The art of the recovery run (and a winner)

When I first started running, I’d always end my week with my long run, then take the next day off. This worked fine, but a few years back I started experimenting with a shorter, very easy run the day after my long runs. This has been routine ever since because I find I get much more out of it than pure rest.

Making a run into a good recovery run, however, takes some trial and error. Here are my suggestions for getting the most out of this run:

  • Do it the day after a hard workout (either a long run or speed work)
  • Pick an easy route, nothing to hilly, if possible
  • Make it short–no more than about six or seven miles
  • Do it alone so that you don’t get lured into running faster than you should
  • Unless–you run with someone who is a slower runner than you (this can be a great opportunity to run with someone with whom you might not otherwise train)
  • Leave the Garmin at home. Tune into your body instead
  • Take this time to focus on form and landing quietly

Recovery runs are sometimes my favorite runs. Who doesn’t love an easy carefree run? But after, my legs always feel “cleared out” and ready to move on to harder training again. If you don’t’ have recovery runs in your routine, give one a try and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your overall running.

Do you incorporate recovery runs into your routine? 

A2114 1 Purple The art of the recovery run (and a winner)If you entered my giveaway for the Altra Zero Drops, picked number 99, which is Katherine at Neon Blonde Runner! Congrats Katherine–email me and we’ll get you in touch with Altra.

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  1. Very good suggestions. I tried to do a recover run after the long distance workouts or races but it didn’t work for me; better a day of rest or an easy workout in the swimming pool.

  2. my live is one big recovery run right now.
    literally and metaphorically.
    and Im ok with that! :-)
    Miz recently posted..What 3 words would others use to describe you?My Profile

  3. Great advice! I have been doing the same thing and calling it a shake out run. Mine are usually around 3 miles, but I look forward to the day when I can call 6 or 7 a recovery run!
    Jennifer recently posted..Narrowing My OptionsMy Profile

  4. No recovery runs but I remember Patrick at Stuff wrote about it one time, sounded promising.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Week 2: The North Face Endurance 50K TrainingMy Profile

  5. I do, I like an easy run the day after or even the day of a long run or race. I just discovered running the evening of a marathon, and it makes a huge difference!
    Gracie recently posted..Happy Mother’s Day!My Profile

  6. I love these tips. I think I’ve done one, maybe 2 recovery runs in my lifetime. I tend to go for a recovery bike ride.
    Teamarcia recently posted..Race Report: Chicago Spring Half MarathonMy Profile

  7. Great suggestions I do try and get some recovery runs into my schedule….although, I think I should try harder! :)
    Kierston recently posted..Sticks and Stones….My Profile

  8. I really need to learn the art of the recovery run. AKA I just need to leave my Garmin at home! I always end up lamenting about my pace; even though a recovery run is supposed to be sloooow. Why am I so hard on myself?!

    I usually rest the days after long runs because right now my body just needs to take it slowly/be careful about injury…but I do hope that eventually I’ll be able to do post-LR recovery runs because it definitely makes me feel A LOT better!
    Kara recently posted..Learning From Every RunMy Profile

  9. I’ve never done recovery runs before but the more I hear about them the more they make sense to me! I’m going to try adding one this week after my speed work day!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Monday MotivationMy Profile

  10. I love recovery runs, I have also learned that while I like wearing my garmin for them I don’t worry about the pace and feel much better at the end then I do at the beginning!
    Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem recently posted..Montana Women’s Run 5 Mile RecapMy Profile

  11. Great post. I do like to keep running but had no “art” to it. This sounds like really good guidelines…

    by the way (I love it) “keep it short, only 6-7 miles…” spoken like a true distance runner… tee hee. Not really “short” for me now-a-days. But hopefully it will be again if I ever start training for a full again.
    Jen recently posted..Post race blues: What’s next?My Profile

  12. So glad you addressed this. I’ve been doing this recently. But I keep the runs no more than 4 miles. I do run with hubby, but we run around the neighborhood, which sort of keeps you slower having to stop at intersections and such.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Lifting, Rambling & Grilling: Eggplant & Tofu NapoleonMy Profile

  13. Great suggestions! My recovery runs are a bit shorter, but I love how it feels right to go slower.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Ride onMy Profile

  14. I’ve never looked at it that way before. I tend to take more time off after a long run. I think I’ll give this a try and see how it goes. Thanks!

