You Be the Coach: Is it better to run or rest after a hard workout?

Guys… I have a serious problem. I’m addicted to buying every running book available:

How many of these running books do you have? #ihaveaproblem

A photo posted by Jason Fitzgerald (@jasonfitz1) on

When I first started running, I did what all runners should do: I listened to my coach!

But when I wanted to learn even more about training, I dived into the best books I could find. My favorites:

You can see my entire annotated reading list here.

Open up any of these books and you’ll hear a lot about recovery – how to bounce back from hard workouts so that you stay healthy and feel good for your next run.

One of the most interesting elements of recovery is how frequent you should run. After all, if you run every day, that means you’ll be running before and after challenging runs like long runs or circuits.

But is that ideal?

Is it best to rest after a hard workout or go for a short, easy run?

Does it depend on your fitness level, goals, and where you are in the training cycle?

These are all great questions – and that brings us to the latest installment of You Be the Coach!

To run or not to run after a hard workout?

You Be the Coach is when I ask YOU to offer your coaching advice to a member of the Strength Running community.

The other day I got a question from Thekla, who’s been a Strength Running email reader for over two years. She’s from Germany and is preparing for her first half marathon.

Naturally, her mileage and long runs are increasing as she trains for her first attempt at the half distance.

Here’s part of her email:

Thanks for providing so much detail and personal experience with your newsletters. You really care about us, your readers and customers, and the topic of course!

I actually have a question on recovery runs. I’m just training for a half marathon and do three runs per week. After a long run or faster workout, I get really stiff legs two days after.

I have now started with very slow paced recovery runs, and after 30 minutes my muscles seem to loosen up again. Am I doing any damage to myself?

Thekla could do quite a few interesting things with her training to make her first half a smashing success.

So, what do you think?

Even though we don’t know a lot about Thekla’s training, do you think she should run the day after a workout or long run?

Are there drawbacks to running so frequently? What should she consider when making this training decision?

I’m going to choose my favorite answer and ship that person any running book that they like – my thanks to you for being here 🙂

Leave your comment below and let’s see how she can run a great first half marathon!

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  1. I often find myself in the same position, but I have the benefit of having run 4 half marathons, several 10 and 12ks, and many 5ks, along with having played Lacrosse in high school and college as well as soccer my whole life. I know my body a little better and know the difference between sore, tired, and hurt.

    I always find that if I am stiff from a long/ hard run, an easy work out will help. I will usually start with an active warm up along with some back and hip strengthening exercises to get blood flowing. Then I listen to my body. If I feel I am jeopardizing my progress by running, I will do an easy bike ride for 20-30 minutes. This gets your legs active without some of the other issues, mainly mental, that I may run into if I were to run. I am a huge proponent of active recovery, even if it is really easy and doesn’t get the heart beat racing!

    Every person is different, but that is what has worked for me whenever my legs feel like boards after a hard run.

  2. I think it’s important to find the training plan and method that works for you. Some people need to have an easy run the day after a hard workout to help with recovery; for others, that can lead to injury. I think that recovery runs — as long as they are so slow that you feel like you are going backwards — can be beneficial to help loosen up muscles after a tough workout, but it should be short and super slow. And, of course, evaluated to make sure it’s something that works within the training plan.

  3. I don’t think we have enough information to correctly answer the question. How old is Thekla? How long has she been running? What is her weekly average mileage?

    Generally, we all need rest days to let our legs recover and get stronger. The decision when those days are is a personal one. I keep my rest day after my long run, but one of my co-workers does an easy run the day after her long run and then takes the next day as a rest day. Our choice works well for each of us.

    I know for me, being a middle-age person, my legs need the day off after a long run.; otherwise I risk inflaming a chronic injury. But works for me will not be the best for someone else. And if running the day after a long run does not negatively affect the rest of her workouts for the week, then Thekla should go for it, and have a rest day on another day.

  4. It you are slightly sore after a long run or hard effort and it is at or near your peak training for an upcoming race then you are doing things right. Some soreness is expected and when it goes away you will be stronger. Running easy the next day can help with this soreness by getting the blood flowing and flushing out toxins etc. typically you will fell better after an easy run following a hard effort. Just keep the easy runs easy

  5. What you are experiencing is DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. First of all, make sure you’re getting recovery nutrition after your workouts (ideally a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein – so for every 4 grams of carbs, take in 1 gram of protein-chocolate milk, oatmeal, greek yogurt…) Doing a recovery run like you are is good for you. You’re getting your synovial fluids moving, which, in turn, aids your muscles and gets all those juices flowing again.

