The 3 Worst Mistakes Runners Make – Mistake #2

Last time I shared one of the 3 worst mistakes that runners make – being unstable.

Running requires you to balance on 1 leg & do a single leg squat somewhere between 75 to 90+ times per minute yet most people are unable to do the same movement in a controlled environment.

I would love to know which of the tips you have implemented.

Now it is time to reconsider your recovery sessions –

Mistake #2 – Doing Recovery Sessions that Suck

I cringe whenever I hear (or read) someone say that they went out for a “recovery” training session (generally meaning an ‘easy’ or low intensity session up to 2 hours or so in duration).

If your primary purpose for doing so is to clear your head after a bad day at work or to give yourself time to think, then do whatever you need to do.

However the reason most people do a recovery session is to boost your body’s ability to absorb the effects of previous training sessions by flushing your legs with oxygen & nutrient-rich blood.

If this is why do you “recovery sessions”, I would suggest you continue reading. Rather than repairing your body, you are actually causing more damage to it.

Here’s why – the hormone cortisol is produced by your body in response to stress. Not surprisingly it is often called the “stress hormone”. Your body can’t distinguish between stress that is caused by physical, mental or emotional reasons. So “easy” or low intensity exercise, a lack of sleep, dehydration, relationship difficulties, injuries, pressure associated with work, interest rates rises & mortgage repayments are all sources of stress in response to which your body will produce cortisol. For this reason, it is always present to some extent in your body.

The problem with cortisol is that it is a catabolic hormone – excess levels of cortisol has lots of nasty side effects. It can:

  • break down tissue & cells in your body, leading to the loss of muscle tissue & bone density;
  • increase your blood pressure;
  • lower your immune system so your body’s ability to repair itself is impaired; and
  • increase abdominal fat which can lead to a whole host of nasty health problems.

Now of course your training regime can’t repay your mortgage, ease your work or relationship dramas. But the amount of cortisol in your body that is caused by your training regime is within your control. And it will increase significantly when you do constant or steady state exercise for more than 15 minutes or exercise at a high intensity.

So your recovery session which was intended to promote recovery may actually contribute to its further break down. Not what your body needs or wants!

So here are my top 2 tips to make your recovery sessions more effective & efficient –

1/. Do low intensity movement (ie. at lower than 65% of your maximum heart rate) for no more than 14 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly – 14 minutes!

Notice that I said “movement” and not just “exercise”. It could be swim, bike or run or even core exercises, single leg stability work, strength exercises or balance training.

As cortisol increases significantly from about the 15 minute mark, keeping your session shorter than 14 minutes means you still get:

  • the post-exercise ‘high’ we know & love;
  • increased flow of oxygen & nutrient rich blood through your body;
  • the nasty toxins which are produced by damaged cells in the body being removed,

without the damage that excess cortisol can cause.

2/. Either before or after your low intensity session or in its own right as a standalone session, try:

self-myofascial release using a foam roller or pool noodle. This can create instantaneous change & improvements in your posture & improve your body’s abilities to recover & adapt to your training loads; or

– other recovery techniques such as stretching or alternating hot & cold baths.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to do at least 1 recovery & regeneration session each week.

These recovery sessions are so short that you can do them several times per week. The more you do, the faster your body will recover & adapt to your training loads.

Whatever the purpose of any training session, always keep in mind that there are often better ways to achieve the desired outcome. Recovery sessions are certainly one session which can often be done more effectively. We are all ‘time poor’ so if you can find a more effective way to get your training done so that you can get on with your day, then not only will your body benefit but your lifestyle will as well.

So the next time you are tempted to head out for a recovery session, try this session & let me know – Did you enjoy it? What differences have you noticed in terms of your recovery & energy levels?

If you found this post interesting, I would appreciate it if you would share it. In the next instalment of The 3 Worst Mistakes Runners Make series, I’ll be sharing mistake #3 – Wasting the 5 Most Important Minutes of Any Training Session. If you have any questions about this post or anything else on this site, please leave a comment so I can answer it for you.