Recovery doesn't mean doing nothing
Training 5 minutes

Recovery doesn't mean doing nothing

June 29, 2020

You may think that "recovery" after a hard workout means doing nothing for a while, like taking the next day(s) off and resting on the couch. But you're better off taking a (short) recovery run later in the day or the next day, or at least stretch your legs.

When you run fast, as you do during an (intense) workout, your body is likely producing lactic acid as a way to burn carbohydrates without the need of oxygen. As this builds up recovery is inhibited. By moving the body and raising your heart rate you stimulate blood flow to all your extremities, bringing in the good stuff and removing the bad stuff. Chris from the Running Rogue podcast always says motion equals blood flow equals healing. For your joints this can be described as motion is lotion.

“Motion equals blood flow equals healing.”

Chris McClung

Another factor in recovery is your overall life stress. As your life stress increases your training stress has to decrease. If events in your life, such as a big deadline at work, social gatherings (if you are an introvert) or otherwise take away your energy you can not, and should not, expect that if training intensity and duration stay the same the results will also be the same. Something's gotta give.

Case in point, I have recently hit a barrier when I was trying to increase my mileage too fast, in combination with a change in life: we adopted two adorable kittens — on a hyperactive/sleepy cycle all throughout the day. The first morning after we picked them up I wanted to be back home in time from my long run to be there the first time we would feed them after they had a nights sleep. I rushed through my long run (34K) very early in the morning after having had a short night, making it a fast finish long run to shave off some extra minutes. I ended up running my fastest 30K ever that morning, inside that long run, according to Strava.

The following week I had trouble sticking to my new mileage goal and had to drop back down quite a bit. Partly to compensate for the fact that I increased mileage too fast, but also the combination of high training stress, and high life stress. It became too much and I was paying the price for that in my trainings.

Reduce life stress to increase performance

From the above you can conclude that if you want to enhance your training, and in doing so your performance, you should reduce life stress as much as possible. When that is no longer possible, you have to make sure to manage training stress.

I'm reading the book "The 7 habits of highly effective people" by Stephen Covey. In this book he describes a circle of concern, that contains all the concerns we may have. Including things like health, job security, relationships, and so on. Anything outside this circle is of no concern to us. Let's say John is playing his music too loud. If John is your neighbor this might be within your circle of concern. If John is living on the other side of the country, it likely isn't.

The circle of concern fully contains a smaller circle, the circle of influence. These are all the concerns we can do something about, have some form of control, or influence, over. We may be concerned about the weather tomorrow, but we have no influence over it. I'm trying to focus my energy only on things I can influence and let go of negative thoughts about things I have no influence over. It simply costs less energy and saves me from disappointments.


Meditation has also become part of my daily routine. I don't necessarily have a set time when I do it but I make sure to do some bit of meditation with the Headspace app every day, whether that is 3 minutes of Unwind before going to bed, 10 minutes of Recovery after a run or a quick 5 minute Guided meditation when I feel like it. These tranquil moments, with the soothing voice of Andy Puddicumb guiding you through the meditation, are a true delight.

To sum up: make sure you manage both life and training stress, remember that motion is lotion and movements equals blood flow equals healing. Find things that reduce stress and allow you to calm down.

Koen van Urk