Think about the last time you thought to yourself, “I really need to take a break.”
Likely, it was from spending too much time on social media or perhaps sitting at your work-from-home desk. But what about running? If you’re the kind of athlete who is running every single day, you may need to make sure that the words “break” and “recover” are in your vocabulary. That’s right: No matter how experienced a runner you may be, recovery is critical if you want to hit your goals — and stave off injury.
Granted, there are many different factors that go into exactly how much recovery time you may need between runs. “This can be dictated by the amount of volume and intensity you performed during your running workout,” says Grayson Wickham, DPT, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of Movement Vault. “Generally speaking, the longer your running workout or the higher the intensity, the more time you should dedicate to post running recovery.”
Also consider parameters such as average heart rate, max heart rate during your run, mileage during your run and current fitness level. For example: If you have a high fitness level and just performed a short, moderate-intensity run, you won’t need to dedicate as much time to recovery compared to someone who has a low fitness level and just performed a high-intensity workout with numerous sets of interval sprints.
THE MINIMUM RECOVERY TIME
If you’re going out for a base run that’s less than 60 minutes, your recovery time may be as short as 4–8 hours, says Alexandra Weissner, an RRCA-certified run coach and co-founder bRUNch Running. However, for intervals and long runs, you will want a longer recovery window. “I would recommend at least a good night’s sleep between these kinds of runs, but it’s really, really important for you to listen to your body.”
It’s not outside the box for runners to need at least 1–2 days off after a long run or an interval run before getting back to pounding the pavement. Again, pay attention to your personal cues, and make sure not to push the envelope too much, too soon.
A SOLID RECOVERY ROUTINE
Good news first: You don’t need to spend big money to recover smartly. In fact, recovery can include simple strategies like a next-day walk or a light jog to help flush lactic acid from the muscles. This is called active recovery. “Active recovery helps the body heal quicker and decreases muscle soreness and tightness that can happen after a more intense run,” says R.T. Hill, DPT, of The Stride Shop. Examples of active recovery include cross-training, swimming, biking or walking, all of which stimulate more blood flow throughout the body.
“Focus on deep belly breaths, breathing in and out through your nose,” he suggests, adding that it’s important to try to limit the expansion of your chest while breathing. “Try to slow down your breath as much as possible and aim for at least a 5-second inhale and 5-second exhale.”
While you perform the above breathwork, you can also execute some simple stretches. Wickham suggests focusing on the muscles and fascia around your midsection — also known as your core. “This will help maintain a happy and pain-free low back.”
There are plenty of tools available to runners to assist in recovery, such as foam rollers, vibrating massage guns, compression boots and more. While each tool does slightly different things, all of them are aimed at helping your body repair. Before taking the plunge and investing in one of these items, get guidance from a physical therapist who can fill you in on best-practices for you and your personal use.
HOW CAN I RECOVER FASTER?
Who doesn’t want this, right? Firstly, make sure you’re fueling your body well going into each and every effort, suggests Hill. “Your body operates with the fuel it’s given. Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet will improve performance and stimulate a quicker recovery after a run.”
Just like you wouldn’t go into a run without the right fuel, you also shouldn’t skimp on your pre-run warmup. If you run on stiff or tight muscles and joints, then your body will take on more stress throughout a run. “This means you’re working harder and recovery will take longer,” adds Hill.
Make sure this warmup is dynamic — or fluid — rather than static, ensuring your muscles get the essential blood flow they need to take on an upcoming effort.
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.