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Running Tips

What is a recovery run, and why is it important?

Two runners on a trail next to a river

What's your favorite running workout? Chances are you didn't say the recovery run. They're not commonly considered a big part of training, but recovery runs are just as important to any training program as your structured workouts or long runs. So what is a recovery run? Why is it important? And what might a recovery run look like for you?

What is a recovery run?

A recovery run is a shorter, slower-paced run usually done a day or two after a hard running workout or long run. As you've probably guessed by now, recovery runs assist in the recovery process. For those that love going fast, it might feel counter-productive to slow your pace down considerably, but you're doing your body a huge favor in the long run.

Why is it important?

If you're training for a race, you've likely considered what it'll feel like to cross the finish line. Besides pride and glory, you'll probably feel fatigued. While the physical benefits of recovery runs seem like the obvious thing to address, it is just as important to prepare mentally. Usually the day or two after a long run or workout, you're sore and tired. Recovery runs keep you mentally sharp to run even when it's the last thing you want to do. In regard to the physical benefits, training yourself to run on tired legs is hugely beneficial.

If, after a hard workout, you sit on the couch for a couple of days, your muscles are going to contract and get sore. Recovery runs get blood flowing, help to loosen tight muscles, and break up lactic acid that likely accumulated during your previous run.

What pace and distance should you aim for?

Recovery runs should be done 60–90 seconds slower than your average mileage time. This means if you go out and run a 9-minute mile pace on any given day, your recovery runs should be done at 10-minutes per mile or slower. In terms of distance, recovery runs are commonly three to five miles or about 25–45 minutes.

Importantly, try to keep a steady pace and stay relaxed. You won't hear this in regard to any other type of training run, but with recovery runs, it's always better to go slower or shorter if you're not sure.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Tim Kelly

Marathon Runner & Coach

Tim Running

Ohio native that loves travel, gardening, and helping people do more with their running than they thought possible. 8+ years as a running coach. 12 years as a runner and cyclist.