  6. For me, I’ve found it is much better to run easy the day after a hard workout or race. I went from running 4 days per week to 6 and feel a lot better. Besides spreading the mileage out over more days my muscles stay loose and makes the next day’s workout better. The key for me is to make it easy.

  7. Its so great to hear another runner reaching for your goal – half marathon is the stepping stone to marathon

    Personally I would do a cross train; spin or swim, on the day after a long run. Its keeps the legs moving to shake out the lactic acid and ease the achy muscles, yet reduces the impact of pounding. I’d then do a short run day 2 from the long run. Legs will be stiff at first but will fall right back in to place quickly

  8. I run to exorcise and leave my demons behind.
    If I stop running they catch up.
    As long as running is not painful, I have no reason to stop running to recover. Just do it at a slower, more relaxed pace

  9. Here is my 5 cents piece of advice:
    In training she should have 1 to 2 days break (days of no running), especially if this is the first time she is training for a half marathon distance. The body takes some time to adjust to long distance running for sure, but in the long run, she should do a recovery workout. It does not have to be running, but can be cycling, swimming, elliptical, etc.
    I learned over my running career that is the better way of recovering from hard workouts. I used to do cycling, but I do recovery runs now followed by a good stretching routine. Recovery runs really work and they not only washout muscle soreness and body aches, but they prepare the body for the following workout day.
    However, there is always the “listen to your body” type of answer. Sometimes in the training is helpful to give yourself a break not only for the physical aspect, but also for the mental side.

  10. Chris DeRouen says:

    Listen to your body. I wanted to do a run streak so I added an easy, at least one mile run, to the days that my plan did not have a run scheduled. I may feel a little tired or stiff, but I know when I feel that a rest is needed. When that happens, I just skip that day. I am ready to go again the following day.

  11. Best thing to do after a hard workout i would say is too foam roll and do some dynamic stretching and a active rest session e.g swimming or a slow cycling session to loosen up the muscles and clear lactic acid from the muscles

  12. In my experience, it is very beneficial to run a couple easy miles the day after a hard workout. As long as you run VERY easy and feel comfortable, maintain good form, and make sure nothing feels off, no damage should happen from running the day after a hard workout. Running easy can help your legs loosen up and actually promote better recovery.

  13. Some sort of active recovery is usually really good. Whether it’s an easy run, walking, biking, swimming or pool running, yoga, even massage … anything that ups your circulation without significantly stressing your body is going to help with recovery, as long as what you’re experiencing is general soreness after a good, hard workout. If you’re feeling like you wish you had never worked out and can barely move, probably you’ve done more than typical damage to your muscles and you need some rest. So, if you’re feeling good, you’re probably doing it right and I don’t see any reason to stop.

  14. I started reading running books when the only books available were by world class runners. They all said this is the way I run and you should do the same. Now we have research in running, with books of quality. My favorite is “Explosive Running” by Dr. Michael Yessis.
    My schedule for half or full calls for 4 days of running, 2 days of cross training and 1 day of rest. Workouts should be hard, easy, hard, easy. I choose a goal based on their training. I start them at a slow pace and build up to race pace before their race. I like to leave 2 weeks of easy running for a half and 3 weeks for a full.

  15. My husband and I just ran our first half marathon doing 3 runs a week two short runs and one long run. What helped us in between our running days was to do other smaller workouts like stretching, yoga, weight lifting so that our bodies aren’t just sitting on the couch but are recovering the muscles. We tried to stay away from cardio on our days off and focused more on fine tuning our muscles and working on balancing for our ankles foam rolling for our knees. Worked great for us and we completed our first half marathon a few weeks ago!
    Focus, get lots of rest, nutrition and hydrate!

  16. Brian Barber says:

    Good morning, Thekla (and Jason). I have tried both approaches: taking rest days after long runs and going out for recovery runs. I tend to lean toward the recovery run. I’m a mid-to-late forties half/full marathoner and I have found that taking days off (i.e. no exercise at all, save for a bit of walking) after long runs means that I start my next run extremely stiff and sore. Going out at an easy pace for even 20 minutes helps loosen sore muscles and keep the juices flowing, and my next training run is much more effective. If I wear a watch on these runs, I don’t look at it. I keep it really relaxed and tend to focus on the scenery or I listen to music (something I don’t normally do). For me, it is more for its therapeutic value (mentally and physically) than for getting stronger or faster.

