Anyone can work hard. The best have the discipline to recover. – Lauren Fleshman
Our society doesn’t put enough emphasis on rest and recovery and the discipline to do so. This should be an area that we incorporate into our training instead of an afterthought. We are constantly flooded with images of hard workouts and hashtags like #nevermissamonday, but no one is talking about the discipline to recover. We have brainwashed ourselves to believe that if we aren’t working out full throttle everyday then we aren’t doing it right and we will never reach our goals.
Hard workouts are so important, but recovering correctly and efficiently from them is equally important. Without the proper rest and recovery post workout we just put ourselves into an unhealthy training deficit. If we go to the well everyday eventually there won’t be anything there to draw from because we haven’t given it time naturally to fill again.
Everyone’s body is different, has unique needs and adapts in various ways. Not all of us can recover like super phenom Mike Wardian.
We must be open minded about recovery and willing to try out various tools to see what works for us. Real athletes treat their bodies with respect.
As usual, I am not a fitness professional or running coach. I’m not a health professional either. I’m just a girl who has tried all sorts of techniques to feel better and recover quicker. All information in this post should be taken as advice from one runner to another unless otherwise stated.
There are so many recovery techniques and styles. Here are some examples.
This is one of the most popular and easiest techniques. Compression pants, socks, sleeves and boots are an easy way to help blood circulate to areas of the body that need healing.
Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep and have a difficult time adjusting our sleep schedule once the workouts start getting harder. This is very individual so find what works for you and pencil it into your training plan. When I’m marathon training and the long runs start to get longer than 15 miles I schedule a post run nap on my training calendar. I add this to the time block I allow for the run. Sometimes a 30 minute nap allows me to recover and since it’s already in my training calendar I’ve given myself the time so I have no excuse to dismiss it.
Epsom Salt or Ice Bath
These things work! Epsom salt contains magnesium which aids in muscle recovery whereas an ice bath helps to prevent further inflammation. Ice baths keep me healthy and I can tell when I skip one.
Everyone has what works for them, but we can all agree that a diet rich in whole foods is best. Whole foods provide both the macro and micro nutrients that our bodies need to work properly.
Protein and carbs post workout are important because you want to help rebuild your body after the stress of exercise. Not every workout will demand the same nudge to recover. More about that here.
I am also a big advocate of taking raw BCAAs during nearly every workout, but especially during hard efforts like long runs and weight lifting sessions. This has really helped me handle the demands of tough efforts. More about my experience with BCAAs here.
Rest is important, but active recovery may be a game changer for you. Examples of active recovery might include an easy run, dog walk, light yoga session, short hike or just playing with your kids in the backyard. I attribute this to my success at the Dopey Challenge in January. We walked about 5-8 miles everyday in addition to all the running.
Foam rolling and massage hurt so good and help the body rebuild areas that need attention.
Mobility and Stretching
Not everyone loves yoga and I get it, but stretching post run or workout will help too. It’s important to stretch the muscles while they are warm before they have the opportunity to stiffen and shorten.
If you haven’t tried yoga, you should. If you can’t get into a class there are loads of online options. My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, but Jasyoga is also pretty awesome.
There is a lot of discussion about supplement, so talk to your doctor of course but they might help you. Not every supplement comes in pill form. There are loads of foods that you might supplement a couple times a week, during your menstruation or when you increase your mileage or intensity. I like eating foods rich with turmeric and fresh ginger and red meat when I am in a peak week or when I’ve upped the training volume. I find that my body feels better with these foods during those times because of the anti inflammatory properties and higher iron content.
If you are struggling with a mileage increase then try running some of those miles on the trails, treadmill or opt for the bike. Your body might just need more time to recover and the lower impact might help your body get there. Find what works for you. The goal of your training should be to be as efficient as possible and get the best results on the easiest effort.
Cut Back Training Weeks
Cut back weeks give your body more time to adjust to current training conditions before you increase the volume or intensity. If you are new to training, injury prone, or just like having a break then opt for a couple cut back weeks in your training plan. It might add a couple weeks to your training plan, but if you already have a solid base built then it won’t be that much of an adjustment.
Here’s an example: Your weekly long runs for a marathon might look like this: 16 miles, 14 miles, 18 miles, 16 miles, then 20 miles. Instead of the traditional: 16 miles, 18 miles then 20 miles.
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, I hope that this will help you look at recovery as an integral part of your training regime instead of something you only think about when you are sore or injured. Remember that you are one of a kind so what might work for you might not work for someone else and that’s okay. If we want to train hard and go long, we have to be willing to respect ourselves and have the ability to recover.
How do you recover during training?
Do you implement any of the techniques I’ve mentioned?