After my 3rd recovery run I am again feeling totally spent. I understand the logic behind the recovery runs being good for you, allowing you to exercise on fatigued legs, but surely there must be a point when you have to basically throw in the towel and walk away for a period of complete rest. This got me thinking about the periodization approach to training where you build up the different layers of training for a specific goal race. You then take some time to recover before starting the next periodisation phase for the next goal, starting to build the layers again from the beginning.
This approach was pioneered by Arthur Lydiard who knew what he was talking about and was probably the most successful coach of his time. So it works. The bit that worries me, at my age, is I wonder if I have the time left in my running career at this level to take time off between goal races. At nearly 50 it’s not like I can take a year or two out of the sport and come back stronger. Me and Father Time are currently playing a game of Russian Roulette and for the moment the chambers are empty but eventually I’m going to get found out. So I need a different type of training, one that allows me to keep a high level of fitness ready to step up to a race with little extra training. This is Non-Linear periodization.
Both are described beautifully by, you guessed it, Matt Fitzgerald. ( http://www.mattfitzgerald.org ) My go-to man when I’m tired and ran out of ideas, albeit briefly. So enjoy the article from Matt first published in 2009 from his Training Peaks website ( http://www.trainingpeaks.com )
The most influential theorist in the history of run training was Arthur Lydiard. A New Zealand-born coach who reached his prime in the late 1950s, Lydiard developed the first major periodized training system for runners. Periodization refers to the practice of sequencing training stimuli in such a way as to produce a single peak race performance at the end of that sequence, or cycle. Before Lydiard came along, runners periodized their training primarily by increasing their overall workload as their fitness and their capacity to absorb training gradually increased. But Lydiard was the first to divide the training cycle into distinct phases and establish a proper order for the different types of training emphasized within them.
You are probably familiar with this order, because Lydiard-style periodization is still practiced by most competitive runners today. The Lydiard training cycle begins with a base phase, in which runners perform an increasing volume of mostly moderate-pace running. This phase is followed by a four-week strength phase, in which aerobic running is supplemented with hill training and other strength work. Next comes a short “anaerobic” phase in which short, fast intervals are prioritized. The final phase is a racing phase, in which the volume and intensity of training are reduced to promote freshness and fitness is sharpened through tune-up races culminating in a final, peak race.
Lydiard-style periodization is known as linear periodization because the various major training stimuli (aerobic, anaerobic, strength, speed, etc.) are largely segregated from each other in the training process and arranged in a line in which each gives way to the next. This approach is distinct from nonlinear periodization, in which the various major training stimuli are mixed together throughout the entire cycle and only the emphasis changes from period to period.
Most of the newer periodization systems—those introduced since 1980—are nonlinear. One example is the so-called multi-pace training method developed by David Martin and Peter Coe. In their book, Better Training for Distance Runners, Martin and Coe wrote, “One sensible method for injury-free performance progress over the course of a macrocycle involves harmonious interdevelopment of strength, speed, stamina, and endurance all during the year, never eliminating any of these from the overall training plan… We tend to disagree with coaches who prescribe large volumes of solely longer-distance running over an initial period of weeks, followed by a similarly concentrated bolus of solely higher-intensity speed sessions over succeeding weeks.”
There are three major criticisms of linear periodization systems, two of which are specifically alluded to in the above quotation. Many coaches and athletes with experience of such systems believe that the sudden introduction of high-intensity running after a strictly low-intensity base phase carries a high risk of injury. A second criticism of linear periodization systems is that the various important aspects of running fitness are not developed “harmoniously”. Why devote several weeks to developing strength only to let this attribute slide again by replacing strength workouts with speed work? Finally, linear periodization systems are also criticized for requiring months of buildup for a rather brief opportunity to race at the very end.
Nonlinear periodization attempts to address all of these shortcomings by mixing together the various major training stimuli throughout the training cycle. The presence of strength and speed training at all times keeps the muscles and joints well adapted to the stress of hard running, thus minimizing injury risk. It also gives runners more flexibility to race when it suits them. Because their running fitness is always “well-rounded”, they can peak for races fairly quickly by increasing the training load and emphasizing race-pace training. There is no need to wait for layer upon layer of fitness components to be added one by one.
