Make your recovery run a vital part of your running training.
Most runners know the value of the recovery run. They know it helps their body and muscles recover from the pounding of the harder training or racing. But do they really know?
There is in fact very little evidence that recovery runs between training sessions actually help with recovery. They certainly don’t flush out waste products which have long since been dispersed shortly after exercise. Nor do they reduce the severity of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), nor speed up the repair process of damaged muscles.
So, what is a recovery run if it doesn’t really aid recovery? A recovery run is a run that does not add further stress to the body while it repairs itself, i.e. an easy run; it’s training but with emphasis on damage limitation.
But, it can be so much more than that; used effectively your recovery runs — or should we say easy runs — can add another dimension to your training and enable you to become a stronger, faster, more durable and less injury prone runner.
Answer this simple question: what do you think about during your recovery runs?
Probably anything and everything.
But, if you focus on certain aspects of your running, while you run, you can turn your easy runs into extremely valuable training runs.
What to focus on
If we look at some of the determinants of faster and more efficient running we’ll get some clues, in particular:
- cadence (the stride rate)
- stride length
- foot position on foot strike (in relation to body position)
- direction of travel of foot (in relation to the ground)
- stiffness (compliance of the muscles), stiffer = better
We’ll look at these individually over the coming weeks and how you can use your mind to make improvements in your running whilst still having an easy run.
For now though, use your next run to focus on your cadence. The research seems to suggest a turn-over of 90 strides (180 steps), per minute is optimal for most people. Check yours out, count your strides for a minute. If you much slower than this, say 80-85, it might be worth gradually quickening things up a little. A faster stride is more efficient and produces less impact to the body. In short, you could speed up your running and reduce your risk of injury by addressing this one factor alone.
It will seem strange at first, like your steps are unnaturally short, but persevere and it will make a difference.
How to increase cadence
It does take effort, mental effort, and you might not be able to focus on this for long to begin with, maybe just a few minutes at a time, but keep at it and you’ll develop your ability to remain undistracted. Focus on picking the feet up as soon as they hit the ground and have the muscles in the legs primed, ready to fire, just before impact. Now, here’s a trick: it’s much easier to imagine doing something that would produce this action, than it is to consciously think of the movements you need to make. How would you run over red-hot coals, quickly I’d guess. Or, what about running over quicksand without sinking in — you have to be quick.
Focus on these things and monitor your cadence occasionally, notice how it’s increased.
We’ll explore some other mind games you can play during your recovery (easy) runs soon.
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