Recovery runs are defined as relatively short, slow runs completed the day after a long run, and they are a very important part of your training. It is widely believed that the primary purpose of recovery runs is to increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid, thus expediting the recovery process. However, other running experts would argue that the most important benefits of recovery runs are the increased training stress (running on tired and fatigued legs) and training volume.
Endurance training is not just about the long runs. Your weekly volume and frequency are equally, if not, more important. Adding these recovery runs to your schedule is a great way to increase both your:
- Weekly Volume – the total amount of time spent running per week, and
- Frequency – the number of days per week you run.
Simply put, running volume has a positive effect on running fitness and performance. The more running you do (within the limit of what your body can handle before breaking down), the more fit you will become. This is because increases in running volume are closely correlated with increases in running economy.
Running is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. For runners, it’s simply about the time spent practicing the relevant action (running) that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not just a matter of testing our physiological limits (HARD efforts), but developing a skill through repetition.
If a runner tries to run HARD during every workout, the number of miles they are able to complete before breaking down will decrease. Moral of the story, if you want to achieve the maximum running volume, then you have to keep the pace slow for your recovery and easy runs (and your long runs too). It’s as simple as that. If you are injured, or feel running on recovery days does not work for you, then an easy spin on a stationary bike will do the trick. Remember to keep it easy and maintain 90- 95 RPM’s to simulate the same cadence we utilize while we run (other forms of cross training will also do).