  15. Darn it, I wanted those shoes, but congrats to Neon Blonde. I might have to get them anyway.

    Great points about the recovery run. I typically do not run after a long run day, but think this makes a lot of sense. Once I can actually DO a long run again, I will give it a try.
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..Do Runners Wear Out?My Profile

  16. I have always contemplated doing an easy couple of miles the day after my long run which I do on Sunday. My hard workouts are on Wednesday & Friday. Would you take Saturday off with this schedule? Typically Saturday is an optional easy 60 minutes or spinning and Monday is off.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Hippie Chick 1/2 MarathonMy Profile

  17. I don’t but think I might start. I typically don’t run the day before or after my long runs. Think I might switch that up in the future though.
    Robin recently posted..5 Peaks Trail Race #2My Profile

  18. I’ve done short, easy recovery runs, but my LONG runs would be 5 or 6 miles, so my recoveries are definitely shorter, but still worthwhile. I like to keep my sore muscles moving a bit :)
    Meredith @ DareYouTo recently posted..FitBlogNYC Day part IIMy Profile

  19. Oh my goodness, this is incredible news about the shoes!!!!! I was reading the post because I legit wanted to learn about recovery runs, I was so pleasantly surprised to find my name, thank you so much. I’ll send you an e-mail in a minute.

    So here’s how I feel about recovery runs…I usually end up just taking a rest day after a tough workout because I was afraid of having another stress fracture. But I’ve been fine for over a year, so maybe it’s time to start adding them in. These are some great tips, thanks for sharing!
    Katherine @ Neon Blonde Runner recently posted..Cap2Cap Century Bike RideMy Profile

  20. I agree – I love recovery runs!!!! I recently started trying to do one run a week Garmin-free….it’s easier said than done and I don’t always do it, but it is nice and liberating when I do :)
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..GOTR 5K & a graduation partyMy Profile

  21. I’ve been loving recovery runs lately for the same reasons… it’s nice to have a carefree, easy run. I like the tips to leave the Garmin at home, and run alone (or with a slower friend!)
    Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part twoMy Profile

  22. I LOVE RECOVERY RUNS. I didn’t do one last weekend after PCRF half, and I totally regretted it – I was so achy.
    Heather recently posted..Neon glitter, all the kids ever, and running. PFTWMy Profile

  23. I love recovery runs! Great opportunity to just run easy, and I find my body feels better after.
    marlene recently posted..Welland Half Iron Training – Week 2My Profile

  24. I haven’t tried it to much but I do always feel better. I usually ride the next day and that seems to have the same effect for me.

  25. hates me…

    “Make it short–no more than about six or seven miles”

    Remembering of course that to some folks, six or seven miles may be long…
    Jamoosh recently posted..Goal MeMy Profile

  26. I started doing recovery runs after long runs this training cycle & so far I’m not sure what I think! While it’s nice to have a good carefree run, part of me misses giving up my weekend to a long run, and then giving up even more of it to recovery run after a long run … Of course, I might change my mind when I see how much it helps my marathon time. :) What I did this training cycle was did half the distance of my long run (i.e. 20 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday)… I figure it’s a good way to condition myself to run on tired legs while also building in recovery at the same time.
    Alyssa recently posted..Countdown to Ogden: Week 11My Profile

  27. You are cracking me up. Six or 7 miles is my “long run” so my recovery run should be like what? Around the block? LOL No seriously – great advice. I’ll come back to it when 6-7 miles is a recovery run for me.
    TriMOEngr (Christina) recently posted..My Kind of Mother’s DayMy Profile

  28. I agree! I have a friend who is getting back into running after a long break, so I run with her the day after my long run! This slows me way down and keeps me from running too fast or too far. It is a great way for us to spend time together and for her not to feel rushed!
    Kyria recently posted..Do and Do Not (3): RunningMy Profile

  29. Great tips…. I have a LONG trail race this weekend. I might have to use some of these suggestions for the day after.
    PavementRunner recently posted..An Easy 10 with Heather MontgomeryMy Profile

  30. I have been doing recovery runs on Sunday (the day after my long run) for quite some time now and I love it. For my real long runs, I keep it super short with about 2-3 miles, but for my medium long runs I will go about 4-5 miles. It just feels good to shake things out and enjoy an easy run that isn’t at 5am because Sundays I sleep in and run whenever I can fit it in.
    J recently posted..Breaking 20My Profile

  31. I ignored recovery runs for the longest time. now I know just how much they matter and make a difference. Great post!