  17. The answer is YES, definetely she should run the day after a hard workout or long run, as an active recovery run, very light pacing. This is not a recipe, most important thing is that she learn to listen her body, so if she needs to take a full rest instead of recovery run she should do it!

  18. I think she should run, but only enough so that her next scheduled run is not affected. This will take some trial and error of course, but err on the side of doing less than what you expect would make any difference. Also, if running, make sure there is a lot of uninterrupted sleep the night before and also a lot of uninterrupted sleep the night after the run. Furthermore, other life stressors should be kept at a minimum anytime there is an increase in mileage, ie. work, family and friendship commitments should be become stressful during this period of increase. Also sufficient nutritional intake must be there on the days surrounding this extra day of running as well.

    So the answer is Yes run a very small amount the day after and also go just fast enough that form and technique and balance are maintained as normal, but slow enough that the next scheduled run proceeds as if the run never happened and be sure to get a lot of sleep the night before that and the night after and also eat the right amount of food and also ensure nothing else is stressing you out at the time.

  19. Dynamic stretching, short easy run, lots of hydration.

  20. Juston Wickham says:

    I have always been a fan of easy runs after long runs or hard workouts. Not only does the run help loosen up the sore muscles but the pre-run dynamic warm-up and the post run stretching are very beneficial to the recovery process. If there is a lot of soreness from the workout or run then maybe it is just a 20 or 30 minute walk but I’ve believed it was important to get the body moving some.

    There are a lot of training factors such as age and fitness level to determine how frequently and hard one should be running. I would say if you are dealing with soreness after every hard workout and long run then maybe there isn’t enough recovery the other days and there should be more easy runs involved until you body catches up to the desired fitness demand. Some soreness is to be expected when we push it but we always need to listen to our body and figure out when to back off and recover to make sure we stay strong and healthy!

  21. It’s difficult to answer with such limited information, but the general rule of thumb that I follow is to consider how hard I worked on the original long run.
    If it was long, hot and energy sapping I would consider a walk or very short run, if it was a standard long run then there should be no issue with a steady, easy paced recovery run the following day.
    I routinely do my long runs on a Sunday and then do a recovery run of between 1-3 miles on a Monday on my way round to a Pilates class, then walk or run the 1 mile home to finish.
    Training for an Ultra I did my back to back training runs on a Sunday & Monday, getting up to 35 miles over the two days and it worked brilliantly … however I did take the Tuesday off and I needed it at the top of the training schedule!
    One thing is for certain though … her body will soon let her know if it’s not up to it!!

  22. Hi Thekla and Jason, when I started running about 3 years ago (I’m 54), I used to automatically think that after a hard run I should take a day of rest and recuperation i.e couch potato day. Over time, I got more adventurous in my running, I joined a club, did some 10k races and then finally a marathon. As my running days and distances increased I noticed that some days I would feel pretty exhausted. The next day I would have what I called ‘heavy legs’. From reading books and articles, I realized that I needed to ditch the couch potato day and to actually go out and run. However I am talking about a recovery run not a full blown charge around the neighborhood. Compare it to going for a Sunday morning walk after a heavy Saturday night. The recovery run serves to loosen up any tight muscles and to get the healing blood and oxygen to flow to any sore areas in your tendons and ligaments. So definitely i would say you should run after a hard workout but do keep it really easy. If you run too hard, you could cause damage. Good luck with your half marathon.

  23. I’ve done both–run or rested the day after. I’ve found that resting is the best strategy for me. Immediately after a long run or a hard workout I like to loosen up by running a mile or two at very slow pace rather than going from all out for a speed workout or after a really long run to a complete screeching halt. To go from a hard workout and then stop right away can be hard a few hours later. Then for the rest of the day, I do periodic dynamic stretching, rolling, and a short yoga routine to help prevent soreness. The important thing to remember for the rest of the day after the workout is to keep moving and stay active. Periodically walk, stretch, and stay loose to combat the soreness. If running a few miles very slowly also helps, then do that, but I found it’s important to not feel overworked for your next run.

  24. Namita Patel says:

    I make sure I warm up with about 5-10 mins of brisk walking and dynamic stretching before every run. And I’m a huge fan of stretching for 10-15 mins after every run. I also like a brisk walk, or an easy-paced run, or (my fave) a nice easy swim for about 20-30 mins the day after a race or long run. And hot tub or sauna after the recovery run or swim — feel nice and limber. Yoga is great too. I think perhaps Thekla just needs to add a little more easy-paced mileage to get her muscles and joints more conditioned. Running is very hard on the body.

