Improving your race fitness means running challenging workouts from time to time. The harder and more often you run, the more you need to pay attention to the post run recovery process. Being able to bounce back quickly from a tough workout not only increases the volume and intensity at which you can train, it also improves your enjoyment of the sport. Running isn’t a lot of fun when you feel like you’re struggling through your daily mileage.
Further complicating matters is the fact that most of aren’t full time elite professional runners who have all day to simply eat, sleep and run. After we run, most of have to go to work, transport the kids to their various activities, take care of the house etc. All of these “little” things can drain your precious energy and make Paying attention to your post run recovery all the more important.
Fortunately, there are a number of little tricks of the trade you can use that will enhance your recovery, reduce the possibility of injuries, and most importantly, don’t take a lot of time to implement.
1. Get some protein and carbohydrate into your system ASAP.
The ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for post run recovery is 4:1, that is 4 grams of carbohydrate per gram of protein. This ratio has proven to be ideal for not only replenishing glycogen stores, but also jump starting the process of rebuilding and repairing broken down muscle tissue. The sooner you take in food and liquid the better, within 30 minutes is ideal, and if you wait more than 2 hours, you’ve lost most of the beenfit of this strategy. Chocolate milk is the poster child for this technique, since it not only contains the correct ratio of carbs to protein, it is also comprised of about 90% water so you can rehydrate, restock your glycogen stores and begin to rebuild your muscles all with one drink.
2. Static Stretching.
Ok, I know that static stretching has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, with researchers showing tha static stretching immediately prior to running actually reduces muscle contractility during that run and may contribute to injury. I don’t recommend stretching prior to a run, however taking a few moments post run to stretch your major muscle groups not only feels great and is a relaxing way to finish a workout, it also enhances your recovery and reduces the overall tightness that comes from a high mileage trainign program.
Sleep is perhaps the most critical part of the repair process. When we sleep, our bodies secrete Human Growth Hormone and melatonin, both crucial to tissue repair and supercompensation and even immune system response. Getting a good night’s sleep makes a big difference, not only in how we feel on a run, but how we feel for the rest of the day as well. And don’t discount the benefits of power naps. Even a 15 to 30 minute nap can have significant restorative effects.
4. Rehydrate, rehydrate, rehydrate.
Runners sometimes find themselves walking around in a constant state of semi-dehydration. Some runners, myself included tend to down a glass or two fo water after a run and figure we’re good to go. Staying rehydrated helps your entire body function better and helps clear out toxins and metabolites. If you’re properly hydrated, your urine should be clear or almost clear in colour.
5. Warm up and cool down properly before and after each run.
The body tends to prefer gradual transitions to and from the exercising state. One thing I discovered from wearing a heart rate monitor during my runs for a number of years was that starting my runs more quickly (even by as little as 10-15 seconds per mile) resulted in a higher heart rate throughout the run, regardless of the overall pace of the run. A slower start seemed to not only reduce the stress of the workout, but also improve my ability to recover after the workout.
Similarly, if you stop and hop in your car immediately after a race or track workout, be prepared for some stiff and sore muscles the next day. Your body needs a few minutes of gentle jogging and walking to properly transition back to your resting state.
Paying attention to your post run recovery status is one of those little things that doesn’t seem like much, but can really make a difference in the quality of your workouts, injury prevention and your overall enjoyment of the sport. If you can think of any recovery tips I haven’t mentioned, send me a comment and share your wisdom!