Thursday, 6 February 2014

Recovery after training is as important as the training itself

Posted by speedygeoff on Thursday, February 06, 2014 with 3 comments
I wonder how long it takes to recover from a training session? My "rules" of training have included the following:
(a) Follow a speed or strength day with a long day, to aid recovery.
(b) Follow a long day with an easy day, for the same reason.
(c) Precede a race or speed day with an easy day, so that you come into it fresh.

True up to a point but greatly over simplified. Possibly counter-productive if followed religiously. Rules are made to be broken, especially when they are rules of thumb like the above. There are many other factors to consider which should influence your decision about the kind of exercise appropriate from day to day, and whether you have recovered sufficiently for the effort you had planned for today. Do you want to avoid over training, to stay well, and to perform at your best? Then you had better be flexible enough to say "no" to your planned training session whenever you need to.

Break the pattern when
(a) You have had a really good training session and gone harder than you had planned. The worst thing you could do is to get all excited and push up the pace and intensity again the following day. The best thing to do is to reduce the intensity or distance of the next day's session. This will ensure you recover well.
(b) You have felt good and gone hard for *two* days in a row. You MUST take it easy on day three, whether the schedule says that or not.
(c) You spend the rest of the day after a run doing unaccustomed physical labour. You will need to factor in the extra tiredness that will eventuate.
(d) It is hot. Hydrate, but also cut your long run by at least a third. A 10k run on a hot day will give you the same benefit as a 15k run on a cool day, trust me.

You should also change the pattern as you get older. I could once coast through 20k and beyond in 90 minutes in training. A 20k run now would take me up to 2 hours in training. I calculate that my 90 minute 15k run is of the same value now as my 90 minute 20k run was then. Here's the key: run to time, not to distance, as you age.

Ageing may bring with it delayed recovery. What took one day to get over at thirty years of age, may take two when you are fifty, and three when you are as old as me. All the more reason to plan runs according to time rather than distance.

Recovery is as important as effort when it comes to training. Some would say that recovery is the key to improving your fitness, because it is in recovery that the training effect occurs. So, don't just stick to a schedule. You must HAVE a training plan. But be prepared to look at the bigger picture and be prepared to use some common sense, fine tuning the schedule daily according to circumstances.

- my Vetrunner article February 2014.
Footnote: I might have mentioned that recovery after racing is just as important.


  1. Geoff great post - I must admit i struggle to rest after my regular runs because i have gotten it into my head that if i was to miss a day my running would not progress forward. I am even carrying a little niggle in my calf but am finding it hard to stop my running for fear of losing the fitness i have struggled to gain!

  2. In recent years I've reduced the frequency of runs/sessions/races that I know will need many days to recover from. If I can sleep more, my recovery is much improved!

    1. That's a good point Ewen, quality sleep is an important part of good recovery.