  25. I prefer to take the day after a hard work out off. It allows for physical recovery plus the added mental benefit of being able to tell myself “I just need to pound out this hard workout then I get tomorrow off”. Although I will sometimes do light physical activity, like walking just to keep things moving.

  26. My long runs are generally on Saturdays….In training for the Half-Marathon, I run 4 days per week and usually ride my Schwinn Airdyne bike the following day after my long run, combined with routine stretching AFTERWARDS (Never before)…I prefer this as opposed to short runs the day after (allowing less stress on the joints). This allows my hip and knee joints to recuperate more efficiently….At 57 years of age, this is significant for me.

  27. Corey Crain says:

    They way I understand it (and maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about), is that a good, hard workout breaks down muscle fiber and the body reacts by rebuilding muscle fiber, but really just to bring things back to even. Gently working muscle fiber that has been broken down encourages additional muscle fiber development and thus increases strength, the key work being “gentle.” That’s not to say rest isn’t beneficial and needed as well, but it seems as the research grows on the subject, movement encourages healing which is what is in essence what is actually taking place after a hard workout. So work hard, recover well, and know when to say when.

  28. Hey Thekla!

    First off, congrats on training for your first half marathon! That’s awesome.
    When I trained for my first half marathon, and also for my first marathon, I never ran the day after my long runs or hard workouts. I actually didn’t do much of anything, I just sat to recover. I also was not running very high mileage. My legs stayed stiff and uncomfortable for several days and seemed to take a very long time to recover.

    This season, I started implementing short, easy (not on rough trails or anything too hilly) runs at an easy pace the day after my long runs. I was pretty nervous to incorporate it at first since I never had before, but it has really made a world of difference. It really helps to loosen up my legs and get blood flowing, aiding and boosting recovery. I don’t feel as sore as I would expect after these runs, and feel ready to tackle another training week two days later (I generally have an off day the day AFTER my recovery run, so two days after my longest run).

    I think that everyone is different, and you never want to increase mileage too fast as it can lead to injury, but for me, it worked amazingly. Listen to your body. You mentioned that your legs feel loosened up after you are a half hour into a recovery run, does it feel relaxing? I would assume it is probably helping your muscles recover then.

    Of course if you ever feel any new pain, address it right away and cut back a bit. Proper nutrition and hydration also play a huge role in performance and recovery, so just be sure to focus on those as well.

    Best of luck with your training and upcoming race!

  29. Anne-Mette Vire says:

    Everything depends on distance and intensity….and a lot on how you actually feel. Often the hardest thing is “listen to your body” – What should I listen at? The stiffness or that it and loosend up. The term “listen to your body” is overused and make some runners a bit nervous for doing things wrong. But with more training experience you get more confident so it is a long process and in the beginning it is hard to understand what you might “hear” from your body. I think Thekla almost give the answer her self. We do not get stronger runners by recovery on our backs. I don’t think she makes any damage. Actually, she could benefit from training more often, but with lower intensity, by running more easy runs, where you cut the length and intensity to short/low . Active recovery is a good way to keep the machine running smooth and increase the aerobic ability, which is very important when running longer distances as half marathon and longer.

  30. I think it depends a lot on teh fitness level of the runner. The more fitter the more often the runner can run. For example, if a runner fins easy to run at a moderate pace for 40 minutes, then he or she can do this kind of workout after a hard workout, but if the runner finds some difficulty in running 40 minutes then It’ll be not advisable to do this workout after a hard run. It’ll be better to do a shorter or mild workout, but of course if you shorten the workout too much there’ll be no point in doing it, for example, I see no point in running 10 minutes and it’ll be better to rest, walk, or crosstrain.

  31. I am not the runner I’d like to be and don’t even think I run, lol. But when I don’t run after a while it hurts. It’s great that she gets to run 3 days a week. I would do another activity other than running to cool off my legs, maybe like a stroll around the city or even a hike. We love to go hiking with the whole family.
    Good luck!