Linear periodization still has its defenders, though. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, they say, and indeed it is hard to argue against the tremendous success that runners all around the world have achieved through Lydiard-style training. Perhaps the greatest virtues of Lydiard’s system are that it limits the risk of overtraining and that it enables runners to peak right when they want to. By contrast, in nonlinear periodization, because high-intensity training never ceases, there is greater risk of overtraining, and because there is not much distinction between training phases, it can be difficult to time a peak accurately.
I discovered these risks the hard way earlier this year while training for the Boston Marathon using a program based on Pete Pfitzinger’s nonlinear periodization method. My plan had me doing higher-intensity running (although not always very much of it and not always very fast) three times per week for more than 20 weeks. It started off great, but I peaked when I was barely halfway through the plan and then turned stale.
I’m still trying to decide what to do differently in training for my next marathon. One option is to switch over to a Lydiardian plan, something I have never really tried. The other option is to modify the Pfitzinger approach, specifically by reducing the amount of high-intensity work I do until closer to race day. It is very likely that either approach would give me better results than I got from the overambitious nonlinear approach I took last time. But the question is, which approach would give me the very best results?
This question leads me to the point of this article, which is: that different training approaches work best for different athletes. I don’t believe that either linear periodization systems such as Lydiard’s or nonlinear systems such as Martin and Coe’s multi-pace method are clearly better for every athlete. You may need to experiment a little to find out which one works best for you. Start by trying the approach that is most appealing to you, and if that doesn’t work out, move in the direction of the other. So, if I take my own advice I will probably go Lydiard next time!
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.
After my post this morning on the benefits of recovery I was excited to run again this afternoon for more ‘quality recovery’ time. Amazingly I felt so much better this afternoon compared to this mornings recovery run. No little niggles which were certainly there this morning. The second recovery run was chalk and cheese really. Felt a lot more relaxed and had to hold myself back.
Unfortunately the same could not be said of the old Adidas Adizero shoes. These bad boys look to have run their last run, a tad early compared to the Adidias Glide Boost. My Glide Boosts are on 1358k and still feeling great while the Adizero’s have only ran 592k. My marathon shoe at the moment is the Adidas Adios Takumi Sen 3, man these are amazing shoes but they are racing flats so if you weight more than 70kg forget these bad boys.
My go to shoe in the past has always been the Nike Lunaracers. These shoes combine the padding and weight that no other shoe can. So light but also so forgiving. I have been wearing these for many years. Lately they have been a tad hard to get hold off which is how Adidas caught my eye. Luckily enough I’m light on my feet so really can wear just about anything. I even wear the Brooks Puregrit for my trail running. These are awesome shoes by the way.
The old ‘replace your shoes at 400k’ is in my view a shoe manufacturers dream. I ran 190k last week, do they want me to replace my shoes every 2 weeks. No way ! Luckily I never throw out my old shoes, into the garage they go. (Must to my Wife’s disgust) There must be well over 50 pairs in there now and a lot have a lot more life in them. Time to take a look tomorrow and see if I reuse a few, but not the old Asics Kayano’s . These were the shoe ‘back in the day’ but now they would be like wearing lead weights. These days it’s all about minimal heel drop and as light as possible.
I could go on for hours on shoes, one of my favourite subjects, but it’s a Sunday night and I’m off to bed.
If you like some shoe recommendations check out the Runners Worlds site :-
Today was a 18k recovery run. It started out as a 10k recovery run but being the Queen’s birthday it is a public holiday over here in Perth so knowing the family was still asleep I snuck in a few extra recovery k’s. While ‘recovering’ my mind wandered to the propose of this type of running. I actually enjoy a recovery run as you get to ‘smell the roses’ so to speak , where as most time I don’t even see the roses as my head is down and I’m concentrating on the Garmin splits (damn you Strava!) . This morning was no exception, the first 2-3k’s were a struggle with a few niggles, these niggles disappeared and before long I was enjoying the run enough to add on 8k, as you do.
