Welcome to Day 7 of our Devoted New Year series! Today we are talking about recovery tools! These posts are brought to you by Meridith creator of Devoted Training; a 52 week faith-based training journal, and myself. We hope you enjoy!

Jack Daniels states that training should strive for the least amount of stress possible to achieve a given adaptation. With both the physical and mental breakdown associated with running, it is important to have a collection of recovery tools available to continue to grow strong and have your best year of running.

According to Tudor Bompa, PhD and Carlo Buzzichelli of Periodization Training for Sports, about 50% of an athlete’s final performance depends on the ability to recover. Without recovery, adaptation may not be realized. Recovery is affected by a number of factors. Females tend to recover more slowly than males. Environment and life stress can also influence the ability to recover properly. Take these factors into account and apply some of the tips listed below to help you recover and adapt best to your training stimulus.

Active Recovery

Active recovery can take the form of easy jogging, walking, cycling, or any other light exercise that increases blood flow. According to Bompa and Buzzichelli, 62% of lactic acid is removed during the first 10 minutes of continuous light jogging, and an additional 26% is removed in the next 10 minutes. This is one of the reasons that a true cool down after higher intensity running is so valuable. 

Massage and Rolling

It’s great fun to go to a massage therapist, but that is not always necessary. A lot of progress can be made through self-massage or rolling. Massage can be very good at reducing inflammation. It also stretches myofascial adhesions for removal by the circulatory system. Massage increases blood circulation and opens capillaries to about 35% compared to the 4% that are open at rest. More blood flow means fresh blood and healing substances to the affected area. Massage also increases lymphatic circulation, which removes wastes and restores healthy balance to the tissues.

Two other techniques that qualify with similar benefits as massage are sitting with the legs up the wall and wearing compression socks. When the legs are stretched up the wall and are higher than the heart, gravity can help the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. Compression socks are reported to increase circulation with similar benefits as massage, although research has not been established to corroborate this claim (placebo effect is pretty powerful too).

Rest and Sleep

Rest is the phase where the body is able to absorb adaptations the best. The amount of sleep that an individual requires can vary, but most athletes need about 10 hours of sleep a day (including naps) to function at full capacity (!). This isn’t always practical for working athletes or athletes with little ones still waking up in the night. But it’s good motivation to try to get to bed a little earlier each night. Want more motivation? The book Sleep for Success by Dr. James Maas states that well rested athletes are about 20% quicker at performing physical tasks than those that lack adequate rest.  There are critical muscle growth and recovery steps that only occur when the body is able to enter specific stages of sleep.

Nutrition

We’ll talk more about nutrition in a later post, but let’s not neglect to mention it here as well. Eating high nutrient foods in healthy quantities is crucial for proper recovery. Inadequate calories will lead to catabolism, which is counterproductive to the effort being applied. Refueling with adequate carbs and protein 30-60 minutes after your run will help restore glycogen levels and help muscles to repair.  Hydration is just as important as proper fueling, so reach for your favorite Nuun flavor or water bottle after a run or workout.

Hot/Cold Contrast

For as long as we’ve been athletes, we’ve known the value of icing injuries. Some athletes also adopt the ice bath approach. (Small aside: ice baths can actually limit the positive adaptations of a workout because they stop the normal, healthy cascade response to stress. The same is true of popping ibuprofen. Unless you are truly injured, avoid the polar plunge or pill popping.) Contrast therapy, mostly in the form of hot/cold baths, is thought to create a “muscle pumping” action, where the alternating temperatures creates blood flow constrictions and dilations, thus flushing the muscles similar to the role of active recovery.

Mental Recovery

Let’s end the topic of recovery by talking about the mental side of things. Just like the body breaks down, so does the brain. We’ll cover mental strength in a later post, but it fits nicely in recovery too. Whether it’s one workout that took you over the edge, or a series of workouts that have worn you down, it is important to recognize that stress is stress. Running related stress and life stress can affect running performances. Some runners do better by talking about running more, while others need to take a break and focus on other things. Know that your identity is not in running. God has created you to run and enjoy the process, and you are special regardless of performance.

What are your go-to recovery methods?

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