Training Tales: Recovery Running

Today checked the third run-box in as many days, defying any logic my previous training approach would have justified. In another life, I would have been behind the steering wheel with directions reading “Caution: Detour! Turn right, rest after the Long Run (LR)!”

A recovery run? Wellll, that’s the short-cut to injury! So much running!
Take it easy!

Flash forward: barring the 24-hr flu/food-poisoning mongrel that wreaked havoc last weekend, I’ve run for 30-60+ minutes after every LR for the past 6 weeks. Lo and behold, all systems are still functioning.

Not only does my schedule include a weekly recovery run, it tacks onto the fatigue with “1 hour, easy” every Monday. I’ve come to appreciate, and actually look forward to, these routine runs so much so that there was no skipping it today. Snow day? Forecast of 5-10”? Better get out there early, before it piles up!

snow run.3.3.14

Mission accomplished.

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FIRST order of business: I had to run the LR differently.
Because the coach (and oh so many running experts) says so!. 

The LR should be done at an easy effort and ‘conversational pace’; slowing the ‘normal’ run pace by 30-60 seconds  doesn’t always add up. We have some intuition assessing how a run may ‘feel’, but that’s (more often than not) clouded by expectations and ego. It’s easily ignored when X + Y doesn’t equal Z  in our mental math.

Enter: the HRM. That thing doesn’t lie! It tells you exactly how your body perceives effort, in real time. On some days it’s your friend, while others it is your ego-smashing foe. Either way, you have the harsh truth right there on the screen.

Every LR has come with very very specific instructions. Pace and mileage don’t make appearances; I look only at “HR” and “Time”.

just goSource: Greatist.com

SECOND, I had to be inquisitive.
Because I’m a questioner and I need logic behind these things!

While the LR should be taxing and working to increase endurance, it should not slam on your brakes. It should not leave your legs so completely trashed that you can’t fathom the idea of running the next day. (That’s what a race-effort is saved for!)

Consider my former self’s mind blown.

When you take the LR easy (as defined by your perceived effort and/or HR zones – pick your flavor), your aerobic system gets a good looong workout. And when you’re training for a marathon, the aerobic system is your very best friend. Work it, work it!

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Some perspective: a 400m sprint is run 99% anaerobically. GO GO GO – breathe if you find time!  A marathon is run 99% aerobically. Oxygen is along for the ride

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If you can save just a little bit of energy and effort for the day-after a LR, you can go at it again. You can run on tired, but not trashed, legs and increase your resistance to fatigue (e.g. the Hanson Method). You can have a little chat with those muscles and be like “Hey, remember what it feels like to reach mile 23 and convince yourself to keep going despite every single part of you screaming to PLEASE STOP?”… “We’re training for that moment, right now.”

And this may be a game-changer. I still have 5 weeks to train, check boxes, refuel and recover. But I can tell you that in many ways my mentality has shifted; a recovery run may be your Ace if you play the cards right*.

*This assumes a runner who has no previous injury that prevents running consecutive days in a row. Above all, do what works for you.

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Do you include recovery runs in your training? Why / why not?

2 Comments

Filed under learning, marathon, new things!, running, training

2 Responses to Training Tales: Recovery Running

  1. I’m so excited you’re doing HR training. I really think you’re going to have a monster breakthrough with it. Can’t wait!

  2. I don’t do recovery runs because I run all my runs at the same pace! Well, that’s kind of true. Most of the time I just like to run by feel unless I have some sort of prescribed workout, but that “this feels good” pace is usually about the same and not too far off my PR marathon pace, which should be telling me something. If I want to slow down, I seriously have to think about it and force myself to do so, which is the last thing I want to do on a run since it’s my time to not think about anything.

    I’ve used my HRM on a couple runs lately since I’ve been exhausted in life and some runs seem extra difficult…I’m thinking it’s something I should embrace because as you said, the heart rate monitor doesn’t lie!

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