Today is all about recovery basics. Please remember that I am not a fitness professional or a doctor of any sort. Everything mentioned in this post is based on my experience and my own research on the topic and should be taken as advice from one runner to another.
Alright now that we have that bit out of the way let’s get to it.
Runners of all experience levels struggle with the balance of pushing themselves hard enough to see improvement and resting enough to stay healthy. Whether you are a newbie runner or a seasoned marathoner, you will be challenged to find the balance that works best for your body and your goals. Each runner is different and every one takes a different approach to find this balance because let’s face it. Everyone’s activity level, body’s ability to adapt, risk of injury and health concerns are unique.
When I first started running and especially when I trained for my first couple races, I didn’t know that run recovery was a thing. All I did know was that I was tired a lot, but I had yet to master all the other variables that I could be doing to recover better or faster. I’m not an expert and I don’t pretend to know it all, but there are a lot of things you can do daily to make training easier. No one wants to feel so tired or sore that they fall behind on their training plan or want to spend days on end in bed.
There are a lot of different ways to help yourself recover, but these are just some of the ones that I utilize.
Stretching and Foam Rolling. I used to only foam roll or stretch when I was sore or stiff, but that’s a thing of the past. I foam roll and stretch every single day to make sure my muscles stay loose and ready for the next thing. I use this gnarly looking foam roller. Tension in any area of your body is painful and makes optimal performance really difficult. I do yoga or foam roll nightly to help my body relax and recover. I have also found that this helps to identify trouble spots or areas where injury might spring up because you can determine areas that are always in pain. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a stick roller because I can really isolate a particular area.
Nutrition. Clean eating and whole foods are the best way to make sure you are giving your body the fuel it needs to run properly. Also, by consuming a diet high in plants you are ensuring that your body gets a variety of nutrients that will help in healing and performance. It’s also important that you maximize your performance and the recovery process by eating the right balance of food before, during and after your run. Check out this article and graphic from Greatist! It breaks down everything really simply and gives examples.
Compression Everything. This is a must have for me. If you aren’t familiar with compression wear, here’s the basic explanation: it’s like a hug. It supports muscles that are tired or sore. I don’t go anywhere without my ProCompression calf sleeves and always run longer distances in quality compression shorts or pants. I love wearing the sleeves post run or the night before a run if my legs are sore because I usually always run in compression capris. My biggest tip of advice when it comes to compression wear is that you get what you pay for. True compression wear isn’t cheap because the technology is superior to run of the mill big box store items. Use your judgment and purchase compression wear from a reputable source so you can enjoy the benefits.
Sleep. This seems like an easy one, but can sometimes be so difficult. Morning runs before work often mean early bedtimes so if you don’t get to bed on time then you will likely be behind on rest. Sleep allows your body to heal and recover from stressors of all sorts, so make sure you are getting the amount of sleep your body needs. Some folks can run on 6 hours a night while others need closer to 9 hours per night, so figure out what works for you. You should wake feeling rested and ready for the next run, but keep in mind that the more stress you put on your body the more sleep you will need to recover.
Cutback Weeks. It may seem counter intuitive but adding a couple weeks (for the purpose of adding cutback weeks) to your training plan can really help you. Depending on your fitness level, your training plan and your goal you may benefit greatly from adding additional weeks to your training plan. Using a couple additional weeks as cutback weeks can often give your body rest so you can better perform later on and avoid injury. I’m not talking about an early taper or dramatically cutting back your miles on those weeks though. The idea of a cutback week is that you give your body time to maintain a certain level of fitness before you increase your mileage or exertion. The easiest way to add a cutback week is to adjust your long run mileage. For a marathon, your training plan long runs might look like this: 13, 15, 18, 20. If you add two cutback weeks it might look like this: 13, 15, 13, 18, 15, 20.
Baths: Epsom Salt Baths and Ice Baths. I love both, but they aren’t for everyone. I loved Epsom Salt baths from the first soak , but it took me a couple times to fall in love with the ice bath. Both are great tools to utilize for post run recovery. Dr. Teal’s products are everything, but you can always purchase Epsom Salt in large bags from most grocery stores. The magnesium and other properties in the salt help with sore muscles and the ice from the ice bath aids in inflammation relief. I always ice bath for runs over a half marathon distance. It really aids in my recovery and overall soreness.
Active Recovery. Within the last couple months I’ve been utilizing this technique to help with recovery. Active recovery basically means that you are doing an activity that is not as challenging as your normal routine. This article talks more about active recovery and breaks down everything a bit more. For me this has meant that instead of taking two rest days a week I now only take one and use the other as active recovery. My active recovery day is after my long run and recovery run days. I usually spend my active recovery days doing yoga, going for a hike or cycling. It’s a way to workout, but still give your body rest. This is especially helpful if you are the type of person that has a hard time taking a rest day. Active recovery days allow your body to recover, but you still get to enjoy other things.
Staying healthy and allowing your body to recover is keep to making any kind of running goal a reality. Whether you are training for your first marathon or looking to run a couple days a week for fun, recovery plays a huge role in being successful.
How do you recover from a hard run?
Do you use any of the above to stay healthy and injury free?
T-SHIRT PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES. I will be running the Chicago Marathon again this year for charity and can’t think of a more worthy cause. To help me reach my fundraising goal click here. I am selling these adorable shirts and all the proceeds will benefit RMHC. Don’t miss out! They are super cute and come in a variety of styles and colors.