to incorporate slow runs into your hard session of running.

The body uses fat for low-intensity workouts, so slowing down helps your body access its energy reserve.

Your body relies on stored carbs for energy when you run faster, but at a relaxed pace, it’ll use more fat as fuel. Your body’s ability to mobilize and metabolize fat will make you a better endurance runner.

How Long Should a Recovery Run Be?

When it comes to the duration of a recovery run, it’s a lot better to engage in shorter distances than longer ones.

Running for 20–40 minutes is a perfect recovery run duration; in terms of miles, you can do 2 to 5 miles.

The goal here isn’t to hit any mileage goal but to build your endurance and power output while changing your mental state.

In a runner’s world, building endurance is key, and most runners want to achieve that no matter how difficult it may be. A better way to increase your strength is using Joggo supplements.

Adding this supplement to your training plan will help increase your natural energy, so you can run longer at a conversational pace.

When your recovery run begins to look like a hard chore, the mental benefits have already been defeated.

What Is a Normal Recovery Run Heart Rate?

For recovery runs, your heart rate should be anything less than 76% of your threshold heart rate. Or, it should be the difference between your maximum heart rate and resting heart rate.

It might be a huge challenge calculating this yourself, and if that’s the case, then you should get a heart rate monitor because we all have different resting heart rates.

If, at any point, you feel you are running too fast, move at an easy pace because you are definitely running too fast.

To know if you’re going too fast, you can try the talk test, and if you notice you aren’t speaking in complete sentences, then you are most likely moving at a fast speed.

Can I Walk During Recovery Instead of Running?

Remember that recovery runs are slower than your normal run pace, and it might sometimes feel like a fast walk. The essence of a recovery run is to get the blood flowing into your legs while you relax in the process.

Recovery runs shouldn’t be too slow, and that’s why it’s not advisable to substitute walking for a recovery run.

A good recovery run pace is 50–70% of your regular three-mile pace, so anything lower than that doesn’t qualify as recovery runs – walking inclusive.

How Often Is It Recommended to Do Recovery Runs?

You can do your recovery runs once a week for about 10 minutes, that’s in addition to your normal running training. However, if you don’t feel like incorporating it into your run days, how about on your rest days?

Doing this will gradually help you incorporate recovery runs into your training week.

If you are running more than three times weekly, you need to add recovery runs to your training plans.

As an elite runner who engages in long runs, your recovery run should be done on the same day you run rather than on your rest day.

If you run five times a week, your recovery run should be at least one of these runs. For those who run six times weekly, two of these runs need to be a recovery run.

A Word From Our Coach

Recovery runs are beneficial for runners who are particular about their recovery process. During recovery runs, you are giving your body the chance to heal at a slow pace and build more energy.

When you spend time with faster running, you are on the verge of burning out quickly, and that’s why you’ll need to slow down on some days.

However, recovery runs aren’t the only thing you need to achieve a full-body recovery. Any professional running coach will tell you that you need to incorporate other post-race recovery tips like resting, eating, and getting adequate sleep if you intend to have a full recovery after your intense running training.

When you feel as though you’re coming down with the flu or fatigue feeling, you should try doing a recovery run.

But remember, you’re only obligated to do recovery runs when you run three or more times weekly.

To get the full benefits of recovery runs, you need to slow down your speed and remember to always keep it short. If, after doing your recovery run, you are panting as hell, then you’ve done it wrong because you are supposed to feel better at the end.

Conclusion

When you train regularly, it’s important that you incorporate recovery runs as well. High-intensity workouts like running a half-marathon and 5K or 10K races need to be followed up with a recovery run.

You are expected to do your recovery run 24 hours after intense running training, and this is to clear up the lactic acid build-up that occurred as a result of the hard training.

Recovery runs increase your ability to stay relaxed, which is vital to your training plan.

Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified Yoga Instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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