Ask the Goat: Recovery not a myth

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on recovery. Part two will be published on Thursday, Aug. 28.

Recovery is a term (usually in conjunction with “taper”) that most runners loathe. And ironically, tapering is a form of recovery, so it isn’t strange that the two are categorized under the same blanket of hatred.

But what is “recovery” and should it even be a part of your training regimen? Why do runners find a period of down time so disagreeable? And are the benefits of recovery exaggerated?

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

First and foremost, I found the benefits of recovery during my first few years of running to be minimal. I had a lot of running to do, and wasting days loafing about wasn’t going to help me achieve my goals. So I abstained from any form of tapering or recovery.

In fact, I began running seven days a week, usually in excess of 100 miles/week plus events. My “taper” was practically inverted, and recovery was completely non-existent. And it worked for me, for exactly two years and two months. And then the machine broke down, and the problems began.

First was the mental collapse of overtraining. The brain has a chemical ebb and flow, and produces everything from healing chemicals to mental stabilizing elixirs and adrenaline. This cerebral cocktail is essential in maintaining a healthy body, positive outlook and balance. That was the first to go — the balance. I began walking off race courses halfway through. I just didn’t care. Nothing seemed important anymore.

Then came the physical issues: fatigue, aches, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), tendonitis and reduction in performance. Once the mind shatters, the body is never far behind. The will to train wanes and the body resists all forward progress. Intensity becomes impossible to maintain. Training becomes a farce. Everything tends to decline — except weight. Weight increases as stress mounts and activity declines.

A taper is defined as “a progressive non-linear reduction in the training load during a variable period of time, in an attempt to reduce the physical and psychological stress of daily training and optimize sports performance.” Recovery is simply defined as “restoration to a former or better condition.”

So how can these two inter-related terms salvage your competition year and augment your training goals? You just need to apply short- and long-term recovery/taper strategies into a periodized training cycle. The short-term recovery is the pre-race taper and post-run replenishment. The long-term focus should be on maintaining a structured three-week build and one week benchmark/recovery cycle.

Next week, I’ll outline these two strategies in detail.

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

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