So what is a recovery day? A recovery day is a day where you allow your body to recover from the stress of a hard workout. This promotes the physiological adaptations that occur in your body following the workout overload (i.e. increased intensity and/or duration). The body responds to overloads by an adaptation called supercompensation which allows it to better handle the overload in the future. Training involves ever increasing overloads to stimulate this adaptation. But supercompensation won’t occur unless you have a rest period between hard efforts. Therefore, recovery days are critical to achieving peak performance.
Some would say that a recovery day is a “no workout” day, but when you are training for a long event such as a century ride or marathon, it can be hard to get the volume necessary for aerobic endurance if you take every other day completely off. I believe that you are better off taking your recovery days as “easy” days. Lower the effort, lower the stress, and aim for a ride, run or workout in the low-med intensity range. Some studies also suggest that getting your muscles moving and warmed up promotes circulation which removes the toxins, promotes healing and improves the recovery adaptation. Adding stretching and flexibility work into your recovery days is also a good option.
So a typical runner’s training week might look like:
- Sunday: Long run 1-1/2 to 2 times the daily distance.
- Monday: Recovery day (regular distance or shorter) at easy pace 50 – 60% max HR
- Tuesday: Interval workout ( could be track workout, at interval pace, 90% max HR)
- Wednesday: Recovery day (regular distance or shorter) at easy pace 50 – 60% max HR
- Thursday: Threshold work ( could be on the roads, 3 -5 threshold intervals at 80-85% max HR)
- Friday: Recovery day (regular distance or shorter) at easy pace 50 – 60% max HR
- Saturday: Day off or very light workout.
The above is a general training framework, but notice that you spend at least as many days at an easy pace as you do a hard pace, and not every hard day is at the same intensity. The distance and paces will vary by individual, fitness level and goal (upcoming race, or general fitness).
Ignoring the recovery process can easily lead to overtraining which will reduce performance in the long run either through injury or exhaustion. So remember: Stress – recover – stress -recover is the sequence.
Enjoy the process and good luck!