Improvements in fitness occur when the body is recovering from the rigors of training, not during the actual run. That’s when the body is being challenged and broken down. This is why it’s important to recovery properly, ensuring that tough workout will improve fitness during a training cycle. I could take a deep dive into all of the things that help promote faster recovery, but let me keep it simple and effective. When running, and especially when stressing the human body to its limits, it needs three essential things in order to help regenerate a number of physiological systems. In no particular order, the “Big Three” to recovery include sleep, hydration, and nutrition.
I’ll first start by talking about sleep and why it’s vital to maximizing recovery.Sleep is when our bodies restore and repair all of the damage that was done throughout the day. Everyone is different in regard to how much sleep they require, but once training increases, so to should sleep. This may sound like common sense, but I see runners neglecting sleep on a daily basis. Most people are driven and want to maximize the most out of the day. Important hormones such as testosterone are optimized and restored while sleeping. Other hormones affected by sleep and associated with faster recovery include growth hormone, thyroid hormone, epinephrine, insulin, and cortisol. If possible, naps are another great way to restore energy throughout the day. This will not only help with that afternoon workout, but will also help with productivity and cognitive function.
Tips for rest or sleep:
- Try to get on average 8 hrs/night (More training = More sleep)
- The body and mind like consistency (Develop a routine that work for you)
- Try napping (15-30 min/day can work wonders)
The second key to faster recovery is hydration. About 60 percent of the human body is made up of water. Fluid loss during exercise varies depending on weight, intensity, duration, weather, humidity, and sweat rate. Although water is the majority or what’s needed, don’t forget about electrolytes. It’s important to stay away from sugary beverages while hydrating throughout the day. These should only be used just after long or intense workouts, as they only serve purpose to replenish carbohydrate needs in the short term.
Tips for proper hydration:
- Have a glass of water first thing in the morning (Before coffee)
- Have a glass of water before bed (After wine)
- Carry a water bottle throughout the day (I prefer a Hydro flask to plastic)
- Include electrolytes that are low in sugar (Nunn and SOS are great options)
The last of the “Big Three” to faster recovery, and perhaps my personal favorite, is nutrition. Anytime demands change on the body, so to should caloric needs. If someone increases their training from 20 miles/wk to 30, more must be consumed in order to refuel and replenish the body. Of course this means healthy options that do a great job of restoring nutrients to vital organs and muscles. Nutrition following a run should include a balance of carbs, protein, and fats. The intensity and duration of a run play a major role in how much of each. I’m not a nutritionist, but listening to your body and it’s needs is key to proper nutrition.
Tips for post run nutrition
- Recovery drink immediately following a tough workout (Scratch, Chocolate milk)
- Bring a healthy snack or bar with you to each workout (Cliff bar, Scratch bar, Banana)
- Eat a larger well balanced meal within 2 hrs following the workout (The sooner the better)
- Listen to your body and how it responds (Example: It’s tough for me to eat immediately after a tough session or race. I have to consume my calories in the form of liquids until my stomach settles down)
Other post run recovery tips
- Ice bath (10-15 minutes to help flush out inflammation and restore muscles. Only on occasion after tough workouts or long runs.)
- Deep Tissue Massage (Helps repair long-term overuse muscle damage that’s tough to manage on your own. It takes me a couple of days to recover after a deep tissue massage. Only schedule after a tough effort, and a few days prior to a long run or workout.)
- Self massage ( Several days a week using foam rollers, The Stick, Roll Recovery, and other products.)
Stay tuned for future videos on recovery tips, and how to best implement them into your training routine!