The purpose of a Recovery Run, put simply, is to stop a runner from seizing up. It is helpful in keeping joints moving and as a reminder about still being a runner. It is also part of a healing process, should this be necessary.
There's no set formula as to what the length should be, or the intensity or speed but generally it is best for them to be gentle, easy going and comfortable. A Recovery Run is not the place for seeking a high pace. If anything starts to hurt (i.e. joints, muscles etc) it is better not to run at all, or at least make it a gentle jog. The last thing you want to do is aggravate anything and delay the healing process.
And then there is the mental health side of a Recover Run, which should not be underestimated. This is relevant where a runner has put everything into training and the race itself was emotional; this can happen. Some runners may feel a sense of real achievement, others might be disappointed and therefore this needs to be processed and dealt with. Therefore the Recovery Run can be helpful in putting everything in perspective.
Yesterday I had a Recover Run, following the MK Marathon a few days ago and I had been seriously looking forward to the run; here's the features:
- Distance: I did exactly 7.5 miles over my favourite hilly route. I decided to do it in reverse as I was not wanting to chase any time over any Strava segments or anything like that.
- I was running for enjoyment, not for event training or improving my fitness. I had nothing to prove, it was simply for the joy of running. Arguably there is no better reason to run.
- The conditions were perfect; temperature, scenery and my mood. Just right.
- There were a few spots of rain in the first mile. My first reaction was wishing I was wearing an extra layer, possibly a light rain jacket. Then I figured I'd simply enjoy it (at that point the rain stopped!).
- I could feel a little ache or two in my legs but there wasn't much to it. Just as well I wasn't pushing myself.
- I ran up the shortest and steepest hill I know around here with comparative ease (at 1:4 it will never be easy)
- I was feeling thankful I could do this run. Thankful because I pulled myself away from being an overweight couch potato and lazy slob all those years ago, even thankful for all the stress and worry which drove me to it in the first place. Thankful because I have been given a good pair of legs, lungs and heart to allow me to do this.