As I have started to increase my distance and intensity to train for the Rock and Roll Marathon (and now Ragnar), I’ve been thinking not only about my training plan, but also my recovery plan. While recovery is part of any good training plan, I think that a specific recovery strategy, a plan within the plan, will help keep me healthy and uninjured through the relay and the marathon.
In general, there are three types of recovery that should be included in your training plan. The first would be mid-workout recovery, or the interval that it takes you to recover between sets of high intensity exercise. For example, if you are doing 400 meter repeats at your V02 Max pace, how long do you need between repeats to create the most training benefit.
Another type of recovery would be post event. This is your rest and recuperation time following a goal event, where training is minimal as your body recovers from hard effort?
Finally, the type of recovery I’m focusing on today, is your mid-training recovery. When you are training hard you are constantly breaking down and repairing muscle. How well you bounce back between daily workouts is vital to your training, and can hinge on a couple key things. Here are some tips to help you recover fully and quickly in the middle of your training phase.
I cannot emphasize enough how important getting enough sleep is. Sleep is when our muscles regenerate and repair all the damage that is done, coming back stronger than before. Not to mention the other benefits of sleep, including curbing inflammation, keeping your brain clear and creative, sharpening your attention and memory, lowering stress, and improving mood. And yes, naps count as sleep, though most of us need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to allow us to get into our phases of deep and REM sleep that are so important.
Recovering from your fluid depletion actually begins during your run. During a long run, you can lose up to a quart or more of fluids and electrolytes through your sweat. Replenishing these during your run will help you get a jump start on post-run re-hydration. Following the run, continue to take in liquids. When you’re dehydrated, your blood thickens and your heart has to work much harder to pump efficiently. So keep drinking, even when you don’t feel thirsty anymore. It will help not only your recovery but your performance in your next run. (Does your pee need to be clear? I wrote about that here.)
Similar to your hydration, refueling your body begins while you are still running. If you take in fuel during your long run, you will be less depleted when you’re finished. Choose a high carbohydrate source that works for you, a sports drink, gels, or bars. After your run, try to have something to eat right away. There is a brief window of time, about 15 minutes following your run, that your body absorbs maximally to refill your glycogen stores. A recovery drink with a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrates to protein, plus electrolytes works well. For the rest of the day, eat enough to balance the calories that you have burned through exercise.
An intense training cycle is hard on your body. After all, we must break down those muscle fibers so they will grow stronger. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. After each run, don’t just run off to jump in the shower and go on with your day. Take some time to stretch, foam roll, and relax. An occasional sports massage can do wonders to get the kinks out of your hard working body. Your feet take a lot of punishment as you add on mileage, a pedicure can be just the thing to soothe and pamper them.
Remember, that it is not your actual training bouts in which you become stronger. It is during your period of rest and recovery that the small muscle tears you cause through your hard training repair themselves and adapt to a higher load. That is why sometimes more isn’t always better. If you find that you are consistently tired, have come to a plateau in your training, or exhibit other signs of overtraining, you may need to take a little extra rest time. An extra day off here or there is not going to hurt your training. In fact, it just may bring it to the next level.
Do you have any favorite recovery tips (or tricks)?