  32. I used to take a rest day after my long run thinking it was the best thing to do. In the recent training cycles I’ve been doing I have an easy short run the day after my long run and my workout run. This has helped me a lot. At first I struggled and dreaded the run the day after the hard/long run. I have adapted and handle it much better now. The movement and getting blood flow helps. I also find that the afternoon after a long run I need to keep moving and stay semi-active throughout the day to feel best the following days as opposed to camping out on the couch with Netflix. Sometimes it is counterintuitive, but I think continuing to move is important. I’d recommend adding a short run as a recovery run. I like to run mine without a watch sometimes or set the watch to just “time” and not see the pace each mile. Also, I’d recommend adding another easy run during the week to get a little more mileage in addition to the 3 days.

  33. James Bishop says:

    Running recovery is appropriate as long as it is slow enough to truly allow recovery. I run 7 days a week, but 4 or 5 of those runs are very easy. Many runners allow their easy runs to creep into uptempo territory, which is a mistake. You need to slow down. On the flip side, you will run much stronger for your 2 or 3 workouts each week. Make the easy runs easier and the hard runs harder.

    This is especially important if you are following a training plan. If the plan calls for an easy run, do it. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you could run harder. These are ‘fun runs’ because you have the mental energy to notice the breeze, clouds, birds overhead, the incredible views. Contrast this with a workout, where it’s time to do some work.

    Training is very fun, especially all the different pieces and parts of it. It’s a long process, like building a building, or learning a new song. But part of it being fun is not having to worry about whether it will be effective. A training plan has been constructed to be effective. You don’t need to worry. You just need to follow it and have fun.

    So whether you’re adding easy runs to your training, or trying to do the easy runs that are already there, slow down. Take them easy. And enjoy them, they’re special.

  34. Cynthia Salazar says:

    Taking into consideration that this is Thekla’s first half-marathon, and that her “long” runs are probably no longer than 10 miles at this point in her training.

    Reading her email I see she is only running 3 times per week. I am assuming that one of her runs is her longer run and thinking that, hopefully at least one of the runs is speed work. Without knowing what the other run entails, I am going to assume it’s an easy, recovery-type run to add on to her mile count for her weekly training.

    With any training program, whether it be a 5k or a marathon, the program will progress each week in intensity and distance, so there will be more opportunities for recovery runs. In the first few weeks of a half-marathon training program, you are primarily training your body to get used to running further and building up your strength and endurance. I would recommend integrating recovery runs starting about week 4 of a 12-week half-marathon training program. By this time you will have sprinkled in some harder workouts, which could include Lactate Threshold runs and speed work intervals. I believe you should run a short, easy recovery run always the day after these harder key workouts where you’re exerting more effort and there has been lactic acid buildup in your muscles. An easy, recovery run the next day will serve as a way to build-up your mileage for the week, without exerting yourself too much, but also training your body to run when it’s tired or fatigued, like how you may feel in your first half-marathon.

    Since this is your first time training for a half-marathon, I would recommend having your rest day the day after your recovery run. The day following your rest day will then include a harder, more intense workout run, perhaps a tempo run, speed work of some kind, or hill repeats.

    I hope this helps!

  35. On non-workout/long run days I would recommend either adding a short (20-45 minutes) easy run or cross training with either easy cycling (30-60 minutes) or walking (2+ miles). Fitness level should determine volume of additional running or cross training. Foam rolling, compression gear, and vitamin supplements may also be helpful to speed up the recovery process.

  36. If Thekla has been training on three days per week for a while, I think it’s probably a great time to add a fourth day to her training. Just adding 30 minutes of easy recovery running is unlikely to cause an injury, especially if she isn’t upping her other workouts a lot at the same time, and it sounds like she is listening to her body.

    I’d advise a long warm-up on these days, and that she keep listening to her body. If she’s feeling particularly stiff or has an old injury that’s maybe flaring up, that might be a good week to skip the extra run, and just take a walk, cycle, or do other cross training. Since she’s only running three other days, it might be good to do a light strength training routine on this day too, like one of Jason’s core workouts. That would get her blood flowing in a no- or low-impact way and (bonus!) get stronger at the same time.

  37. Doing an easy run the day after a hard workout is very beneficial. The gentle run gets blood moving to help carry out waste accumulated from the hard effort, and this makes your muscles happy and healthier. If you are concerned about a bump in mileage in order to add the extra day, use cross training for the same effect.

  38. This is difficult to answer with the limited information given.
    We know, or can assume, the following:
    1: Presumably started running when she joined 2 years ago;
    2: Currently doing 3 runs a week, one long, one fast and no info on third;
    3: Sore with DOMS two days after a hard run;
    4: Progressively increasing weekly and long mileage;
    5: Recently started trying out recovery runs.

    What I would like to know is her age as my recommendation will probably depend on knowing that.

