Tag: recovery

Training Doesn’t Occur in a Vacuum

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

As a runner, one of the most difficult concepts to understand is the idea that individual workouts do not occur in isolation of one another.

The reality is that every workout is influenced by a myriad of factors and, more importantly, a singular workout can impact your upcoming runs for as many as ten days after it’s finished.

Understanding the concept that training or an individual workout doesn’t occur in a vacuum or in isolation is essential to staying healthy long-term, avoiding overtraining, and performing optimally.

In this article, we’ll explore 3 common situations where runners typically forget this principle and how it can impact your training progress.

How running too hard leads to injury

Perhaps it’s easiest to start with an example situation you’ve no doubt experienced.

You have a VO2max or speed session scheduled for today and you’re feeling great. You hit the track and crush the workout – running each repeat much faster than your prescribed pace and you still felt strong. Great news, right?

Not so fast (pun intended).

While you no doubt accomplished the objective of the workout and running fast didn’t change the primary energy system you wanted to target, like running too fast on a tempo run would, it’s possible you’re placing more strain and fatigue on your body than anticipated, which could result in injury.

The tricky thing with running is that injuries don’t occur instantaneously.

Training would be much simpler if injuries and overtraining appeared as a direct result or immediately after a specific workout. Unfortunately, injuries and overtraining typically occur as the result of many seemingly minor factors.

It’s the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” idiom applied to training.

In this specific case, metabolically speaking, running faster was within your ability. However, we know that the structural system (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) often lag behind your fitness. As a result, running faster might have stressed muscles in your hips or feet that weren’t strong enough yet to support such intense paces.

Consequently, you’re going to need more recovery.

That might mean shortening your next easy run, scheduling an extra day off, or pushing back your next workout. However, if you’re like most runners I know, this won’t happen.

While you might get away with ignoring the long-term stress of one workout occasionally, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up with you.

Shuffling workouts

Similarly, you need to be cautious when moving scheduled workouts around to accommodate work, travel or family. While these situations are often unavoidable, it’s important to consider how moving a workout impacts recovery and how you’ll feel during subsequent runs or workouts.

  • The body operates in a purely physiological environment and it doesn’t recover faster simply because we need to run our long run a day earlier.
  • Likewise, as much as we wish it did, the body doesn’t adhere to our concept of a week. Just because your training week ends on a Sunday, it doesn’t mean you start fresh on Monday. The miles and workouts are still in your legs.

While it’s difficult to provide general advice about the best way to shuffle workouts, there is one piece of advice that will always apply regardless of your situation. It’s better to be cautious and skip a hard workout in favor of rest or an easy day than to cram intense sessions too close together.

Training is like making popcorn, it’s better to be slightly undercooked than a little overcooked (click to Tweet).

Weather, stress and other outside factors

Finally, it’s important to remember that your training is affected by your entire environment and not just the workouts on your schedule.

Performing yard work after your weekend long run is going to delay your recovery compared to spending the day with your feet kicked up watching track on television.

It’s important to keep these outside stressors in mind when planning your recovery or trying to deduce why you feel more tired than expected.

Stressors like yard work or an insane day at the office are easy to identify. However, one factor most runners ignore is the impact of the heat on recovery. As summer approaches, it’s crucial to understand how your recovery is affected by hot weather.

How your recovery is affected by hot weather

As anyone who has trained in warm weather knows, a hard workout on a hot day means you’re going to have to slow down.

Okay, most runners can begrudgingly accept that. Yet, the negative impact of the heat doesn’t exist in the vacuum of that one workout. It affects your recovery for all subsequent runs.

The body recovers by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles through the circulatory system – via blood.

In hot weather, the body cools itself by sending blood to the skin to be cooled by the air. As a result, there is less blood available to repair the muscles.

This process also uses energy that would otherwise be available for recovery. So, even when you’re not running, the body is spending energy to keep you cool as opposed to promoting recovery.

Therefore, running a workout in hot weather doesn’t just impact that one run. The delayed recovery impacts your subsequent workouts.

This is one of the primary reasons you always feel terrible when training in the summer.

Final thoughts

Remember that training doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Your performance during a specific workout is affected by your schedule, the weather, and your previous workouts and runs that week.

Furthermore, the fatigue you generate carries over into your subsequent runs.

By keeping this bit of training advice in mind, you’ll be more consistent with your workouts and avoid injury and overtraining.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

Necessary Evil: Managing Fatigue

Why Fatigue is a Necessary Part of Training and How to Manage It

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Training is like trying to walk a tight rope. You need to balance putting in grueling workouts and mileage with the ability to let your body recover. Favor one aspect too heavily and you’ll either have a poor performance from lack of training or get injured and overtrained from doing too much.

That’s why learning how to manage fatigue, and understanding the role it plays in endurance training, is critical to improving as a runner. In this article, we’re going to outline why a certain amount of fatigue is necessary to improve as a runner, how to strategically implement it, and how to find the right balance.

