Train To Recover — Don’t Recover To Train

Train Opportunistically

Opportunistic training is the practice of performing your key workouts when you’re actually ready for them, not necessarily when you scheduled them. For example, after warming up for or beginning a key workout, if you decided you didn’t feel strong, you’d scrap the workout and instead do a recovery run. Or, if you started a scheduled easy workout and discovered that you felt terrific, you’d complete tomorrow’s scheduled key workout today.

When training opportunistically, you let your body take the lead; you don’t shackle yourself to a plan. If you plan well you’ll be able to perform your key workouts on schedule, but by remaining open to spontaneous adjustments you’ll always recover when you need recovery and train hard when you’re able to get the most out of it. On days when you feel neither good nor bad but so-so, it’s usually best to go ahead and muscle through the key workout you’ve planned. As long as your split times are not way off what they should be, you can trust that the workout is doing you more good than harm.

Monitor Your Recovery Status

Learn to listen to your body and let it tell you when it’s not getting adequate recovery, then act accordingly. A sensible way to use running performance to monitor your recovery status is to assign a grade to each workout in your training log. For example, “great,” “good,” “fair,” or “bad.” Three consecutive “bad” days indicate that you are in a recovery deficit and should take a day off. A full week without any “good” or “great” workouts indicates the same.

RELATED: Putting Recovery To Work

Practice Step Cycles

Step cycles are recurring patterns of training that last two to four weeks and end with a week of reduced-volume training for recovery. In a two-week step cycle, a week of hard training is followed by a week of lighter training. In a three-week cycle, the first week is relatively hard, the second week is slightly harder, and the third week is easy. In a four-week cycle, the third week of training is slightly harder than the second.

Planning recovery periods into your training in this way helps ensure that you don’t accumulate fatigue during a long training program. It also allows you to train harder during your hard weeks than you’d be able to if you did not take planned recovery weeks.

Training for recovery is not to be confused with training less. By learning to train for recovery you will actually enable yourself to perform at a higher level in the workouts that matter most, and get fitter faster.


About The Author:

Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012). He is also a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. To learn more about Matt visit

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