    If she is over 40, or a real novice (been reading more than running over the past two years) I would say that DOMS is an indication that she is doing too much or too fast and would recommend cutting back her mileage to about 2/3rd of what she is already doing and go a bit slower for the next three weeks to let her body recover to the stress before adding more stress (an additional run).

    If she is younger and a bit more of an experienced runner I would recommend a restructuring of her running plan to gradually introduce more running days. After a long or fast run she should have a VERY SLOW recovery run the following day and the following day should be a rest day. The info doesn’t say what she does on the third training session (hills?), but I would treat this the same as the other two. Thus for a nine day cycle she should do something like:
    Long, recovery, rest, fast, recovery, rest, other, recovery, rest.
    As she progresses she should slowly remove rest days.

    One of the best things I learnt as a runner was the saying: “if in doubt rest”. Pain is an indication that something is wrong in the training program and it’s usually too fast, too soon or too much. She needs to look at her training program and work out which of the too’s she is guilty of. Typical faults are:
    1: Long run too fast, run a short race (or maximum flat out 10 minute speed) and use a pacing calculator to determine the correct pacing;
    2: Fast run, too fast (see above);
    3: Increasing weekly/long run by too much. Rough guide 10% and rest weeks every 4th week;
    4: Long run about 20% of weekly distance;
    5: Fast run 5 – 10% of weekly distance;
    6: Shoes done too much distance?

    Also important to realise everyone responds differently and as runners we need to know how we respond. Some do best on lots of running, others do better on quality.

  39. I would first consider “why” you are that stiff and then address those factors as best you can. The following ideas while not an all inclusive list may give you some new things to think about. First, I would be willing to bet that your H.M. running form is more of an up and down motion that is your form for shorter races like a 5K, which is more forward driven. I think that the more up and down your motion, the more pounding your legs and lower back take. Add to that hills, more up and down, and you add to the distress. Recovery from previous workouts, or lack thereof to be more precise, could add to the cumulative stress. If you have lifted leg weights, consider that the appropriate amount of lifting can vary by huge amounts between athletes. The surface you run on is an obvious factor as well as are your choice of shoes. I am 60 years old, have been running three years, having built up to 5-6 days and 8-9 (40-90 miles /week) workouts a week very gradually, which resulted in only one injury early on from too fast of an increase, so take a LONG TERM view of your build up and dialog with your body, but don’t baby it.

  40. Thekla, I believe you might benefit from swimming o cycling as a recovery and secondary workout. Both of these activities will exercise different muscles, yet provide a growth opportunity for your body as well. The alternate workouts can grow in intensity as you get more comfortable with them in your weekly regimen. As well, they will benefit your running aerobics quite well. Much more than just running. Consider as well that they will provide balance to all muscles supporting each other.
    Respectfully Submitted,

  41. A lot of unknowns here, but I’m not hearing pain. I suspect long runs are a recent addition to her plan and she probably is going too fast. I know strength will build on the long runs so I recommend she slow down and increase mileage 10% per week.

    Decide on a achievable starting pace for the first 10 miles of the half marathon…after that, negative splits to the end…trust your strength training to carry you to the finish Thekla!

  42. Based on what Thekla said about her training, I think she should keep the recovery runs. It’s great to get the blood pumping, and she is adding some mileage. Both of which will help with her goal race. If she feels like she isn’t recovering as well as she should, she can always drop one, or go for a walk instead. Never under estimate the benefits of walking. Best of luck to you, Thekla!

  43. Absolutely, take a recovery run after a hard workout! I feel I get the best gains from my recovery runs. Running, on tired legs gets you used to running on tired legs during a race. As I say this, I do not think you should run at a fast pace. I would run at a very slow pace, maybe a 1 minute and a half slower than your moderate pace. I would suggest our half marathoner go about four to five miles the day after her long run. This is what works for me! Good luck!

  44. YES…I run back to back long runs (a 10 and a 15). Day three is a short 3 mile run followed by lots of rolling and stretching. Day 4 I feel much better than if I had rested day 3.

  45. What I am hearing is that Thelka is stiff after her speed or long runs. Stiffness would benefit from a slow recovery run to get everything moving again. If she is having tenderness and/or feeling weak , then i would say to take a day or two off. Part of learning to run is listening to our bodies yet wanting to find out just what we are capable of . It’s trial and error. We are all different .
    Good luck on your half Thelka 🙂

  46. Dorothy Vaughan says:

    What a great question – the answer might seem simple and straightforward, but there’s probably more to it. What we know… she is training 3 days a week. This is her 1st half marathon. Longer and harder runs are making her sore. Very slow paced runs help relieve the soreness (with about 30 min of running). We don’t know how many slow paced runs she is doing each week (1 or 2?)

