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As much as we like to make running complicated; to talk about fartleks and pace per mile, to debate the exact way to run a tempo workout or the ideal heel drop on a shoe, running, at its heart, is a simple sport. If you’re able to train consistently, and can keep putting one foot in front of the other, both in races and workouts, you’ll get better. You’ll get stronger, faster and more resilient. That’s why we’ve teamed up with coaches to give you expert advice that will help you stay on track with your training.

This month we asked coach Dena Evans to share some tips. Describing herself as a “soccer mum with a serious running habit”, Dena knows a thing or two about the sport having amassed thirty plus years of running experience and over nineteen years spent coaching.

Recovering properly is one of the simplest things you can do to ensure longevity as a runner – here Dena shares some advice on how to stay in charge of your recovery so you can run fast when it matters.

As a former middle school Social Studies teacher, I’m familiar with the idea that those who don’t pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it.

As Strava athletes, our history is inescapable, with the temptation to repeat it – faster, longer, better than others as well as ourselves – almost an ever-present element in daily running life.

How do we use our historical data while trying to make the best choices for our own peak performance?

One of the simplest decisions we can make is to “stay in charge” of the data, rather than letting it control us, by differentiating between recovery efforts and training efforts.

Deep inside, we all know recovery is an important aspect of training in the larger sense, and that consolidating gains, or “adaptation/re-gen” in au courant coaching-speak, can allow us to make fitness progress, and avoid injury or burn-out pitfalls ahead. What is more difficult is to resist the urge to meet or exceed what we have each decided is an internally “acceptable” pace or distance. If we don’t feel that burn, see that number, or retain our place in a particular pecking order, whether online or in person, we struggle to justify our time or to remain inwardly content.

It continues to surprise me each time I talk to earnest athletes whose “plan” has been to just repeat the same running route as fast as they possibly can each day. They’re frustrated with plateaus and their lack of continued improvement. Like all of us, they find themselves asking questions such as:

What will people think (or will I think of myself) if I run that route so slowly?

Am I losing fitness if I can barely manage a minute per mile slower on a run I did so effortlessly last week?

I will not hit my goal mileage if I only run a few miles today or take it off, but I am literally dreading this run. What should I do?

My race pace is X so why can’t I run X on all my runs?

My advice: reclaim your recovery.

1. Plan your rest days in advance so you can execute them without guilt (you’re just following the plan).

2. Differentiate days where you will need the slower pace, reduced volume, or decreased intensity from the days where you are prepared to go on offense.

3. On recovery days, let your effort or heart rate be the guide. What pace you can manage comfortably at these levels may vary, so avoid getting too caught up in the actual pace.

4. Label / describe your activity as “recovery” with a capital R if your ego is feeling fragile about displaying modest data. Recover loud and be proud.

5. Reverse your pace aspirations on recovery days – pick a route or a pace that you will commit to NOT exceed and / or connect with a family member or friend who would be going a relaxed pace or distance.

Build yourself a history that is positive to replicate. Enjoy the days where you do feel fresh and advance your cause on those days rather than forcing yourself to run your ‘normal’ pace on days when you feel like garbage. Pursue a few really productive days per week versus a bunch of mediocre days that drain your enthusiasm and lead you to injury. Recover with confidence, recover with regularity, and in doing so, let your willingness to ease off now and then, give others in your orbit the confidence to make those positive choices for themselves as well.

Follow Dena and check out her other posts below.

Attack Your Goals from the Inside Out
How to Train Around a Busy Life: 5 Quick Ideas
Keep Going! What to Tell Yourself When You Feel Like Slowing Down

Is there a training topic you’d love to hear more about? Or a question you’ve been burning to ask a coach? Let us know in the comments below.