There’s a tendency among us runners to map out when we run and when we work out. We plan for fast days, slow days, long days, and short days. We pick days for strength training and days for racing. But we often neglect to plan out our recovery days. Instead of just spending your rest days sitting on the couch and watching reruns of The Good Wife (It’s my current favorite show), there are active things you can plan and add to your rest routine to make sure that you are using your off time effectively. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s benefit to having a day, every once in a while, to just veg out and relax. But for performance oriented athletes, it’s just as important to plan out your recovery time as you plan out your workouts. I’ll list a few things below that should be a part of your recovery days:
1. Feed Yourself!
After hard workouts and long distance races, it’s really easy to just have your post race beer and call it a day. Our appetites (at least mine) tend to be super diminished after a high intensity effort, but it’s important to pour some protein into your system, as well as healthy fats to keep your organs (which are mostly fat) happy. Some people use Tailwind Rebuild mix, some use Trail Butter, or just other plain protein rich or fat rich foods, but it’s essential to give your body the resources it needs to restore itself after you’ve put it under stress. Stay away from highly processed foods (my greatest weakness) but be sure to refill yourself with the calories, and nutrients to recover quickly and ensure sustainable running.
2. Get a Rubdown!
Look, we all know how our muscles feel after a hard run or race. They HURT. That’s the physical sensation of muscle inflammation. Now, inflammation is a good thing, because that’s part of the process of our body’s recovering and adapting to exercise. That’s why extended use of NSAIDS (an anti-inflammatory medication) can actually inhibit recovery. There are better ways to speed up the recovery process of sore muscles, and one of them is massage. Stimulating those areas with massage gets your blood flowing, increases your flexibility, and gets you back out on the trails more quickly. You can either perform self massage with a Rollga roller or Original Worm Roller or some other foam product, or you can treat yourself and get a professional massage from Austin Massage Company. Either way, rubbing down those sore muscles is an important part of getting yourself back in running shape.
3. Again, Get More (and Better) Sleep!
Some people have weird work hours that inhibit sleep. Some of y’all have physiological or psychological factors that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Or you could be like me and you just stay up until 2:30 in the morning reading about the proper adhesives to glue different kinds of rubber to shoe soles. There’s always a reason we’re not getting a good night’s sleep. But quality sleep is possibly the greatest tool for recovery. It stimulates the chemicals that repair our muscles, allows us to process insulin more effectively, and contributes to the physical and mental well-being that’s crucial to performance. As runners, we already have an advantage over other folks: heavy and regular exercise is correlated with longer and higher quality sleep. We can run to sleep better and sleep to run better – lean into that positive habit loop and improve your quality of life. Start by increasing the quality of your sleep using the tips we all know: Put your phones away, remove light sources, turn the thermostat down, and make sure you sleep on a supportive and comfortable surface. Make sure you sleep the proper number of hours per night. Then watch as your running performance improves. Then marvel as your improved running performance leads to improved sleep. And so on. Y’all already know how important sleep is for you, we’ve all read about it. Now we just need to do it!
I hope those few tips help a bit in helping you prioritize your recovery. Pam and I found a couple of solid articles that have more info about this, and I’ve listed them below so that you can read them for yourself:
https://www.irunfar.com/2014/09/recover-better-10-rules-for-optimal-ultramarathon-recovery.html – This is a wonderful article from Joe Uhan that gives great general tips and a philosophy for recovery.
https://www.uphillathlete.com/tips-to-aid-recovery/ – This is another great article that digs into the nitty gritty tools that you can use to recover more effectively.