    Well, before anything else, congrats to Thekla! I hope this is the first of many runs and races that Thekla enjoys and that running becomes a personally rewarding and, well, fun part of her life.

    If Thekla is doing both long and “hard” runs in a 3-day schedule, then that means she is pushing herself in these runs. the fact that she’s sore afterward may not be so surprising, but it might also mean that she is working her muscles hard. Slow, easy runs could help her in many ways: reducing soreness, helping develop her endurance, and giving her body an opportunity to get “mileage” on her legs (bones and muscles).

    However, we don’t know if Thekla is a new runner or a more experienced runner. I will make an important assumption that she is a more of a new runner.

    I congratulate Thekla on experimenting and learning that a slow, easy jog can help reduce soreness. With a eye toward both advancing her training and not overworking her muscles and joints, I recommend that instead of running on her typical off day, she do cross-training instead. So, instead of running and potentially over-taxing her muscles/ joints, she could go to the gym and use the bike, eliptical, rower or swim. This will help work out the soreness and allow her to continue to build her endurance base. Also, as cross training, this may help her become a better “overall athlete” – which can only help her more as a runner. If she is not already doing strength work, she could add 15 minutes of strength work on these cross-training days (to include things like core body work, back strength, and compound exercises like squats, push-ups and pull-ups).

    I also recommend that, if Thekla wants to pursue running further (more races, running faster, or longer races) that AFTER this training cycle for her first half marathon (in an off-cycle time), that Thekla pick up one more day of easy running – it will help her for all the reasons previously mentioned and she can increase her mileage, slowly and easily, just not right in front a race. This first race is the first step of many, many more steps.

    GOOD LUCK, Thekla!!

  47. For someone who runs 3-4 times a week, I would normally say to rest your legs after a hard workout. But fit someone training for a distance run….I suggest a short, low intensity run the next day — maybe just three miles or so. Part of distance running is teaching your legs you run when tired, do I think running a little serves a dual purpose of loosening up your legs and teaching you to run with tired legs.

  48. Although I’m usually in a different discipline these days (I am a sprinter rather than a distance runner), I do find that a light workout, such as an easy run, brisk walk or other moderate exercise after a hard workout can be beneficial. It certainly works for me. Probably the only time I take total rest is after a major event, whether that be a major competition of some sort, or the 24 hour charity walk that I do every year. All other “rest” days are open to a light run or walk.

  49. Aron Tesfay says:

    Its all about maintaining the balance between adaptation and injury. Her body will adapt better if she adds in 1 or 2 very easy runs between her workouts for recovery. Besides, its a half marathon so she will be better prepared with additional miles in her training. However, she also has to be very conservative with the mileage and pace of such easy runs in order to stay healthy. Its also the best way to increase mileage when doing so. After her body adapts to the current training, she can increase her mileage in form of more easy recovery runs.

  50. Hi, this is Thekla,

    Wow, I am so greatful for all your advice from around the world! I wanted to reply to you individually, but there are so many comments – and all of them are so valuable – that I thought I’d just try a consolidated reply.

    So some background:
    I am 41, I have started running 3 years ago and have finished 3 marathons (Munich and Berlin). Apart from running, I do two 1 hour core strength exercise / full body workouts per week with a trainer. So overall I train 5 days a week with 2 rest days. This year I’ve decided to only train for a half marathon, and although I have done that distance multiple times before while training for the marathon, it still feels completely different when training for it as a race distance.

    What I realized with my question (and your answers!) is that it took me 3 years to be able to start “listening to my body” and become experienced enough to really interpret a training plan so it works with me, and is not just a plan to follow.

    What I will add is the foam roller (ouch!) to my routine and I will continue to learn what is good for me by experimenting a bit further. Thanks for encouraging me, and when I’ll run my half marathon, I’ll think of you!

  51. Roman Furberg says:

    I would add a fourth easy run the day before the long run,, but not run the day after a hard (interval or long run) to allow for recovery. Use the days following a hard workout to either x-train ( easy spinning to flush accumulated lactic acid), yoga, or complete rest.

    Adding an [easy] run before the long run helps you build mileage without having to run really long runs, thereby allowing a faster recovery after the long run.

