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Do Recovery Runs Really Work?

6 March 2012

Monday’s plan was uncharacteristically democratic, and offered me a choice: “Rest, or 4 miles easy, off road”. I had the day off work, mostly to catch up on sleep after Sunday’s 18 miles, and pondered the decision. I wanted to rest, obviously, but would it be better for my legs to get in a ‘recovery run’? Might this help me avoid muscle fever?

I was dubious. How would exercising my tired legs ‘bring out’ the soreness early, or in some way appease my poor broken down tissue? After a marathon, the advice is to do nothing for a week, so if you wouldn’t attempt a recovery run then, why would you do it at any other time? Doesn’t that suggest that it won’t actually help you recover?

Some brief google-age found me this great article, which puts my half-baked thoughts into scientific and properly researched terms. A ‘recovery run’ is actually nothing of the sort, it won’t help you recover, which is why most marathon runners don’t do them after a marathon. Ultra-marathoners might though, because what they really are is ‘pre-fatigued running practice runs’, helping increase your endurance when you are tired and re-programming your brain to be more efficient in using your muscles.

As I didn’t do this google-age until today, you may surmise (correctly) that I did not run yesterday, but took the rest option instead. It was great. Happily, I also avoided muscle fever last night, though I did have some very strange dreams involving running gels. Make of that what you will.

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