Quicker recoveries

This post isn’t what you think it’s about: how to recover more quickly from hard runs or races. Although I will give a nod to an article by elite runner Julia Lucas — well-written, witty and informative (that’s three elite women runners who can write clearly and appealingly: Lucas, Lauren Fleshman and Shannon Rowbury) — in the September issue of Running Times.

No, this post is about the fact that I’m doing my recovery runs faster these days than I have in the previous 18-24 months. A lot faster. Despite the horrible heat and humidity. Some of it can be explained by the fact that I’m actually trying to run faster on these runs. Coach Sandra noticed a recent recovery run that was an 11:00 pace and she said, “If you’re running that slow and really can’t run faster at a very easy effort, then stop the run. It means you need more recovery in the form of not running.”

Then she said, “You should be doing your recovery runs at 9:45 or faster. Why are you running them so slow?”

I had to think about that. I suspect it’s because when I was doing 80-95 mpw most weeks last year, that truly was as fast as I could go on those slower days. I even remember meeting Robert at our Blogging Runners meetup and feeling a little ashamed when he asked, “Why do you do your recovery runs so slow?” I just thought at the time that it was because I’m in my forties. But now I know it’s because I was just tired on my easy days. But the answer to her question was “habit.”

But now I’m running half that mileage. There’s no reason to be running 10:30+ miles. In recent weeks I’d started getting more toward the 10:00 side of the speed spectrum naturally anyway. Now I’ve picked things up further and seem no worse for the wear. I feel better when I’m running a little faster, and the boring recovery runs get done more quickly too. It’s also no longer such a dramatic shift in pace between fast and slow days.

Now I’m very curious to see how fast I’ll be doing these runs come fall/winter. 9:00? Or faster? That would be pretty neat.

5 Responses

  1. I always feel like crap when doing super slow recovery, its tough on the legs to shuffle around like that, so it dawned on me one day to just go with how I felt and make sure to not get faster than 9:00. I’m not doing anywhere near the mileage you are though.
    Good luck tomorrow! Have a great race. I’ll be in the ocean racing at the same time…in 62 fucking degree water. Ack.

  2. That’s a good point about habit. I guess the speed of a recovery run is somewhat relative to mileage. If you’re feeling relaxed at 9 minute miles (or faster — whatever), that shouldn’t detract from any harder session the following day. It’s a good bit easier than 10k race-pace. There’s probably a neuromuscular benefit in having the movement not too dissimilar to the movement when racing. Slow jogging doesn’t give you that benefit.

  3. Honestly, I was always really surprised at the speed of your recovery runs too, just figured it was something you liked doing. :) My recovery runs are usually from 9-9:30. Did you ever look at McMillan’s suggested paces for recoveries? They’re a pretty good range.

  4. Yeah, this is REALLY interesting to me because my recovery pace has slowed in the last year to a sort of alarming level. (note that I was at least a LITTLE relieved to see that yours were slow, too, but now that’s out the window. *grin*)

    McMillan’s recovery paces have frankly scared me – sub-9’s??? Sheesh.

    That’s why I tell everyone I race better than I train – somehow those tempo runs at 7:15 and the long runs at 9:30 and the recovery runs at 10+ turn into 7:40’s for an entire freakin’ marathon.

    There’s also the line of reasoning/mantra that says your recovery days should be sooooooo slow that it is almost painful. Which does sound kind of weird, but enough folks had recently gotten on that bandwagon that I wasn’t questioning it anymore. If your key workouts were on target, then it was thought that the SLOWER your recovery runs were, the better.

    Will be watching eagerly for the followup to this….

  5. [...] the heat wave reasserted itself, but I did fine over the next few days, having comfortably picked up my pace on recovery runs. And then Saturday was my disaster in Central [...]

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