Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A few on the ergometer

Yesterday I ended up scooting back and forth on my rowing machine in the garage. Yeah - not very exciting, but I figure it's about time to start working out a few other muscles. I'm supposed to be in the gym every now and then, but I just never seem to make it there these days. So instead, I put about 30 minutes in on the erg and rowed 6.2 km. I had the doors open to get a bit of a breeze blowing through, but I was still dripping when I was done. Not to mention sore today. I forget all those arm, shoulder and back muscles that get worked when rowing. The only thing I need is to get some batteries in the old Polar chest strap. I guess I could use the Garmin, but on an indoor machine, my old Polar is a great tool to keep track of heart rate and heart rate ranges.

On another note, Christine posed a great question yesterday, "...what is a 'recovery run' and what is the purpose of it?" I know when I first got started (I'm still a relative noob) a couple of years ago, I thought that my 20 miles a week was sufficient to power me through races. It wasn't too long (well - a year actually) before I clued in. To expect to show real improvement, I was going to need to increase my training volume. Run more. Put in more miles. Which meant more days. I wasn't going to have the benefit of an off day between training runs. I started working six days a week. But I still was trying to run each workout like it was a race. Pretty soon I was *always* tired. My pace started degrading. I was running myself into the ground.

About that time I started picking up books to understand more about what I was doing (yeah - running had become a serious hobby, not just a way to lose weight). In all the books I read, there was this concept of a key workout followed by an easy workout. Those easy workouts were called "recovery" workouts. I started slowing myself down on "recovery" days, and slowly but surely, my race times started falling through the floor!

Was it because I was allowing my body to "recover" on those recovery days? Well, actually not. The term "recovery" is really a misnomer. While your pace/heart rate is lower than, say a general aerobic run, the purpose of the recovery run is to be able to add training volume (miles). Turns out the way our bodies become more fit is to react to training stress by becoming more efficient. But,we can only run so many miles at max tilt without breaking down (injury time). By reducing our pace/effort, a "recovery" run, allows us to put in the miles while giving our body a bit of a break. The key to the benefit of a recovery run is starting fatigued . By starting in a fatigued state, your body will call on other neuro-muscular systems to pick up the slack for tired muscles. In short, the recovery run is supposed to improve running economy and train muscle fibers that would normally go unused. The theory is that in longer distances, your body will have more muscle fibers to call on in the late stages of the race. The general rule for including recovery runs is based on how many days a week you run - if you run less than 5 days a week, recovery runs are generally not necessary. Beyond that, recovery runs can be beneficial if they follow either a key workout (lactate threshold, VO2Max) or a long run. Also, the recovery run should be run at a pace/effort much less than normal. For example, on a recovery day, I don't pay attention to my pace. I make sure my heart rate remains at 75% of max or lower. Sometimes that translates to a 10:15 pace. Other days that translates to an 11:00 pace.

So there you go. More than you probably ever wanted to know Christine.....

On tap today - 9 miles -the first four GA, the last 5 at half marathon pace. Which means a recovery run on Wednesday!


  1. Great! Thanks for the info on recovery runs.

  2. THANK YOU!! I so appreciate you taking the time to share this with me (and others) Glenn! If it's okay w/you I'm going to copy and paste it on my MSW doc so I can refer to it. Alot on the brain these days so probably a good idea for me to keep the info. handy! Christine

  3. great info on recovery runs, i 2nd everything! (plus they are pretty darn enjoyable, esp in less-than-desirable weather)

  4. ps: i lol'd at your comment earlier. there does come a point where i dread going near the door. in a few weeks (if that) i will sweat just thinking of going outside.

  5. Sounds like the rower gave you a great workout!