I find the article below from Kyle Kranz a different viewpoint on the recovery run. A positive spin I believe as Karl is saying the recovery run is still stimulation for adaption, he puts forward the point hard runs take you to fatigue while the recovery run is run is a fully fatigued state, your legs are then recruiting more and different muscle fibers. Makes sense to me as Karl also mentions that recovery runs allow you to run longer and as I have already discussed distance is the key, the runner who runs the most normally runs better.
So next time you cruising along smelling the roses take heart in the fact that you are still improving as a runner, it’s a win , win situation the recovery run……
Recovery runs don’t exist.
What you think of as a recovery run does not enhance recovery.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
There are two main types of runs.
Workouts and easy runs.
Key workouts are done at anything faster than your habitual easy pace and typically require a number of non-hard days between them so you can again do a key workout at a high quality. Easy runs are done at an easy conversational pace.
People will often title the run proceeding a key workout, a recovery run. This implies that the purpose of this run is to enhance recovery.
However, I’m inclined to disagree with this.
Don’t get me wrong, you should still do the run, however this is more an issue with semantics.
If you think this run is augmenting your recovery or adaptation, you’re mistaken.
All runs are training. Every time you lace up your shoes and hit the ground running, you’re stimulating your body. It does not matter how slow or short the run is, if you’re running, you’re giving your body stimulation for adaptation.
When does this adaptation and recovery occur? When you’re sleeping, eating, walking, working, etc. Any time you are not running, you’re recovering.
With athletes I work with, I do use the term regeneration run to emphasize the easy nature of the run, however for all purposes it’s simply another easy run.
These runs, while they do not enhance recovery, do inflect less stress on the body. They are crucial for running more, which is one of the best way to become a better runner.
So if these runs do not benefit recovery, why not just skip them and let the body recover better?
Because for the same reasons doing doubles is beneficial, so are these “recovery runs”. These workouts, done in a semi-fatigued state after a hard run, are simply great stimulants for adaptation. Hard workouts take you to fatigue, these easy runs are ran fully fatigued.
That’s very important. If the regeneration run is also done in close time proximity to the key workout, your glycogen stores (body carbohydrate used as fuel) is probably a bit depleted, and training in a glycogen depleted state has also been shown to possibly improve fitness. This study from the University of Copenhagen shows that when a leg is trained more frequently (but at the same total volume) than the other leg, the leg that experiences two sessions in a day instead of one two sessions over two days adapted and strengthened more.
Another way that these “recovery” runs do not help recovery but instead simply improve fitness is that when you run in this fatigued state, you’re legs are recruiting more and different muscle fibers. This can help improve your muscle fiber cycling, which is when the body “turns off” fatigued muscles and “turns on” more fresh fibers while running.
These runs done in a fatigued state are simply more chances for your body to adapt and grow. This makes you stronger, more fit, and faster. Not the enhanced recovery, because there is none.
155k for the week, 6 short of a 100 mile week, never not going to run the final few k’s needed. Ran 8k for a big 38k day but more importantly a second 100 mile week. Of course this was shared with the Strava community. How did runners survive without Strava ? As I said before if it ain’t on Stava did it happen? The old tree falling in a forest type statement.
What did we do before GPS watches and the internet? How could we share our running exploits with the world? Write a letter or ten to keep everybody informed of your training highlights? Like the good old days of going out for a meal and not taking photos of the tukka and sharing with the world.
These days there are two types of runners , those who Strava and those who run for the love of running, with no watch or GPS devices and no Internet connection. I’m a Strava-addict and admit it. Probably explains my four Garmin watches!! Last time I ran with no GPS watch I hated it, a sad affair really but that’s the way it is.
Remember Strava is life, the rest is details. Is my watch charged….?
Easy 12k this morning , making just over 154k for the week and the opportunity to break my all time distance record if I can fit in one more run this afternoon. Also for the first time I’ll have run twice a day every day for a week, 14 runs.. It’s going to happen. For the moment this was just a run to reflect on the achievements for the week and what to plan for next week. This was the second week after the Perth City to Surf marathon so it’s all about recovery and distance, no speed. The speed will be reintroduced next week. Until then it’s plodding along…