Many is the time that I have listened to a triathlete explaining that they have just completed a recovery run. To me this is an oxymoron. Running and recovery do not belong in the same sentence. It’s similar to suggesting that one attempt a 50m ‘easy’ butterfly. If they were a runner and this was their only activity then yes, I could understand this rationale, but I still do not think it exists. Brisk walking is a much better activity for recovery.
The majority of triathletes are not efficient runners and so a ‘recovery’ run becomes a low level aerobic activity. Introducing MAF paced running to athletes I work with was a painful experience for many, in so much as the pace felt sooo slow that they found it difficult to cope with. In fact many felt that they were going so slow, it would have been faster to walk. And some did have to walk to keep the heart rate down.
Let’s think about what recovery is. In an athletic sense it’s the opportunity to let the body adapt to the training load by repairing and regenerating damaged muscle fibres, restoring energy levels so that there is a super compensation effect.
Running is the one activity that triathletes perform regularly which is high impact and therefore causes more muscle damage with each step. If you throw in poor biomechanics and technique this can compound the issue.
My view is this. By all means perform an easy aerobic (MAF) run for conditioning. But if you want to enhance your recovery, keep the activity short (30-60 mins), low intensity (<65% effort), and low impact. (i.e. NO running!). For triathletes that shouldn’t be an issue because swimming and cycling are perfect alternatives. Even better, try a yoga session or some hot/cold therapy (sauna + cold shower) along with some mobility work.