    Also, Saturday for either lunch or dinner (probably dinner) would likely work best for me. I’m not sure if there is going to be a formal meet up or not. Alicia from Poise in Parma originally planned to organize one but then she had a conflicting commitment for this weekend and things never got picked up for planning one.
    Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..Pure IndulgenceMy Profile

  32. Love this post.
    I’m big on a rr after a lr.
    Used to get all sorts of crazy comments about it but now I can say [insert your link] miss Z approves it & boom. I’m good. ;)
    Emz recently posted.."Good Girl" – Carrie UnderwoodMy Profile

  33. I love recovery runs and am looking forward to tomorrow’s. :)
    Robin recently posted..Melrose Run for Women Race ReportMy Profile

  34. I usually rest after the a long run but a recovery run sounds good! Congrats to Katherine on winning the Altra’s!!!
    Toni Church recently posted..Mid-Month May Challenges Update, Illness plus a Sharkies WinnerMy Profile

  35. I’ll have to try a recovery run this week and see how it goes! I also love the idea of breaking free of the Garmin for this… it’s good to let the obsession rest ;)
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..The Relay RecapMy Profile

  36. great suggestions! And I love my altras!
    Heather Montgomery recently posted..Disney April Trip in PicturesMy Profile

  37. All my runs are recovery runs at the moment. Low heart rate, easy running. Where all I do is think about form.
    Char recently posted..ThankfulMy Profile

  38. Oh Pooh! I missed the give away and it was a good one! Well, congrats to Katherine (lucky gal!).
    As for recovery runs, I like to take the day after a long run and go for a long recovery walk. I use the excuse that the dog needs the recovery but I really think I’m fooling myself. ;)
    Joanne recently posted..McMillan Running–SundayMy Profile

  39. I know recovery runs are SO important. I unfortunately don’t run many long runs, but if I did then I’d think recovery would be a priority for me…

    especially listening to you and how you’ve made long distance running a way of life AND you kick butt at it!
    marissa recently posted..our trip and a new Athleta store!My Profile

  40. I have never tried running by myself and I think a lot of people should definitely be aware how running is important in our life.. It makes us more healthy and can lose weight..
    Gisele recently posted..Effective Home Remedies For GoutMy Profile

  41. Crystal says:

    . Like any sport, competitive eating has rules, safety precautions and strategies..
    Crystal recently posted..Hot Tub Spa ChemicalsMy Profile

  42. Congrats, Neon Blonde! Recovery runs are so hard for me. I never seem to be able to slow it down enough for it to actually be a recovery run. Too tempted to try to finish the run sooner.
    Yo Momma Runs recently posted..Proud Runner review and giveawayMy Profile

  43. I love a good recovery run! Last year when I did the Cache-Teton Epic Relay, I ended up running 4 legs because one of our runners got injured. I ended up running a total of 20 something miles. The next morning I got up and ran 4 miles and everybody thought I was crazy, but it cleared out my legs and I wasn’t nearly as sore as I would’ve been if I didn’t run.
    Ara recently posted..My Kona DreamMy Profile

  44. My favorite tip? Leave your Garmin home. When I’m running on a normal basis and tracking miles or constantly listening to the same playlist on my iPod, it’s SUPER refreshing to go “naked”. Just you and your run.

  45. Excellent article. I absolutely appreciate this site. Thanks for sharing.
    Bethann D. Halsey recently posted..Capsiplex Side EffectsMy Profile

  46. Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this website.
    multi-family recently posted..multi-familyMy Profile


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