Why fatigue is necessary

The basis for all training theory is the what we call the workout and recovery process. Running first breaks down your muscle fibers. The harder you run, the more muscle fibers you damage. Your body then works to rebuild these damaged muscle fibers and if the recovery process goes well, these muscle fibers are repaired stronger than before. That’s how you become faster and stronger through training.

But, as you may realize, it’s nearly impossible to fully recover from a workout in 24 hours. It might be possible following a very easy day of running, but any type of speed, tempo or long run is going to require anywhere from 2 to 14 days to fully absorb and recover (here’s a breakdown of what research says about how long it takes to recover from different workout types).

That means, unless you want to only run two or three times per week, training while fatigued is a necessary part of training; especially since we know slow, easy mileage is the best way to build aerobic endurance and is the foundation for running performance. The trick is finding that balance between running enough miles to build you aerobic capacity without overdoing the fatigue.

Herein lies the “art” of training.

However, there is also a way that we can utilize this fatigue to make your training more effective.

How to utilize fatigue to run faster

In training vernacular, coaches use a term called “accumulated fatigue”. Basically, this theory posits that fatigue from one workout accumulates and transfers to the next run so that you’re always starting a workout or a long run a little tired from your previous training.

This is important for longer distance races like the marathon because it’s nearly impossible to run the full distance of the race in daily training. Furthermore, if you were to start every workout fully recovered and fresh, it would be difficult to simulate how your body feels late into a race.

As such, we can strategically implement the theory of accumulated fatigue to better target the specific demands of your race.

For example, during marathon training, one of my favorite methods for introducing accumulated fatigue is to buttress the long run against a shorter, but steady paced run the day before. As an illustration, you would run six miles at marathon pace on the Saturday before your Sunday long run. Because of the harder running on Saturday, you start Sunday’s long run not at zero miles, but rather at six or eight miles, since that is the level of fatigue and glycogen depletion your body is carrying over from the previous run.

You can even apply this theory to 5k training. Using what we know about muscle fibers and the recruitment and fatigue ladder, I often have athletes run a short, explosive hill workout (something like 9 x 60 second hills at 5k pace) two days before a 5k specific workout (12 x 400 at 5k pace with 60 second quick jog rest). The hill session fatigues and depletes the fast twitch muscle fibers so that during the 5k specific work, your intermediary Type IIa muscle fibers (the ones primarily responsible for running at 5k pace) have to handle more work and thus are more specifically targeted.

How to find the right balance

Training would be much easier – and runners much happier – if you could just train hard and fatigued all the time. But, you can’t simply continue to accumulate fatigue and run these types of workouts all the time (although some runners certainly do try). There needs to be a balance.

  • First, try to keep the specific accumulated fatigue workouts to once every two weeks and only schedule them during the race-specific portion of your training schedule. This ensures that you don’t overdo it and that you don’t get burnt out long-term.
  • Be sure to keep your easy runs slow. One of the most common mistakes runners make is running their easy day mileage too fast. This hinders your ability to recover and doesn’t provide any additional aerobic benefit. Research has shown that the most optimal aerobic pace for an easy run is about 65 percent of 5k pace. For a 20-minute 5k runner (6:25 pace for 5k – 7:20 pace marathoner), this would mean about 8:40 per mile on easy days.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to take a down or rest week every five to six weeks where you reduce mileage by 65 to 75 percent and reduce the intensity of your workouts. These down weeks help you fully recover from and absorb previous weeks and months of training so that fatigue doesn’t build-up too much.

Hopefully, this lesson on fatigue and how you manage it will help you train more intelligently for your upcoming races.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

Making Sense of Easy Days

stop running the same pace for every run

By Mike Gauvin

Let’s face it: there are many different philosophies and ways to reach peak performance. Obviously, it’s important not only to set long term goals but in the process of reaching for these goals runners often wonder if their training is preparing them properly for the desired result. Is there a correct answer? Well…yes there is. The answer is long term consistent, uninterrupted training.

To be consistent you have to be healthy. To stay healthy you have to have a well designed plan that balances all aspects of training. When I design a program I attempt to cover all the bases during the build up and race phases. One best method doesn’t exist but if we follow a gradual buildup in stimulus and make sure we touch all of the important systems or paces we are well on our way to reaching our goals.

Distance runners spend most of their time focused on what we all call “easy” runs. Race specific workouts or tempo runs make up a very small percentage of our weekly volume (or at least they should). Because these “easy” days are so important I break them down even further to ensure we are not running the same pace or focusing on the same systems every day of the week.

Easy Run Breakdown

 Low intensity: Focused easy effort. The goal is to run very comfortably for as many miles as you need to reach your weekly target (ex:1:30-2:00+ minutes per mile slower than 5k pace)
 Moderate intensity: Run by feel, allowing yourself flexibility to progressively pick up the pace – never getting too fast (ex: 1:00-1:30 minutes per mile slower than 5k pace)
 Recovery: Very low intensity and of short duration. Used following very hard efforts or intense races (ex: 30-60 minutes of running at >2:00 per mile slower than 5k pace) – sometimes may be substituted with rest or cross training.

