The recovery week is a useful tool to help runners build their weekly mileage to gain peak fitness, while ensuring their body can handle the training and avoid injury.
Training for a marathon or half marathon puts a ton of stress on your body. Often, recreational runners will increase their miles significantly over the training weeks as they progress toward their goal race. When you increase your total training volume week after week, the stress of training mounts up on your body. A recovery week allows your body to de-load the stress, repair damaged muscle tissue, and prepare for tougher training weeks ahead.
What is a Recovery Week?
A recovery week is a week in which you reduce the total volume of training miles to allow your body rest and heal. Typically, it requires at least a 15-20% reduction in total weekly mileage for those training in high volume, but most runners will benefit from a 50-90% drop from their highest mileage.
Why Use a Recovery Week?
Many runners who are injury prone can benefit from a recovery week to help their body adapt to an increased training load without breaking down. Gains in fitness occur not when we perform the tough workouts, but after we recover from them and their effects of breaking down tissues in our body. By fully utilizing the concept of the recovery week, you allow your body to fully absorb the benefits of the previous training block.
Additionally, runners are at the greatest risk of stress fractures and shin splints 3-5 weeks after stress begins because your bones are weaker from training.
A recovery week for runners can also help prevent fatigue, burnout, and overtraining. When runners just keep increasing training workload every week without taking a break, it can have detrimental effects beyond injury.
It may cause you to become frustrated or even lose interest in training hard. Plus, it could simply leave you exhausted. And it’s not fun to constantly feel exhausted.
Using a recovery week helps you return to training feeling fresh, excited, and ready to run hard again!
How Can You Use a Recovery Week to Improve Your Training?
To help improve your training with a recovery week, decrease your highest mileage by around 30-50% every 3-4 weeks of training. This will allow you sufficient time to build mileage while giving your body a break before it overloads with training stress and fatigue.
I love adding a recovery week to my training schedule after 3 weeks of increasing mileage and volume. This seems to be the perfect time to take a break because by the end of 3 hard weeks, I’m ready for a recovery week.
To cut your mileage, reduce or eliminate your maintenance runs. You can keep your quality workouts in the week such as your speed workouts and long run but cut out the extra miles in between. This will allow you to maintain a high quality of runs with reducing the overall volume.
Additional tips for a recovery week after your goal race
Your training plan shouldn’t stop immediately after your race. Plan a recovery week of reduced mileage following your goal race. Having a plan to get active and keep moving to help your body recover will help rehab your muscles and keep you in your routine. The difference between a recovery week during training and a recovery week after your goal race is the pace and intensity of your runs.
Related: How to Customize Your Training Plan
The week after your goal race, give yourself an extra rest day or two. With the days you do exercise, plan to keep the pace easy and the intensity low. No speed work for a week following your hard race effort. Explore different cross training ideas, such as going for a walk, hike, swim, or bike ride to give your running muscles a break to recover.
The Big Picture
Some runners may be hesitant to incorporate a down week because they’re afraid they don’t have enough time to train for their race or that they will lose fitness by taking it easy instead of pushing hard. The reality is, when you don’t obey the stress and rest balance, you will become injured sooner or later.
One of the biggest factors in improving fitness is consistency, and its really hard to gain any type of consistency in your training if you get injured and have to take several weeks off to recover and rehab an injury. Thus, preventing injury becomes one of the most important elements in your training plan.
Taking a down week every 3-4 weeks will help your body adapt and overcome training stress. It will also help you keep training and improving when you don’t have to take several weeks off and then start building your mileage up from the bottom again.
Do you incorporate recovery or “down” weeks into your training schedule?
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>