  52. actually have a question on recovery runs. I’m just training for a half marathon and do three runs per week. After a long run or faster workout, I get really stiff legs two days after.

    I have now started with very slow paced recovery runs, and after 30 minutes my muscles seem to loosen up again. Am I doing any damage to myself?

    Hi Thekla

    No, based on the information you have provided it is extremely unlikely that you are doing any damage to yourself in your recovery runs. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS) is the most likely cause of your discomfort – it tends to be most prominent two days after the exercise and is caused primarily by small tears to the muscle and surrounding ligaments and supports. This sounds scary, but it really is just how the muscle gets stronger, by rebuilding itself with more fibres of the type that you need to adapt to the strains you are putting on yourself.

    The key is that you said you are doing low intensity recovery. Low intensity exercise is unlikely to further damage your muscles, instead, it will increase the blood flow to your muscles and with the blood comes the nutrients your muscles need to repair.

    However, you should be careful not to over do your recovery runs or they will become another exercise session rather than a recovery session. If you are worried about this, you could try some form of cross training, such as swimming, yoga or cycling. These activities will have the same blood flow benefit as the running, but will place stress on different muscles – allowing the sore muscles to continue recovering. They will also help develop muscles that don’t get used as much during running, thereby increasing your overall fitness and strength which is important for injury prevention.

    I’d also encourage you to consider adding stretching to your recovery days. Believe it or not stretching adds to blood flow also and strengthens your muscles and joints! Importantly, don’t do stretching before a workout as this has the chance of increasing injury (think of your muscles like a spring and how stretching a spring makes it less effective).

    Sounds like you are well on your way to your half marathon goal and I wish you all the best! Keep running!


  53. So I think it’s OK to do a short/ slow recovery run after a harder workout, if yourbody feels like it can. I can do one the day after about a 13 MI run, but say after a 20 mile run my body says heck no you will not run the day after and some yoga, stretching, or simply rest will be the best key. Cross training to me is the best. Using different muscles after a hard workout will give your tired muscles a break while letting your non running muscles get a chance to work.

  54. Monica myburgh says:

    I run a mile or 2 at the most just to let the legs recover. Then I take the rest of the day off! Works wonders for me

  55. Damon Nichols says:

    As a beginning runner I would say no, don’t run the day after a hard run. The muscles and tendons need that time to heal stronger. I prefer to loosen up with an active warmup on my run days and deal with some stiffness in my off days.

  56. Part of experiencing the positive “training effect” is incorporating new strategies as you progress in your training. Working through some of the more difficult parts of training in the early stages of introducing something new can be difficult, but so helpful, whether it be strength training, stretching, adding longer distances, revising your fuel strategy, or something else.

    At one point, to get through a 6 mile run, perhaps running 2 or 3 days a week was enough to get by. As your goals grow, then so must your training routine, but in a more focused way.

    A recovery run the day after a hard workout not only helps to loosen up your sore muscles, but it also teaches you to run on tired legs. At this stage, If my legs were stiffening up, I would be inclined to incorporate either an easy recovery run (note the work easy) or a 45 minute bike session (even spinning at club) the day after my long run, then take the day off before my next long run. You may be a little sore in the earlier weeks (note if there is actual acute pain there may be a more serious issue involved), but my experience has been the more days you have a purposeful, focused run or alternative workout, the better you feel overall, especially as you begin to get stronger and incorporate longer/harder workouts into your training. Your overall fitness will in fact be enhanced over time.

    Even a brisk 45 minute walk is better than nothing the day after your long run. You may also benefit from some dynamic stretching (rather than static stretching) the night of your long run and then again a couple of times during the week. As with anything, start slow and easy for a couple of weeks and build from there.

    Best of luck!

  57. I think it is essential to have rest days in your training plan, because our joints & muscles need rest to recover. It is a known fact that if you push to hard you end up with burn out and not with better/faster results. According to my experience sometimes less running is even better. Two weeks ago I ran my PB in half marathon and I put it more on rest than hard running. Among us there are exeptional people, who are able to run trice a day without getting injured or ending up with burnout, neverthless, most of us need the well-deserved rest days.

  58. I believe that there is a benefit to do a short and very easy run the day after a hard run. Your muscles are usually going to feel kind of sore and tight after a hard run and an easy run will help to loosen up the muscles. The run should be very easy and no more than 3-4 miles. If you find that you are too sore to run, you should do a 30 minute walk instead.