Easy runs (or lack of) are often the culprit of injuries, decreased performance, and not reaching your potential as a runner. The reason is that we often tend to go out and run the same moderate pace on our easy or recovery runs, day in and day out.

As you can see from the table below, not all “easy” days are created the same. Sometimes we need to make sure we fully recover from tough sessions in order to improve; other times we can let our legs roll along based on how we feel. All days should not be run at the same pace. The more patient and disciplined you are the more consistent you will become.

A few benefits of low and moderate intensity easy runs:

 Specific muscle fiber adaptation
 Tendon & bone development
 Improved running
 Glycogen storage & fat utilization
 Mitochondrial and capillary growth
 Improved VO2max & general endurance

Mike Gauvin is a certified coach who works with particular wolves from the Western Mass Distance Project. This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Real Recovery

Recovery After 40

“Age is a relentless competitor.” – Bill Bowerman

by Rich Stiller

A few years ago I received an email invite to attend a reunion of many of the top San Francisco area runners of the 1970′s and 80′s. Unfortunately I was out of town for the event but close to 100 runners showed up at a local park for a barbecue and some serious reminiscing.

After I got back to the Bay Area I exchanged emails with Jack, who had hosted the event. He said that most of the former racers were no longer running at all. Many hadn’t run in years. “If we had put on a 5k race, you might have won,” he said. Although in my early sixties, I could still run in the 20 minute range for 5k.

Over the years many of them had simply broken down. Knees, Achilles, calf, back injuries, you name it. Most had run relatively high mileage in their twenties and thirties. Heck, I considered myself a real wuss because I rarely trained over 70 miles per week.

Few runners surrender their fast times willingly and veteran runners who train and compete for the pure joy of it do not go gently into the night of nonrunning retirement. But why could I still compete while others hung up their spikes? Simple: I adjusted to the accumulated wear and tear while many of them didn’t.

In my mid-forties, after 18 years of solid training and racing, I began to crater. I was still running close to 50-60 miles per week and rarely missed a day of training. At 39 I could still run 33 minutes for 10k. At age 45 I couldn’t break 40. No gradual slope. Just a sharp drop off a cliff. For the first time in my running career, I was forced to look at real recovery.

In my twenties and thirties a recovery run was usually 6-8 miles at a seven minute pace. If I was really beat up two weeks of easy running usually put me right. But I never had to miss a day of running. I just ran slower.

In my early forties, a recovery run became what one writer called a “4-6 mile calorie burner.” The pace of these runs was little more than a slog. Hey, at least I was still training seven days a week.

In my mid-forties recovery became something else. With legs that often felt like sacks of cement, I knew that if I wanted to keep running and competing I would need to change up the training.

In 1990, I read an article by Olympian Jeff Galloway who was the same age as me. In the article he talked about going through the same dead legged syndrome I was experiencing. He shifted to running every other day. What this meant for me was cutting back to around 35 miles a week. It was against everything that running had been for me over the last 15 years.

After a few months of mulling this around, I gave it a try. It was the first time I began running a “virtual” training week. I could still run seven training days including tempo, speed and a long run but it took me 14 days to get those seven days in. Did it work? Within six months I was running in the 35 minute range for 10k. As far as I was concerned it worked just fine.

I didn’t talk to other runners about it very often. If I had trouble thinking about the concept, it was a foreign language to my peers.

Here’s what I realized: there are two types of older runners. First, the older legged veterans who have run for years and have accumulated vast amounts of mileage on their legs. Second, the younger legged older runners. These runners either started later in life or took a long period of time off from running-often fifteen or twenty years.

The older legged runners have used up their thirty year, one hundred thousand mile warranties. They may still be able to run if they adjusted for age and wear and tear, but their fast times are behind them. The muscles and tendons in their legs no longer have the resiliency. Many don’t adjust and are taken out by injury or just the plain old plods. Plods is a pace in which the delta between running and walking has come dangerously close to one another.

The younger legged older runner shows up on the scene minus the mileage and wear and tear. If they’re willing to train, they can run fast times relative to their age. Runners who could never have beaten the Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter’s of the world, run right by them these days.

What I have found is that after 46 years of running and well over one hundred thousand miles, a day off from running is not really a day off. My legs and body read that off day just the same as it once read that easy 6-8 mile run at a 7 minute pace. I can lay in bed all day sipping lattes and my legs have run 6-8 miles. So if I go out and run at all, I am simply adding mileage to the 6-8 that’s already there.

If I run an easy 4 miles on that off day, it’s like I ran 10-12 miles and anyone knows that 10-12 miles is not a real recovery day especially as a veteran runner with a penchant for beat up legs.

Now in my sixties my virtual week has lengthened again. Like it or not (and I don’t like it at all), my virtual week is about 18 days now. So if I play it safe, I can do a tempo run, speed workout, and a long run in that cycle. I can also do 4 other easier runs. It just takes me 18 days to accomplish this feat. The other days are totally off. Well, not really. My body “thinks” it has run another 11 days and 66-88 miles.

