Recovery Based Training

9 01 2008

Written by FastForward- Denver Coach Brian Snow

The Recovery based programs of today are designed to give your body the ability to maximize its efficiency by building up and then resting.  Picture a mountain climber.  At first he/she will get to a certain point in the climb (a level) and then need to rest.  Next he/she will make camp (downtime) and then plan for the next ascent (moving up to a harder level).  Once they reach a “Base” they then move to the next level and so on….  By the time you have climbed the mountain you have taken the time to build up and rest and then descend on the back side!!  

Why am I telling you this?

Let me relate to you my story: When I first started getting back into the swing of things I thought that running more miles, like my old cross country and track days taught me, would make me stronger and faster.  I was always running the distances and long mile runs with a routine structure and I thought that I was doing my body good.   I simply thought:  

More miles would make me better! NOT SO!


Like a “Mountain Climber”, the trick to improving is to allow for your body to recover (go from one base level to the next).  You will notice that most marathoners and/or distance runners will train for a period of time (roughly 20 weeks) towards a race and then take time off. During this time they are actually doing a variety of distance and track workouts (this breaks up the routine which is important) with planned recovery (usually every 3 to 4 weeks).  In other words, they start off easier, just like a mountain climber would up to the first base of a mountain.  Then the workouts will increase in the intensity  during the middle part of the program and again you will notice that about every 3 to 4 weeks the program has built into it a recovery period (where you would make camp and then rest a bit before moving on to the next level).  Then about the last 4 weeks of the training before the race (again this is just a general statement of time) the program DESCENDS with about a 3 to 4 week taper/ recovery. This is a HUGE factor with running that will allow your body to catch up and repair.  It is vital and is really the MAIN focus of a recovery based program.   SO, my suggestion is simply to start out with doing the program like it is designed.  If you feel that you want to add a little more to it then I suggest adding no more than about 10% more to the workout or chat with your coach.


Here is what I usually see.  Runners who are self guided or self taught or have never been part of a professionally designed program often will train themselves into:

1) THE ROUTINE RUT – Continuing to do the same thing.  Which means runners will train within their means because it is familiar and comfortable. Doing what you have always done will generally NET you the same results every time.  As a coach, I know this when a runner will say to me, “I always seem to run the same pace every time” or “I don’t get it!  I put in the mileage and don’t seem to get faster or feel stronger.  Usually it is because too much of the same thing has become routine and they train the body to run WITHIN their means (a comfort zone).

2) RUNNERS FORGET TO MIX IT UP – Tempo Runs, Fartlek, and all the interval training stuff…. I wanted to elaborate on these future concepts; however they cross over into our conversation here.  So let me take a brief moment to talk about these concepts.   INTERVAL training is where you will make MONUMENTAL gains with regards to endurance and times.  I discussed earlier that when I was getting back into shape that I was putting in the “miles” and I thought that this was the best thing.  However, I was really “enlightened” during a simple “2” mile race in downtown Boulder!! What was really happening:  I WAS DYING!!!!  I went from SNOWMAN (cool, calm and collected) to BURNING -UP -SUPER- NOVA, WISH I WAS DEAD MAN, in about 10 seconds flat!!!   It is because I never worked on pushing my threshold with the shorter track workouts, tempos or fartlek and taking the proper DOWNTIME that my body needed.  I just did what I always did. The Variety is important!!! Many runners, who stick with a routine, primarily putting in numerous miles, will only be able to train to a certain level and they will then they PLATEAU out.   With a recovery based program you will actually be able to break through these plateaus or rather “glass ceilings” on your way to a better performance.  

In the end you may feel that you are not putting in the miles and you may feel that it is not enough, but with the combination of workouts, rest and breaking out of the routine you will have greater success in the long-term!





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