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Recovering from long runs

Monday, 3 June 2013

In my running prime in Melbourne, I frequently ran with a group for a hard 30km or more in the Dandenong Ranges on a Sunday morning and followed it up with a social 10km warm-down run with some of the same running friends on the grass oval at Wattle Park in the evening.  I won’t say it was easy to do, but it was quite manageable in terms of recovery.  As the years have passed, there has been a very noticeable decline in my recovery rate after a long run and even a 10km run the next day has become a chore.  My body is still very stiff 24 hours after the long run and these 10km runs would be very slow and very hard work.

It took me a long time to get over the 2008 Deep
Space Trail Marathon
For many years, right through into my fifties, I still forced myself to run on the days after long runs thinking that it was weakness to give in to the creaks and groans from my ageing body.  I finally began to wonder whether this dogged perseverance was actually hindering my recovery and increasing the risk of subsequent injury and began to experiment with walking on the recovery day as an alternative.

I feel sure that, for the cardio-vascular system, it would be better to run than walk on recovery days.  However, I am now of the opinion that walking is the right option for me in my sixties.  It gently works the same muscles, is weight-bearing and burns nearly as many kilojoules as would a run of the same distance.  I am thinking about adding an evening jog to my morning walk as I ramp up my training for the Melbourne Marathon on the basis that the morning walk will work out the post-long run stiffness, but will back off if it seems not to be working.

After a bad night’s sleep resulting from yesterday’s leech bites, I was late to get myself out the door for my recovery 5km walk and a little fearful that the right Achilles and groin pain might still be significant.  As it turned out, I could feel both injuries, but not badly enough to change my training plans for the week, and I felt better for having the exercise.