It’s difficult when you’re young and strong and able to run every day to imagine a time where your body sort of betrays you. In my thirties I knew I would start slowing down in the next few decades. What I didn’t understand was that I no longer would be able to sustain every day running.

In the end I accepted the need for an “adjustment” and bought myself not only another five years of good age group racing but also (to date) another 23 years of running. These days I am as slow as mud but at least I can still run. I rarely ever do the same thing week to week. My long runs are every second or even third weekend. Tempo runs every other week. Fast reps are done on weeks when I am not doing tempo. I run by time and no longer by miles. I no longer even think in terms of mileage. I think in terms of workouts.

Last year I ran into one of those top 100 guys; he even placed 2nd at Boston one year. Like all runners we talked about our training. He had continued to train 6-7 days a week into his 50′s. I was running 3-4 days a week. I explained my rationale but he was having none of it. “I couldn’t do that,” he said. “Never.” Here we were years later catching up. He told me that he rarely if ever ran anymore. His knee had blown out on him.

Real recovery is a selfish act that often requires the older runner to say “no.” You must tell yourself “no” I’m not going on that easy run. You must tell your friends “no” because that very run will inhibit your recovery. In short, “no” becomes a critical tool in the art of recovery.

Rich Stiller has been running and racing since 1968. This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Marathon Recovery

How to Recover from a Marathon

Guest Blog by Jeff Gaudette of RunnersConnect

Recovering from a marathon is a critical component to a perfect training plan that runners often neglect. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your marathon, you’ll increase you injury risk and limit your long-term potential – making it harder to break your PR and stay healthy.

As a running coach, I’ve heard all the arguments from athletes wanting to jump back into training or racing immediately after their race. More often than not, runners who do not follow a proper post marathon recovery plan find their subsequent performances stagnating or they suffer from overtraining symptoms.

To help guide you to the proper marathon recovery plan, this article will outline the science behind post marathon fatigue, so you can feel comfortable knowing you’re preparing your body for optimal performance down the road. Then, I am going to provide you with the optimal post marathon recovery plan to help get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Marathon Recovery – The Science

Marathons are tough on the body – there’s no way to sugar coat this fact. Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a marathon race. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Boston qualifier or it’s your first marathon, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles and your body has undergone tremendous physical duress. Here is a list of some of the scientifically measured physiological systems that are most effected after a marathon and how long each takes to fully repair.

Skeletal Muscle

Muscles soreness and fatigue are the most obvious case of damage caused by running the marathon distance. One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up the 14 days post marathon. Accordingly, it will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.

Cellular damage

Cellular damage post marathon, which includes oxidative damage, increased production of creatinine kinase (CK) – a marker that indicates damage to skeletal and myocardial tissue, and increased myoglobin levels in the blood stream (which often results in blood being present in urine).

One study concluded that CK damage persisted more than 7 days post marathon whileanother study confirmed the presence of myoglobin in the bloodstream post marathon for 3-4 days post race. Both of these studies clearly indicate that the body needs at least 7-10 days of rest post marathon to fully recover from the cellular damage caused during the race. These markers, along with a suppressed immune system, which is discussed below, is the primary reason that the optimal marathon recovery schedule avoids cross training the first 2-3 days.

Immune system

Post marathon, the immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu. Furthermore, a suppressed immune system is one of the major causes of overtraining. A recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome. Therefore, it is critical that you rest as much as possible in the three days following a marathon and focus on eating healthy and nutrient rich foods.

The research clearly indicates that the marathon induces significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage for 3-14 days post race. Therefore, it is essential that all marathon runners have a 2-3 week marathon recovery protocol that focuses on rest and rejuvenation of these physiological systems.

Marathon Recovery – The plan of action

We’re going to outline a nutrition, rehab, cross training, and running plan for the 3 weeks after a marathon. This rehab plan is guaranteed to help you recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.

Immediately post race

The immediate post race recovery protocol can be a little difficult to plan ahead of time, so I wouldn’t stress about it pre-race. Focus your energy on pre-race nutrition and race strategy. These notes are simply to give you some guidance after the race.

After you cross the finish line, try to get something warm and get to your clothes. You’ll probably get cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.

Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options. Many marathoners can’t eat soon after finishing, so grab a handful of items and make your way to friends and family.

When you get back to the hotel room, you should consider an ice bath. Fill the tub with ice and cold water and submerge your lower body for 15 minutes. You don’t need the water too cold, 55 degrees is optimal, but anything colder than 65 degrees will do. After your ice bath, you can take a nap or walk around to try and loosen the legs. At this point, you’ve done about all you can do for the day. Relax and relish in your accomplishment.

Days 1-3

Running: None

Cross Training: none

Recovery Tips and tricks:

  • Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
  • Each lots of fruits, carbohydrates, and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
  • Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.

Days 4-7

Running: One day, 2-4 miles very easy

Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.

Recovery Tips and Tricks:

  • Continue eating a healthy diet
  • Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
  • Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
  • Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.

Days 7-14

Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.

Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.

Days 14-21

Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.

Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.

Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period. First, it’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle. If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters. Likewise, you won’t lose much fitness at all. In my experience, it takes about 2-3 weeks of training to get back into good shape and ready to start attacking workouts and planning races.

Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon. I know you may want to avenge a disappointing performance or you’ll be coming off a running high and you’ll want to run every race under the sun. However, your results won’t be as good as they might be if you just wait a few weeks and let your body recover and train a little first. Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.

Our RunnersConnect memberships and our Personal Coaching plans will take care of all the guesswork in training and walk you through the  entire marathon training process. Sign up now to get a jump on your Spring marathon.


About the author: Coach Jeff Gaudette is a 2:22 marathoner and has been a running coach for the past 7 years. “I love coaching and I have a passion for translating highly technical training theory to the schedules of the runners I coach. I don’t believe in ‘secret’ formulas or ‘patented’ coaching systems, just intelligent, adaptive and experienced coaching”. Join the 2,500+ other runners who rely on RunnersConnect for the latest running research and training information.

Get more great training advice and tips at the place where this article originally appeared RunnersConnect.com.

Benefitting From a Workout

How long before you benefit from a running workout

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

It’s the question all runners want to know – “how long will it be before I see the benefits from my workout?” Unfortunately, like most aspects of running and training, there isn’t a quick and easy answer.

Most experienced runners have heard that it takes 10 days to realize the benefits of a workout. While I agree that this is a good rule of thumb to follow, especially during the taper phase of a training plan, it’s not a very accurate measurement of how your body responds and adapts to a myriad of different training factors. For example, the exact rate your body absorbs and responds to a workout is going to be influenced by the type of workout, the intensity, your recovery protocol, and your body’s own rate of adaptation.

However, while there is no universal and simple answer to this question, if we take the time to breakdown all the factors that affect workout absorption, you can extrapolate a fairly accurate estimation of how long it will take to benefit from each type of workout on your training schedule.

Setting the stage

Like any analysis that involves a myriad of influencing factors, the first thing we need to do is establish our assumptions and control some of the influencing variables.

First, for the purpose of this in-depth breakdown, we’re going to assume that you’re implementing a thorough recovery plan after each workout. While ideal workout recovery is an article in itself, we’ll simply presume that you’re at least doing three things after each workout: (1) fueling properly; (2) getting plenty of sleep; and (3) stretching or massaging to reduce soreness. Certainly, you can be doing more to speed your recovery, but this is the baseline we’ll use for general workout adaptations.

Second, we need to make an assumption about your general rate of recovery. It’s unfortunate, but some runners have the ability to recover faster than their peers. We all have that running pal who seems to bounce back from track workouts like she didn’t even run the day before (if you don’t know someone like this, then you’re the envy of all your running friends because you’re “that guy”). Likewise,  runners generally recover slower as they get older. Typically, a 65-year old is going to take longer to recover from a hard workout than a spry runner in their mid-20′s. For the sake of keeping things simple, we’re going to assume your rate of recovery is about average for a 35 to 40-year old runner. If you’re older or have found that you recover much faster than your running peers, you’ll be closer to the outer numbers of the ranges presented below.

How long it will take to benefit from each type of workout

As mentioned previously, the type of workout you perform and the intensity at which you run it will determine how quickly you see benefits. Why? Because your cardio-respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems all respond to training at a different rate. Since each type of workout is designed to stress a particular physiological system, the rate of adaptation will vary.

To make it simple, here is how quickly you’ll reap the benefits from each type of workout on your training schedule:

Speed development

Speed development workouts target the nervous system and are designed to develop the communication between your brain and your muscles. More importantly, improvements to the nervous system allow your brain to activate a greater percentage of muscle fibers and fire them more forcefully.

Speed development workouts aren’t the type of speed work most runners think about. Instead of lung busting intervals, you’re doing short, full speed repetitions on full recovery. Examples of speed development workouts include explosive hill sprints, in-and-out 150′s, or 200m repeats with full recovery – the type of stuff you see sprinters do on the track.

Luckily, you can reap the benefits from a speed workout very quickly – within a day or two. The nervous system responds quickly to new stimuli because the growth and recovery cycle is very short – according to this study, it’s the same principle behind and extensive warm-up that involves dynamic stretching and strides. The nervous system responds very quickly to new stimuli and changes.

VO2max and hill work

VO2max and hill workouts are designed to develop your anaerobic capacity, or your ability to withstand a large amount of oxygen debt, and your muscular system.

Unfortunately, muscle strength and anaerobic capacity take longer to develop because of the intense demand on the body and the amount of time it takes for the muscle fibers to recover after intense sessions. Therefore, it takes anywhere from 10-14 days to realize the full benefit from an anaerobic capacity workout.

You should also note that because of the demanding nature of these workouts, you may actually feel like you’ve “lost fitness” for 7-8 days after these workouts. We all know running the day after an intense session of 400′s can be difficult, but the performance loss will carry through for a few extra days, so be wary.

Threshold runs

Threshold runs, tempo runs, and marathon pace runs are designed to train your body to increase its ability to reconvert lactate back into energy. In general, these types of workouts are taxing, but they aren’t slug fests like a VO2 max workout might be. Therefore, the recovery cycle after a tempo run is faster, which enables you to reap the benefits from the workout within 7-10 days.

