Secrets of Proper Recovery

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When I was training for my first couple of marathons I didn’t give recovery much thought.

My biggest priority after finishing a run was getting a shower. I didn’t know that what I did in the minutes and hours after a hard workout was almost as important as the workout itself.

The body has the capacity to work hard and improve, but it also needs time to recover. When you don’t take time to recover properly this can take a toll on the body. Here are the secrets to proper recovery. . .

For the New Runner
Unfortunately, overtraining can plague newer runners as well as experienced veterans and it is the leading cause of running injuries. The newer runner can get carried away with the excitement of building up mileage and running days. They are addicted to the running high and get carried away doing too much too soon. Instead of taking the time to build a proper running base they may jump right in to training for a marathon. A newer runner may also choose a training plan that is too advanced for their level of conditioning. Unfortunately, injury is usually right around the corner.

For the Experienced Runner
For the more experienced runner there’s often the desire to improve the personal best. We’re always testing the limits of our running capacity and in the process may start ignoring subtle cues from the body. These quiet messages may become screams of agony if they’re not dealt with early on. Unless you have a bullet-proof body (which only about 10% of runners do) you shouldn’t be running 6 days per week and consistently training at over 50 miles per week. You may be able to get away with it for a little while, but injury may be just around the corner.

If you’ve been listening to our podcasts for any amount of time you probably know that I encourage scheduled rest days and cross training as part of your training program. It’s also important to develop a recovery routine so that you can maximize your training. Most of us know that recovery is important, but you may be wondering what you should be doing.

12 Keys to Proper Recovery

1. Cool Down: During the last 5 minutes of your run drop to an easy pace and after finishing your workout walk for at least 5 minutes. The purpose of the cool-down is to help return your body to pre-exercise conditions. This includes reducing your heart rate, breathing rate, and core body temperature.

2. Stretching: Develop a stretching routine that you perform after every run when your muscles are warm. This is one key to staying flexible and injury free. There is also a growing body of research into the benefits of yoga, which is good both for recovery and injury prevention.

3. Body Temperature: After you stop moving your core temperature is going to start dropping and wet clothes will cause further chilling. One of the first things you should do is get out of any wet clothes, especially if you won’t be taking a shower right away.

4. Refuel: When I walk in the door from my run I’m immediately bombarded with demands that have built in my absence. It’s very hard to find the time to eat something right away. So, my perfect solution is putting two scoops of Hammer Recoverite in 8oz of water, shaking it up, and drinking that right away. Recoverite supplies your body with a 3:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates and protein along with glutamine, the potent antioxidant l-carnosine, and a full-spectrum of electrolytes. Then I can attend to the needs of my kids and do other aspects of recovery. Even if you use a recovery drink right away it’s still important to eat a balanced meal or snack within 1-2 hours post-workout.

5. Compression: The true benefits of compression garments occur if they’re worn post-race when they stimulate circulation to give a faster lactate recovery rate. Wear them during a long run or race if you like the way they feel, but the ideal time to put them on is during the recovery period.

6. Cold Therapy: If you have a particularly sore area (knee, ankle) be sure to get an ice pack on the area right away. Ice the area for 15 minutes every 2 hours for the first 24 hours to decrease swelling.

7. Massage: Using a high density foam roller or massage stick can provide similar benefits as deep-tissue massage without the hefty price tag. It can increase your flexibility and decrease muscle tension. Many runners have found them useful in preventing injury and improving performance. When we interviewed Tim Borland who ran 63 marathons in 63 days he said that one of the keys to his endurance and recovery was using “The Stick” daily.

8. Over the Counter Medications and Supplements: Aspirin, ibuprofen and Aleve may help to temporarily reduce muscle soreness, although they won’t actually speed healing. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like the ones I mentioned can impair kidney function if taken in excess before or during a run. Tylenol is a preferred pain reliever because it has fewer side effect, but using over the recommended dose can cause liver damage.

If you’re looking for some good supplements to help relieve muscle soreness and heal injuries I’d encourage you to consider taking Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids (either in a fish oil capsule source or MILA a brand of chia seeds). Another great product is Tissue Rejuvenator from Hammer Nutrition.

9. Sleep: When I trained for my first marathon I would be hit with a wave of fatigue around two hours after my long run. I would usually put a movie on for my kids and lay down on the couch with my feet up for an hour. You may also find yourself more tired during marathon training. It’s worth it to try and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and a nap if you can sneak it in.

10. Rest Days: The day after your long run should be devoted to rest or light activity. A short walk or bike ride is fine to loosen up your muscles, but you shouldn’t be out doing a serious workout. Give your body the time it needs to recover. You may also want to consider taking the day before your long run for light cross training or rest.

11. Running Log: Monitoring your workouts with a training log and paying attention to how your body feels is extremely helpful in determining your recovery needs. That way you can modify your training program accordingly.

12. Listen to Your Body. The problem for many of us is that we don’t listen to the signals our body gives or we dismiss warning signs thinking (“I can’t be tired, I didn’t run very fast yesterday” or “My training partner doesn’t need two rest days after that workout; I don’t want them thinking I’m a wimp.”).

7 Responses to Secrets of Proper Recovery

  1. Trevor December 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    “When I walk in the door from my run I’m immediately bombarded with demands that have built in my absence.”

    I admit that some of those demands (from little people) build up because I am still asleep in bed.

  2. Gwen December 4, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    WOW ! A half marathon in 1:48 !! And a Marathon Maniac ! Please let us know what your Marathon Maniac number is !

    • Angie December 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi Gwen. I am Maniac #4723 🙂

  3. Trevor C December 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    The habits for recovery become more important as you get older too. In my late 30s (unlike 10 years ago) if I don’t stretch or massage my legs I get a lot more aches and pains.

    I often find sore spots that are tight on my thighs during my drive to work and try to work them out, usually with my thumb.

    Definitely have to say, like many, the fueling information in your podcasts has improved my long run by leaps and bounds. Running is like a puzzle where the picture looks better every time I put it together because I have more pieces.

    Gratz on the PR and MM title.

    • Angie December 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks Trevor. You’re right. Running is like a puzzle that works best when you have all the pieces. Good information and practical experience is the way to get there. Keep up the great work!

  4. Bob January 3, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Hi Angie and Trevor,
    Happy New Year!
    Your recent recommendation for the Brooks Utopia Running Pants was right on the mark.
    We live in Palmyra, PA (near Hershey and the world famous chocolate factory) and the weather is starting to get pretty cold. I gave my new Christmas present a test run of 11 miles yesterday on a 35 degree, very windy day, and can say that I was warm and very comfortable during the entire run.

    Thanks for all of your great tips and for continuing to produce such an excellent Podcast. My wife and I enjoy listing on the weekends while enjoying our morning coffee. The Podcasts get us motivated for our weekly “long runs”.

    PS. It would be great for you to join us in Oct 2012 for the 3rd annual Hershey Half Marathon. It’s a beautiful course that takes you through the town of Hershey and surrounding areas. ….Yes, you can smell the chocolate!

    Palmyra, PA

    • Angie January 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi Bob. Running a half marathon with some chocolate to celebrate afterward sounds the a great way to recover. Thanks for telling us about this race.

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