The Importance of a Recovery Run

As I sit here with a heating pad on my back, I’m now realizing that no matter how tired I was on Sunday, I should’ve went out for a recovery run. After speaking with my personal trainer/coach, apparently, Saturday’s long run took a harder toll on my body than I thought. And being sedentary on Sunday allowed for my muscles, in particular my back, to stiffen up. Because of this, I will now have to skip tonight’s track workout (partner 800s) and tomorrow’s personal training session.

Then I was curious, what is the actual purpose of recovery runs? Is it just to keep the blood flowing and muscles loose, or is there more to it? Well, I turned to my best friend when it comes to research…Google. What I found was really interesting and makes me appreciate recovery runs more than I did before. Matt Fitzgerald states in his article “A Fresh Perspective on Recovery Runs” ( that:

“…recovery runs do not enhance recovery. Nevertheless, recovery runs are almost universally practiced by top runners. That wouldn’t 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.)”

“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.”

“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 involves fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions.” (NOTE: If you have time to read the rest of the article, please do so. It was quite informative)

So you do you mean that I shorted myself the opportunity to increase my fitness because I was too tired? EPIC FAIL! I’m considering this a lesson learned. No more skimping out on recovery runs. After all, MCM is only 32 days away!


So let me ask? Do you always do a recovery run the day after a long run?

7 thoughts on “The Importance of a Recovery Run

  1. So far I have not done any recovery “runs”, although my marathon training plan does allow for optional “active recovery”, such as walking, biking, stretching, etc – which I also do not do 😦
    Thanks for the tip, I have seen this article and read a bit of it, but now I think I will go back and read ALL of it. You are doing great, keep up the good work!

  2. Ex-personal trainer and still happy runner here – I used to do easy recovery runs, now I do walks, swims or rides. I also find Yoga extremely helpful. I had icepacks on my back last night, took an hour fast walk, 1/2 hour Yoga this morning and I’ve been great all day:)

  3. I try to always get a recovery run in. I really notice it when I don’t. Been practicing this theory a ton this year with easy longer runs after a run that had effort (tempo, track, long run)

  4. this is the first year i’ve actually done recovery runs. the previous 2 years marathon training i would try to “walk” or something kinda moving during the day. If i went to the grocery store, i considered this a recovery exercise. ha! this year, i started to do them just to get 30 mins of exercise- i feel like it does really help. i feel less sore and i can get a good stretch in. plus, i dont worry about distance or speed, i just time myself to run 30 mins. its easier to get out there if you say you’re only running for 30 mins and will be home, stretched, and showered within an hour or so.

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