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Active Recovery: Are you doing it right?

Recovery is one of the most important training principles, yet it is the one that endurance athletes tend to neglect the most (Check out this video to find out more on recovery). Endurance athletes usually have very strong work ethics. Many get caught up and think that the more mileage they do the faster, stronger and fitter they will become. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending how many hours in the day you have to train) his is simply not the case. If it was, there would be no need for coaches, training programmes or training principles. The winners of races would simply be those athletes who had the most time and the most impressive training diaries or Strava accounts.

Active recovery plays an important component of recovery when it is performed correctly. Active recovery sessions are designed to be performed at an easy Zone 1 intensity that stimulates blood flow to aid the recovery process. If the session is performed outside of this recovery zone the stress placed on the body will have a negative effect on recovery and you would have been better off staying at home.

Lets have a look at some active recovery session examples and see how these athletes got on.


-As can be seen from the maximal recovery heart rate (black dashed line) this athlete spent a large part of the run above this level. As it turns out this athlete performed this 'recovery run' on an undulating course so did not have control of their effort.

-This means that the athlete will be negatively impacting their recovery because they are training above their recovery zone.

-Next time to improve this session, the athlete could perform their recovery run on flat terrain. This would help keep their HR in their recovery zone which would benefit them more on a recovery day.


- Again here in this second example you can see that this athlete pushed well over their max recovery heart rate (black dashed line).


- In this final example you can see this athletes performs a really good recovery session on an indoor trainer turning their legs over well under their max recovery power level (orange dashedline) and heart rate (blue dashed line)

Tips to maximise your active recovery sessions

  • Choose your training partners wisely. See last weeks article for a tip on this.

  • Set yourself up to succeed. If it is cold outside dress warm so you do not get cold, choose terrain that allows you to go at the required zone 1 pace, go indoors where your environment and intensity is more controllable.

  • The aim of the session is recovery so to minimise any additional training stress by drinking and being well fuelled. This way there will be minimal training stress added to your body.

  • If you are feeling really tired, are short for time or are having a really busy day then you can often benefit from dropping the session and opting for complete recovery instead.

  • Break up the session with some focused stretching, technique work or mental skills development.

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