Recovery runs

That goes for grown-ups too (Photo: brianjmatis via photopin cc)

That goes for grown-ups too (Photo: brianjmatis via photopin cc)

Slow and steady wins the race – except for a real race, where it’s fast and furious, baby!

Okay, so slow and steady isn’t going to win you any race – but it’ll help get you to the start line injury-free and in your best shape.

Recovery runs are an essential part of any credible marathon training plan. As the name suggests, a recovery run is just a light, easy run at the opposite end of the training spectrum to your long run and your threshold session. You can’t keep up week after week of nothing but hard running and long slogs; you’ll either get injured or run down your immune system until you get sick. As well as rest days, you need recovery runs.

It can be tough to switch off your ego and consciously run slowly. But instead just congratulate yourself on your tremendous discipline, restraint and sense – and enjoy the feeling of relaxing on your run.

My training gurus for the upcoming Dublin Marathon, Messrs Pfitzinger and Douglas, have currently prescribed for me two weekly recovery runs, each around 4 or 5 miles. One run is midweek, between a threshold run and a medium-long run. The other is at the weekend, on the day that I’m not doing my long run. (Sometimes Saturday morning is best for my long run, in which case I’ll do the weekend recovery run on Sunday evening.)

I leave the watch at home when I’m on my recovery run. I don’t need to know my pace or my time – those would only have me working hard and defeating the purpose of the run. I’ve already used MapMyRun to measure the distance of my usual recovery run route. (Your recovery run really doesn’t need to be accurate to the centimetre.)

This might be hard for anyone addicted to the data from their GPS watch. I used to find it hard even to run without my retro digital watch, which meant that every run was a race against the clock, against my previous or usual time for that route.

But it’s so relaxing to run without a watch! And relaxing is what your recovery run should be all about – after it you should feel like you’ve been holding yourself back, as if you can hear the engine revving but forgo putting the pedal to the metal.

A recovery run should be on an easy route too. I steer away from the steep hills of my longer routes, and I don’t do my recovery run on my threshold session route. Instead, I have a nice, flat 5-mile loop on tarmac and grass. A slow, relaxed run on grass, on a sunny morning or evening, is pure bliss.

So, just park your ego – go slowly for one or two runs a week, and you’ll go further!

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