Long runs

Finally, the goal of a long run is to build-up your aerobic system. Primarily, this is accomplished by increasing the number and size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers, increasing the number of capillaries, and increasing the myoglobin content of your muscle fibers.

While these improvements to the aerobic system are great for long-term development, you don’t often “feel” the benefit from them right away. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to notice changes in your aerobic ability and for the actual training effect being felt. Likewise, the more experienced you are, the less you will “feel” the benefits from a long run since you aerobic system is already quite developed.

An easy to use chart

Here’s a quick and easy chart that breaks down the general timeframe it takes to realize the benefits from each particular workout:


Workout type Intensity/difficulty When you’ll see benefits
Speed development Hard 1-3 days
Medium 1-3 days
VO2 max/Hills Hard 12-15 days
Medium 9-11 days
Threshold Hard 10-12 days
Medium 7-10 days
Long Run Hard or Medium 4-6 weeks


This chart makes it easy to see why a general 10-day rule is applied, but isn’t always an accurate assessment of when you’ll realize the benefits from a session.

Long-term benefits of training

It’s important to note that realizing the benefits from one workout and fully developing each energy system are two completely different training topics. In this article, I’ve merely outlined the time it takes for your body to repair the muscle damage and experience some amount of growth in a specific physiological system.  Fully developing any of these energy systems takes time – and lots of it (years). However, long-term development is a topic that deserves its own article entirely – so stay tuned.

As a note, the understanding of this principle is how your coaches are able to accurately assign you workouts and when we know that it’s time to up the intensity. By knowing your current fitness, recovery rate, and running history, we can precisely predict when you’ll adapt to the training load and be ready for the next challenge.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

In Workout Recovery Time

I once had this teammate in high school who frequently hijacked our workouts. Our coach would prescribe 8x600m at mile race pace and “Steve” would do the first one in all-out 600m race pace. Steve would then skip the 2nd and 3rd intervals before hopping back in for number 4 or 5 and once again dragging us along to inaccurate splits. Turns out, the rest of the team and Steve were doing two separate workouts.

Fast forward to current times…

Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Athleticore, or our personal running logs, we all record the data that we derive from our workouts. For a seasoned runner, the daily ritual of transcribing times from a training run into some type of diary is a part of an extended cooldown. When people post the results of their workouts publically, they often look something like this: 3x800m followed by 3x400m in 2:35, 2:31, 2:28, 69, 68, 68. This is good data and if it’s posted on Facebook, I “like” it. If it’s tweeted, I admire that you summarized your entire workout in 140 characters or fewer.

Reno Stirrat leads a pack that features 2nd place woman Helen Dinan.

To the Legion I’m proposing a second layer of data to log: Recovery Time. Of course, these times are subordinate to our interval splits, but if given more than 140 characters, I suggest that we all start keeping track of them. Let’s take the above example. If you run the 3×800, 3×400 workout with 60 seconds between each interval that looks different from doing the workout with 6 minutes recovery between each and that looks different still from taking 2 minutes between the 800s, 45 seconds between the 400s, and 10 minutes between the 800s and 400s. Readily apparent, it becomes, that logging just your splits gives only a peephole glimpse into the training session.

Attentiveness to recovery time is also important because it (along with the pace of the repeat) dictates the energy system stimulated. General rule: lots of reps at moderate intensity with limited recovery in the middle of a training cycle and limited reps at high intensity with lots of recovery at the end of a training cycle.

When we are in the middle stages of a training program, we want to do lots of intervals with limited recovery time (read: approximately 1/3 of the time needed for complete recovery) because this allows us to improve multiple systems, aerobic and VO2 Max capacity, for example. A wide variety of workouts exist to train these energy systems that range from repeat miles (5 or more) with 1-3 minutes of rest to 4-5 sets of 4x200m with under 1 minute of rest between repetitions and 4 -5 minutes between sets. Do these types of workouts well before a goal race. The takeaway: time your recovery during your workouts. Don’t wait until you feel ready for the next one. Don’t start yucking it up with your training partners. You’ll reap an added bonus: the workout is done that much faster.

As a goal race nears, cut the volume of repeats and increase the speed and recovery time. These sessions demand energy recruitment from both aerobic and anaerobic resources. A runner may only do 2 repeats in this session, but they should be all out. Recovery can be upwards of 20-30 minutes between repeats. Sample workouts include: 2x1200m at mile race pace with 25 minutes recovery, 3x1500m at 5000m race pace with 8-15 minutes between each, or doubling at a BU mini-meet Note: recovery should be active and include light jogging, dynamic stretching, trotting to the nearest stall to “go the distance,” etc.

Remember my teammate Steve? He ran every workout like it was the last (in his macrocycle). Not a good approach for the long term and his penchant for low reps and lots of recovery for every session led, in my humble opinion, to unfulfilled potential. And that’s so not on The Level.

