A Recovery Revelation
It is a critical time of year for many runners, some are coming off of spring marathons, big ultras, or the state track meet. While others are in the final preparation stages for a late spring goal race or the NCAA track meet. Regardless of what category you fall in, recovery is always a relevant topic of conversation. Now without doing a general survey of our long distance running population, it is safe to assume most of us are a bit OCD with our mileage and everyday running routine. We get our schedule each week and love to follow it as close as possible. Deny it? Take a look at that nice round number you have on the last 8 weeks of your Strava calendar? You see what we mean now, don't you?
What would it look like if we were as diligent and precise with our recovery as we were with our running? Now this should not be a revelation for anyone, but it may be the revival you need in your own training in understanding where you fall short. Let’s take a look at a few key areas where we commonly fall short.
What if we told you sleep was the greatest tool you are probably underutilizing? As an athlete, I challenge you to not only track miles but maybe take a week or two to track sleep and see how it correlates to your health and performance. Sleep not only enhances physical recovery but also mental recovery, and here is how. The body goes through various stages during sleep and each of them are equally as important. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is found to aid in more of the mental side of recovery. REM sleep has shown to primarily benefit memory, learning and mood. Non-REM, slow-wave or deep sleep is the cycle that primarily impacts physical recovery. While asleep, testosterone and growth hormone levels are elevated. This secretion of hormones during this cycle stimulates bone growth, immune function and administers amino acids in the body which helps with the body’s natural physical repair system. So if we are talking about the importance of sleep going into and out of a big workout or race, we are talking about our ability to have elevated mood and enhanced physical recovery during these highly critical times. How much sleep do we need? If you are in a heavy training cycle, 8 hours minimum is recommended. Now we know life doesn’t always happen around our training cycle. Try your best to get the most quality sleep possible and add a little to the time you are currently getting.
*Goal for the next few weeks: Track your sleep in your training log or whatever fitness tracking device you use. See how it impacts your performance.
2. Post Workout Nutrition
Post workout nutrition is often an ignored piece of the recovery puzzle. Current research shows that after a workout the muscle cells’ ability to begin rebuilding peaks at about 15 minutes post workout and declines significantly by 60 minutes. This means there is an optimal window for getting your recovery nutrition is. What is necessary for this refuel? Carbohydrates and protein. Your depleted muscles need to restore those glycogen stores. Aim for a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. There should be no excuses in being prepared. In the same way you pack your shoes to go for a run, you should have recovery fuel packed too
3. Stretching and Rolling
Stretching helps with increased range of motion and muscular coordination. Research has also shown that more flexible muscles recover quicker as they are readily prepared for glycogen replacement. Take it to the next level by adding in some foam rolling. Foam rolling brings blood flow to the area you are working on which leads to the restoration of healthy tissues. It also breaks up myofascial adhesions between the muscles. This leads to a quicker recovery process! Check out our article on recovery tools to see what one may suit you best. As harsh as it is, we must make time to stretch and roll. If It means cutting a run 5 min short so we have time to stretch before hopping in our car to shower, go to work and sit at a desk for 8 hours, it is worth it.
What would it look like if we were diligent in tracking recovery methods in the same way we religiously log our mileage.We believe your training can only be as good as the recovery following it. Tough to swallow? Step up your recovery game and just see what happens. We promise you will not be disappointed. What you gain could be consistency, health, boosted performance from both a mental and physical level. You’ve got nothing to lose by amping up this part of your training.