After running the 6 inch ultra on Sunday I gave myself Monday off. Truth be told it was really the inclement weather which was the deciding factor as I was ready to ‘stumble’ along the Perth foreshore for 10k, remember I’m a runner , it’s what I do. Tuesday it was back on as I started my recovery two weeks. Personally I need two good weeks of easy running to help my recovery followed by two more weeks of slower runs but with a sprinkle of pace when I feel the need. Thus for me it takes a good 4 weeks to recover from a marathon or ultra.
This time doesn’t not have to be hard work though. As well as running what I call ‘smell the roses’ runs I also make an effort to reward myself for the previous marathon (or longer) by indulging in the things I love most, pancakes, muffins and even the off Brownes Mocha (choc milk). These are things that I may treat myself to ,once in a while, when I’m in training but in recovery you can over indulge for a week or two. Weight gain is not something to worry about for a few weeks and even something to work towards. 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi gained 12lbs in his 10 days off, and he said that it is good to gain weight for recovery. Don’t worry you’ll be back on the scales soon enough but for the moment enjoy living a normal life for a few weeks, albeit still running daily.
The article below was published by Matt Fitzgerald (In Matt we trust) in 2013 but still rings true today. Recovery runs are , in my view, one of the most important runs and one of the most over looked run. Everybody thinks you improve by running quick all the time, relying on pace without first building the foundation to all running success , distance. To build distance you can’t run fast all the time, unless you have youth on your side of course (Nic Harman!) and even then injury is normally lurking. Thus you need your second run (or third) of the day (you are running twice right?) to be slow and steady. I still believe most of the success I have had over the last couple of years has come from running twice a day and making sure at least one of my daily runs is slow enough I can enjoy the view and not stress about pace or distance.
Recovery runs are the foundation for improvement.
After my PB half this morning I couldn’t wait to get the compression tights on and get back out there for an afternoon recovery run. Over the last 2-3 months I am convinced these second runs every day are the foundation on which I have built my PB’s. As I posted last week a recovery run is more than just a slow run serving little or no purpose. This is how it is seen by a lot of the running community. I now feel it is so much more. It is an opportunity to run on fatigued legs and this increases fitness. This is supported by Matt Fitzgerald, my go to man when it comes to just about everything ! ( http://mattfitzgerald.org ) In an article he wrote for Competitor.com in 2013.
In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. Nevertheless, recovery runs are almost universally practiced by top runners. That would not be the case if this type of workout weren’t beneficial. So what is the real benefit of recovery runs?
The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness — perhaps almost as much as longer, faster runs do — by challenging you to run in a pre-fatigued state (i.e. a state of lingering fatigue from previous training).
There is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called “key” workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue. Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.
Evidence of the special benefit of pre-fatigued exercise comes from an interesting study out of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study, subjects exercised one leg once daily and the other leg twice every other day. The total amount of training was equal for both legs, but the leg that was trained twice every other day was forced to train in a pre-fatigued state in the afternoon (recovery) workouts, which occurred just hours after the morning workouts. After several weeks of training in this split manner, the subjects engaged in an endurance test with both legs. The researchers found that the leg trained twice every other day increased its endurance 90 percent more than the other leg.
Additional research has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involve fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions. When your brain is forced out of its normal muscle recruitment patterns in this manner, it finds neuromuscular “shortcuts” that enable you to run more efficiently (using less energy at any given speed) in the future. Pre-fatigued running is sort of like a flash flood that forces you to alter your normal morning commute route. The detour seems a setback at first, but in searching for an alternative way to reach the office you might find a faster way — or at least a way that’s faster under conditions that negatively affect your normal route.
Here are some tips for effective use of recovery runs:
* Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a key workout (or any run that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
* Recovery runs are only necessary if you run four times a week or more. If you run just three times per week, each run should be a “key workout” followed by a day off. If you run four times a week, your first three runs should be key workouts and your fourth run only needs to be a recovery run if it is done the day after a key workout instead of the day after a rest day. If you run five times a week, at least one run should be a recovery run, and if you run six or more times a week, at least two runs should be recovery runs.
* There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours.
* Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in roughly a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
* There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout. In most cases, however, recovery runs cannot be particularly long or fast without sabotaging recovery from the previous key workout or sabotaging performance in your next one. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
* Don’t be too proud to run very slowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s elite runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as pre-fatigued running practice that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer without sabotaging your next key workout.
In Matt we trust, so if Matt recommends recovery runs that is all I need to take it onboard and I recommend you do the same. So get out there and smell the roses so to speak while you gain the benefits of one of the most under rated runs in everybodies arsenal.
One last plug for today is compression tights. ( https://www.skins.net/au/?gclid=Cj0KEQjw1ee_BRD3hK6x993YzeoBEiQA5RH_BIFsTBDtuRlHC3OyGJztj7LFtYlqXV04GHreid8abVoaAuQz8P8HAQ ) I wear these on my recovery runs and again I’m a big believer in these articles. I’m sure there’s lots of information and data supporting this but trust me, these things work. If you running on fatigued legs while on your recovery run you do run the tightrope of injury, compressions tights will help you I guarantee it.
McManus, C., Murray, K., Morgan, N. (2015)
The University of Essex, Human Performance Unit
During steady state running at a fixed intensity of 60% vVO2max(12.1 ± 1.3 km/h), running economy was significantly lower (p < 0.05) in correctly fitted compression tights when compared with running shorts. When wearing correctly fitted compression compared to running shorts, the runners demonstrated that they used less energy when running at a sub maximal speed. They were more economical and efficient. It is widely accepted that runners who are more economical during sub maximal speeds have the ability to push harder or run longer during their training and/or events.
On my obligatory Sunday morning long run today my mind drifted to the years highs…