Find the Recovery that Works Best for You

Geoffrey and Beth at the Flint Hills race

Becoming a better runner is not as much about running as you think.

Running breaks us down.

Weakens us.

This includes both higher volume and harder running.

It's during the days where we run nice and easy or not at all that we get stronger.

Stimulus (volume/key workouts) + rest = adaptation

So now my question for you is, have you determined YOUR system for optimal recovery?

Below are some suggestions for you to ponder or try.

Remember, fitness is a long term endeavor. Don't only try something once, but try it 4-5 times and modify it as you go to best suit your needs.

Unloading Weeks

You'll see these is most training plans.

It's the simple concept of increasing volume, intensity, or both for a few weeks and then having an easier week every three to four.

This is a very important concept! While increasing volume week to week no more than 10% is a wise suggestion to follow, doing that for 8 weeks in a row without any lighter week

Fewer Quality Sessions

These include anything not easy.

So, fewer tempo runs, long runs, speed workouts.

Professionals whose main job is to run and rest or younger athletes can likely get away with 3 key sessions weekly. However, older athletes or those who can't rest for the other 22 hours in a day will likely be better off with only two harder runs in a week, the other days being fully off or easy runs.

Easy, Easy Runs

Polarized training mean hard days are hard and easy days are easy.

A rough estimate could be 180- your age if you want to use a heart rate max. Another method for finding your easy pace is to take your 5k race pace and multiply it by 1.25 - 1.5 and use that as a rough range for easy pace.

The simplest is to run by perceived effort, as "easy" changes based on the terrain, the temperature, your last run, and other factors. Remember, the ego is not your amigo when it comes to running easy. In most cases, the easier the better, especially if you're increasing your weekly volume!

Monitoring Recovery

Your resting heart rate in the morning upon waking has long been a standard for observing your overall recovery state. If it's elevated above its normal, you may be in a state of stress.

More recently, Heart Rate Variability has taken this to the next step.

Helping Recovery Along

Aside from the simple rest or easy running, there are always things you can do to help your recovery along.

The two most reliable methods are also two of the simplest and cheapest, these are nutrition and sleep. While there are many other pills and gadgets out there, these are the two that are likely both going to be the most cost effective with the best track record.

*Update*

This has been further validated by exercise science researcher Prof Dr Alexander Ferrauti and sport psychologist Prof Dr Michael Kellmann. They looked at high caliber athletes and various recovery methods ranging from massage, ice bathing, full rest, active recovery, and more. They determined there is no universal best regeneration method, the "best" is whichever method you find most preferable.

When You Should Not Feel Perfectly Recovered

Try to schedule rest periods (be them 2 days to 2 weeks) before you need them.

If you feel the need to rest, you should have taken it already. On the other side, there are times in a training block when you should start to feel a bit fatigued, specifically before a taper prior to a race. Because, you need something to taper from! The build up in volume and specificity over months and weeks, then taper, peak, and race!

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