Recovery Runs

Distance runners should do sprints for recovery.

Traditional recovery runs (long slow distance) are typically run a good minute to 1 and a half minutes per mile slower than 5k race pace.  If you can understand training movement over anything else (like training cardio or attempting to strengthen muscles in isolation – both myths by the way), then we can look at what running at this much slower than all out effort does to the body:

long slow distance:

– Creates tight hips
In the same way that sitting affects posture, running at a sub maximal effort will in turn, teach the body to move in that shortened range of motion (think hips during slow runs versus hips during sprints).  Sprinters typically have much better hip mobility than distance runners. Why? Not because they know secret hip stretches that distance runners don’t know – or anything like that.  It’s simply because they sprint.  They teach their bodies to have a full range of motion in the hips – distance running teaches the body the opposite.  Which leads me to the next important factor:

-Turns off glute function:

Again – look at sprinters – big, strong glutes.  When someone has tight hips from sitting and distance running, this will teach the glutes to stop working optimally.  Glutes, as mentioned in an earlier post, are absolutely crucial to health.  When you run slow, the glutes turn off.  Which also means:

-Power loss and Energy Leaks

The formula is simple – Lose power and a runner will effectively lengthen the amount of time it takes his body to recover from a hard workout or race…or anything for that matter.  We already lose power with age – one of the best examples of this is watching older people walk up the stairs.  It’s more difficult for them because they have less power in their muscles than people in their 20s.  Throw in distance running into the equation and power is lost at an even faster rate.
Energy leaks could also be called loss of running efficiency.  Every runner knows that running efficiency is important, but many do not realize that easy running seriously damages running efficiency over the long term (and possibly short term).
Which leads me to the number one reason my team does not run easy “recovery” runs:

Easy runs do not facilitate recovery.
So let’s conclude.  Easy runs do anything BUT help the recovery process.  This type of running creates tight hips and turns off the glutes which, in turn, results in a loss of muscular power which increases the chance of injury.  An injured runner or runner who gets sidelined more often than the healthy runner will 100% be at a disadvantage. Easy runs make you WEAKER.  There is no denying this.

On the other hand,
Sprint intervals

Creates better hip mobility
Sprinting effectively teaches the body to have a full range of motion in the hips,.

– Turns on glute function

Sprinting is one of the best means to produce strong and healthy glutes  Which leads me to the following point

– Power Gain

As I mentioned before – less power = slower recovery.  So more power in the body = faster recovery.  When you have an athlete who has more power, he can now perform harder workouts more frequently per sports season than his opponent who has less power.  Having an athlete who can handle more workouts each season will allow him to get more potential out of his body.

– Sprinting facilitates recovery

Sprinting helps put the body back in it’s “normal state” of movement.  People aren’t born with tight hips and poor glute function – they get this way by doing things like sitting all day or distance running.  We want the human body to move as it was designed to move. One could even make the argument that humans were born to sprint, not run distance.

By having my team replace their easy run days with short, all out sprints, they are reteaching their bodies  to have full range of motion in the hips and produce power.

So instead of a traditional running program that has recovery runs of anywhere from 30-60 minutes, my program has anywhere from 4-8×10 second sprints early in the season, gradually increasing the length of the sprints to 25-30 seconds.  Keep in mind that these are sprints, not strides.

It simply goes back to common sense training.  How in the world does running slow for 8 miles look anything like running all out for 3.1 miles? Also, as a coach or runner, ask yourself how many injuries you see in our sport with the current model.  If football had this high of an injury rate, people would be protesting that it’s simply too dangerous.  Think about it.  It’s time for a change.