When running as a means of exercising is concerned, people usually presume that the faster and longer you run, the more beneficial the run will be. However, it’s simply not always the case. While it is certainly fun and even advised to try and push yourself outside of your comfort zone every now and again, it’s not always the best route to take.
Recovery runs – or slow running – is equally beneficial to your overall progress. Some would even argue that without it, you won’t be able to progress with your efforts like you would if you were to include them in your regular routine. But what does slow running actually involve and how often should you opt for it?
What are recovery runs?
Recovery runs – as their name suggests – are a type of slow run whose main purpose is to enable your body to rest and recover from your usual exercising routine. It offers you the opportunity to allow your body to rest while still being active. That is why you should make slow runs and recovery runs an integral part of your usual routine. So, the next time you put your comfortable running shoes on, try to go for a slow run and see just how good you’ll feel after it.
How slow should I be running?
The best way to determine the right running speed when aiming at a recovery run is to monitor your heart rate. As a rule of thumb, your heart rate during a slow run should not exceed 65% of your HRR (heart rate reserve). If you’re still not sure what this means, we’ll try to make it as simple as possible. Your HRR is the difference between your resting heart rate (RHR) and your maximum heart rate (MHR). So, in order to do the calculations right, you’ll need to determine your RHR and MHR. If your MHR is, let’s say, 170 and your RHR is about 60, your HRR will be 110. The 65% of that 110 + your RHR will be the ideal heart rate you should be aiming at when going for a recovery run. Luckily, you only really need to do all that math once and there are plenty of gadgets on the market that can help you monitor your heart rate at any given moment.
Why should I do it?
Simply put, just like your body needs a good exercise routine to stay healthy and fit, it also needs to rest properly. What most people don’t realize is that just because they’re not pushing their bodies to the limit, that doesn’t mean they’re not exercising. For starters, slower runs will help your body learn how to use fat as a source of energy more efficiently. This will, of course, lead to a quicker body fat loss.
Next, slower runs are much better at training your cardio system and teaching it how to work more efficiently. By building up your cardiovascular endurance, you’ll soon start to notice that your faster running days will become far easier to handle. In the end, slow runs will also improve the state of your tendons, ligaments and joints. Faster runs can put a lot of strain on your muscles which can easily lead to injuries if your tendons, ligaments and joints can’t handle it. But by toning your legs entirely – by mixing up the two running styles – you’ll ensure that your body is ready to take up anything.
How often should I do it?
Believe it or not, it’s actually advisable to make short runs your usual exercise. If you’re simply a recreational runner, you should ideally be aiming at 3 slow runs, 1 fast session and 1 long run at a conversational pace. This way, you’ll be building up your body muscles at a steady and even pace, which will certainly benefit your workout efforts in the long run.
In order to make the most out of your running efforts, you need to learn how to run properly. And while you may initially presume that the faster the run the better, you will actually benefit much more from regular slow runs.