Kevin Balance is a USATF Level 1 Certified Coach and information from that curriculum was used in the compilation of this article. This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Level Renner. Next issue comes out in a matter of days. Not a subscriber yet? It’s easy and free, and subscribers are eligible to win sweet gear each month. Sign up now (upper right hand side of the screen).

Training Through Your Next Race

Mag re-issue, by Lesley Hocking

Most marathon, half marathon, and even 10K buildup plans include one or two “tune-up” races as part of the training. These competitions are often shorter than race distance, for example a 10-miler run before a marathon or a 10k run before a half marathon. They are often timed strategically in the buildup to race day to prepare the body for the intensity of the goal race, while still allowing enough time for both recovery and adaptation to the new stress.

Let’s get more specific. For an athlete who is targeting the marathon, the tune-up race can take three basic forms.

1. The coach may want to make the pace similar to goal pace on race day, but keep the distance in check, so the athlete is essentially doing a dry run of the first several miles on race day. He is trying to learn the feel for the physical ease and rhythm of that desired pace, without tiring the body. This type of pre-race challenge is a mental test that forces an athlete to run much slower than his potential fitness allows, knowing that he will have to mimic that ability to hold back on race day. Typically, this type of race is run 3-4 weeks before the marathon.

2. The tune-up race may essentially be a time trial or an all-out effort to test an athlete’s fitness. Targeting distances of 10k to 10 miles, the coach and athlete uses this type of race to decide what “goal” marathon pace should be. While workouts may be hinting at a certain level of fitness, some athletes have the ability to race at a higher level than their training, or visa versa. This type of tune-up is risky because it asks the athlete to empty the tank rather than hold back. The danger is that the body will not recover well, so for athletes who tend to walk a fine line between fitness and illness, sharpness and injury, this may not be the best approach.

3. The tune-up may be a bit more controlled as part of a larger workout. This final type is the most flexible, as the coach may decide to shorten or lengthen the distance during the workout, based on how well it is going. A sample race tune-up workout would include several miles at tempo or race pace effort before testing the athlete’s legs a bit: A marathoner might do 10 miles 10 seconds slower than race pace, followed by 3-5 miles 10 seconds faster than race pace.

The tricky balance for any athlete is to properly use the tune-up race as a training tool, rather than an effort that detracts from performance on race day. I generally don’t recommend tapering for tune-up races, as it can give athletes a feeling of invincibility, and they are more likely to overdo it. Whatever tune-up race you try this spring, be sure to rest, hydrate, and refuel before the big day.

Lesley Hocking coaches runners of all abilities through her website, www.NERunningServices.comThis was originally published in the Mar/Apr issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today!

Lukas Verzbicas: His Miraculous Return to Competitive Running

By Chris Koutavas

Lukas Verzbicas, zooming through the Garden of the Gods National Park, began to pedal faster and faster. He got low in the saddle of his bike as he began a descent. Realizing he was traveling too fast he squeezed the brakes but it was too late: “I just heard a big loud bang and I was on my back looking towards the sky, the sun glaring deep into my eyes.”

Twenty-four hours prior, Lukas’ life was littered with what now seem to be warning signs. The plan was to leave Chicago and head to the Olympic Training Center out in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While on his way to Midway Airport, he hit almost every traffic light. Fear began to set in his mind about missing his flight; however, he brushed off this fear and the nervousness melted away.

Upon arrival to the airport, Lukas’ flight to Denver was delayed. After the first delay, his flight was delayed two more times after the passengers boarded. Finally finding time to relax in the welcoming yet surprisingly uncomfortable seat of an airplane, the captain made an announcement that the “big storms over Denver would prevent us from landing.” The now annoyed and angry passengers demanded takeoff.

Several hours later, the plane began to descend from the Denver sky. In looking back, Lukas remembers landing with the plane shaking and there being a field of tension, which he could feel from the passengers around him. After the plane touched down on the wet Colorado ground and Lukas went through the monotony of luggage pickup, Luka found himself in the middle of what he recalls as the worst storm in which he has driven.

He went to bed peacefully, yet anxious, and ready to start training the next morning.

Now, it is the afternoon of July 31, and Lukas Verzbicas preps his bike saying to his father/coach, “I will win a Gold Medal in four years at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.” They were both in a very excited mood as they waited for the three other athletes to arrive at the Garden of the Gods National Park. Once the three other athletes arrived and prepped their bikes, Lukas’ father explained the workout to them. The goal was to do five loops around the park nice and easy: just get the feel of the bike and still feel fresh for the rest of the day.

For an experienced triathlete like Lukas, this tasked seemed too easy. Once the pack took off, Lukas rode with the group for the first lap around the Garden of the Gods holding back his competitive nature. However, his competitive spirit took over and he began to press a little bit. This caused the group to separate into two packs (only one other athlete chose to match Lukas’ move).

Lukas felt great, sort of like a high, and as he approached a hill he would get up of out the saddle and dance on the pedals. At this point, the pain from the lactic acid setting in was no match for the endorphins flowing through his body.

