Some people head out of the door to run, and some people head out to train.

Some people train specifically, they follow plans, they stick to training principles and apply science to what they do and how they do it.

For those who head out of the door to train, EVERY run that you do should have a purpose or a goal.  If it doesn’t, then you’re not training; you’re just running.

There can be many different goals;

  • Improve endurance
  • Improve speed
  • Improve power
  • Improve Speed-endurance
  • Rejuvenate your ‘mojo’
  • **RECOVER**

One of the most basic principles that you should follow, is that to improve, you must apply stress or overload to your system, or muscle, or whatever it is you want to improve or develop.  The more specific to your goal the overload is, the better, or more effective it can be if you nail the recovery.

(By stress or overload, in the case of a runner, it could be a hard speed session, or a parkrun or race.  It could even be something simple like increasing your mileage.)

Once you’ve applied the stress, you’ve damaged the system or muscle and you need to let it recover.

IF. IF. IF you let it recover properly, then it will adapt to be bigger or stronger or more efficient.


When it comes to recovery, the majority of people seem to care more about what their stats look like to other people on Strava or Garmin, than the actual benefit that they would get from going through a proper recovery process.

As I said above, every time you train, you should have a purpose.  If your purpose is to recover from a previous hard effort, where stress or overload was applied, then your desired outcome should be, that after the recovery process your are adapted; you’re better or stronger or more efficient than you were before you applied the stress or overload.

Now, for just a moment, forget pace.  Forget minute miles or minute per kilometer.

Instead, think intensity.

If you could gauge your runs out of 10, where 1/10 is really really really easy, and 10/10 is full on, lung busting 100% effort, have a little think back to the last time you did a ‘recovery run’ and gauge it out of 10.

Most people run them far far too hard, with far too much intensity.  Don’t forget that the purpose should be RECOVERY. 

You’ve already overloaded the muscle or system and now for it to adapt you need to allow it to recover.

  • The ideal intensity for recovery should be around 6/10 or if you use a heart rate monitor, around 60-65% of your maximum.
  • The ideal duration for recovery should be around 20-30 minutes.
  • The ideal terrain for recovery should be somewhere flat and soft, like around the edge of a field or football pitch.
  • The ideal nutrition practice is to put good food and drink into your body little and often following the overload.

Remember that we don’t want to stress or overload the system, WE WANT TO REPAIR THE SYSTEM.

It should be short.  It should be sweet.  It should leave you feeling like and wanting to do more.  You should quit whilst you’re ahead.

I’ve said over and over again, that it’s not the race that causes the injury, it’s the stupid and needless run that you do the day after the race.


Yesterday you did a race.  Afterwards you and the rest of your club went to the pub to celebrate.

Today you’re on a high, you’re delighted that you got a PB in the race, or maybe your annoyed that you didn’t, so you head out of the door and run hard for 60 minutes, either because you’re feeling great, or because you want to make amends.

So, yesterday, you overloaded your body and then following the overload, you put in the wrong nutrition..

Today, you overloaded your body AGAIN, and caused further damage.

Shall I tell you what will make everything OK?  If you go onto Strava, and rename today’s run ‘recovery run’ then all will be OK.  Watch the kudos come rolling in.  Watch, how before your very eyes, your muscles and body repair and adapt, and even on the walk to your car you get your fastest ever mile, just from doing that 60 minute hard run and calling it a recovery run.


Elsewhere, in an alternative dimension, there are people who aren’t just running; they’re training.  They’re either getting good sound effective advice from their coach, or they know the science and the principles behind fitness and training to know how to do things better and more effectively.

They have a purpose for every run.

They know that a recovery run, has a purpose and that purpose isn’t to put bad runs right.  It isn’t to get kudos on Strava, it isn’t to kid themselves.

It is to recover and adapt from previous hard efforts.  It is to make small continuous improvements.


  • Warm up before the race
  • Cool down after the race
  • Have a few days off after the race where you do not run.  Walk a little.
  • 3-4 days after the race, start short recovery runs with low intensity, short in time, and on soft ground.
  • Gradually build back up to normal training volume.
  • Eat and drink well.  Little and often rather than big meals.
  • Sleep for an hour or 2 longer for a few days.
  • Have a light massage 4-5 days after the race.
  • Niggles aren’t niggles; they’re injuries.  Respect them.

Think intensity and disregard pace.

I’ve found that a person’s ideal recovery pace, is around about twice their 5k pace minus 1-2 minute miles for every 5 minutes.  This gets less the more trained and conditioned the athlete is, but for normal club runners this is more accurate than 30 seconds per mile less than your race pace!! (*I know I just said disregard pace!)

I.E. If your 5k pace is 7 mins/mile then double this and take off 0-2 minutes per mile for every 5 minutes.

So, 7 m/m (5K pace) X 2 = 14 m/m

14m/m – (0-2 mins) X 2 = 10-14 m/m (recovery pace)

If your 5K pace is 10 mins/mile then double this and take off 0-2 minutes per mile for every 5 minutes.

So, 10 m/m (5K pace) X 2 = 20 m/m

20m/m – (0-2 mins) X 2 = 16-20 m/m (recovery pace)

If you’re a beginner, over-weight or particularly slow for whatever reason and working on your speed then you may find that you cant double your 5k pace and still jog.  That is fine, just walk.  Remember the purpose is to recover, not necessarily to run, but to recover.

Let your results on race day be the thing that gets you the kudos on Strava, by applying simple training principles in the months before the race, not by making mistakes every day but masking them by calling them ‘recovery runs’!

RUN Smarter|RUN Easier|RUN Faster