CAN RUNNING TWICE ON LONG RUN DAYS SPEED RECOVERY?
Before the 1996 U.S. Olympic marathon trials, I coached a woman who had long been doing a short shake-out run in the evening after her long run. She’d run 18–24 miles in the morning, rest all day (like we all should do after a long run), then get out the door for a very, very slow jog of around 20 minutes. She felt it helped her legs feel better in the coming days, and she always felt better with the double run on long run days compared to when she didn’t double on the long run day. As she prepared for the trials, we kept this Long Run Day Double as part of her training, and she went on to set a PR.
Could doing a Long Run Day Double be your secret to better training?
We know that gentle exercise aids in recovery. The blood flow from exercise delivers nutrients to the working muscles and removes waste products. What most athletes experience is that the Long Run Day Double helps “loosen them up” and they feel better on the next day’s run and on subsequent workout days. It makes sense that the muscles that seem to get stiff after a long run could benefit from the gentle run (or possibly from any other gentle exercise like walking, cycling or using an elliptical machine). And, because most competitive runners do a stretching routine after each run, the Long Run Day Double gives another opportunity to stretch the working muscles after the run has warmed them up.
One thing is for sure. Your body will not like the first few minutes of this second run. You’ll be stiff and sluggish. You’ll not look like the fit and fast runner you are. You’ll look old and slow. But stick with it. After 5 to 10 minutes, your body will loosen up and you’ll feel better. Since you’re running only 20 to 30 minutes, the run will be over quickly and you can continue your recovery program of resting, smart nutrition, and rehydrating.
It’s vitally important that you go slow. Don’t worry about your pace. Just go jog very slowly.
Also, this isn’t a time to pad your logbook with more miles. I prefer these runs to be for time instead of mileage so you aren’t forcing your body to run farther than you should.
A couple of cautions: Any runner who’s injury-prone or recovering from an injury should focus on treatment of the injury as opposed to running again. Young or other new runners who are just building up the duration of their long runs should be wary of this training idea. First get used to running longer and longer; then, when you’re more experienced, you can experiment with this concept if you choose.
The Long Run Day Double is clearly not the usual practice for long runs. But if you’re looking for ideas to take your running to a new level, this may be one to try.
In my opinion, experienced runners who run longer than an hour and 45 minutes should give a second run on that day a try. Test it out and see how you feel in the days following. If you feel better, then keep doing it when appropriate. If you don’t feel better, then avoid it. Athletes who run shorter than 1:45 can try it as well, but they typically don’t have as much post-long-run fatigue and stiffness, so it may not be as beneficial.