Three more laps had gone by and Lukas only had one more left. It was at this point when he made the decision to drop the only rider still hanging on to him. Lukas reached for his gear shifter and put his bike into a higher gear. Trying not to slow his cadence, Lukas began to peddle faster and faster.

When Lukas looked back he saw that he began to gap the other rider. He was now alone as he approached a descent with a 180-degree turn around at the bottom. After executing this descent successfully four times in a row he trusted himself even though he was now traveling at a much higher velocity.

As Lukas approached the turn, he realized that he was traveling too fast and reached for his brakes, but it was too late. He recalled the event, “I hit my brakes then, but as I was riding at over 25 mph it was too late. All I saw was a guardrail in front of me and then as I inched closer and closer to it time seemed to go slower and slower. It was at that moment that I started seeing in tunnel vision, which was something I’ve experienced only during some of the most difficult and fastest of my races near the finish line. It was like my life flashed before me, sort of like some of the biggest emotions I’ve felt over my life I experienced in those last few seconds before I crashed. And then I just heard a big loud bang and I was on my back looking towards the sky with the sun glaring deep into my eyes.

“I must have gone into a state of shock because for the first few seconds I didn’t feel anything and I tried getting up but only went a few inches before I felt as if something slammed me back down on the ground. Then the pain came; when I started breathing I could barely take a breath. That was the scariest part at the time.”

Luckily, Lukas’ father was riding in a car not too far behind. Instinctively, his father called an ambulance after seeing Lukas motionless on the ground. Lukas had a hard time recalling any events immediately after the accident.

An X-ray revealed a broken spine from thoracic four to six and cervical seven, six broken ribs, a collapsed right lung, and a broken right collarbone. Surgery was the only option; however, there was a 33% chance of fatality.

He woke up six hours later with his mother at his side; the surgery was a success. His left leg was very weak but he was able to move it slightly, his right leg was completely paralyzed. The doctors told his parents that he would probably never walk again.

Two weeks passed and there was no improvement with his condition. Lukas’ mother just needed some time alone, so she headed out to climb Pikes Peak, which has an elevation of over 14,100 feet. She brought with her a few empty bottles and when she reached the top, she filled them with some spring water.

The next day she made Lukas drink all the water before he was prepped for surgery. Then, miraculously, moments before his surgery, he had a little twitch in his right leg.

Now, Lukas is at about 85% and still running and training hard for his goals, which have not changed since the day of his accident. “Through it all, my dream since I was a little kid (to become a gold medalist in 2016) has not wavered and I’m back on track now, but now more powerful. I have gained more mental strength than I could imagine, learned very important life lessons, and am so much more intuitive now. In a way, I am thankful for it because I believe everything in life happens for a reason: there are no accidents and through this I could not only change myself but show others that they can overcome as well.”

Post Marathon Recovery

Mag re-issue, by Lesley Hocking

his time of year is exciting for the running community: thousands of runners take to the streets. Whether they go for the glory and spectacle of the Boston Marathon or stick to a local 10k, it’s often the first chance to test the winter’s training before gearing up for a spring racing schedule.

A question that many athletes face in this phase between a hard race effort and a new training cycle is how much time to allow the body to recover before rebuilding or even adding to the training load from the winter. And in that recovery phase, how much activity is too much?

Certainly, there is a balance between sitting on the couch for three weeks after a big race and jumping back into training sessions mere days after a difficult marathon. While no two athletes are alike, there are a few basic tenets that apply to most runners trying to optimize recovery.

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When a runner hits the wall in a race, feeling spent at the finish line and knowing from muscle pain and soreness that he gave every ounce of effort he had, it’s a safe bet that he should not run the very next day. However, a light walk 12-24 hours later followed by gentle stretching can actually help speed muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to the affected areas. As muscles become less sore, but may still be tight, jogging or cross-training are great ways to increase blood flow without putting extra stress on aching tendons and ligaments. As a general rule, I like to recommend at least three days after a marathon without running.

When choosing a cross-training activity, stick to lowimpact. Muscle soreness is associated with micro-tears in the tissue. All that pounding on the pavement has taken its toll, so stick to the fluidity of elliptical running, swimming, or pool running before entering that kickboxing or hip-hop dance class you’ve been dying to take.

Allow a week to ten days before testing your body with anything resembling a workout. As difficult as this may be at a time when athletes are often highly motivated to build on their success (or learn from disappointment), the body will actually be stronger if it can fully rebuild itself before being broken down again. This rest period may be longer for beginning runners or first-time marathoners who have not accumulated as much lifetime mileage or may not carry high training volumes.

Lastly, when the body regains a lightness in its step and soreness has been replaced with a longing for speed, begin rebuilding with gradual workouts. A tempo run, which is only marginally faster than a regular training run, or a progression run that starts at training pace and gradually accelerates a few seconds per mile are two great options for the first workout after a marathon. When first reintroducing speed work, be sure to warm up and stretch fully, and limit fast running to 10% of the day’s volume.

Lesley Hocking is a regular columnist for Level Renner and coaches at Northeast Running Services. This was originally published in the May/Jun issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today!

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