WARNING - this comes at a risk. At PhysioElite Physiotherapy and Sports injury clinic, we tend to see a spike in mid to late January of simple overuse injuries, unwanted and unnecessary muscular tension and avoidable compensatory patterns. Eager January beavers can take on the world, can train every day, and can ignore their training logs! In the inexperienced, new training goals literally take over, and we neglect to listen to our bodies crying out for a recovery session, some cross training or very simply, just a day off.
Anyone who is familiar with my work knows I am such a huge advocate of recovery. I believe it is an important as clocking miles, setting new PB’s and getting in those results guaranteed hill sessions. Recovery is an essential component to factor into every new training plan or new long term goal target. There are numerous methods of recovery and numerous benefits with too much science and research attached to them to ignore. Some of the most common methods include:
- Nutrition - let’s face it, eating is the reason why a lot of us run! Good nutrition ensures we’ve enough fuel to get us through our sessions but also ensures that our body can rebuild and recover post exercise so we’ve enough in the tank to get through our next session at the desired level. Sports nutrition is a huge area, a whole other blog post and there is already a wealth of information on the runrepublic site, but in general, ensuring you’ve enough fuel to get through your training and your post training meal guarantees energy replenishment (carbohydrates) and muscle repair (protein) is a basic, but good start
- Hydration – water has some many important bodily functions and a negative side effect of exercise is loss of water through mechanisms such as sweating for example. The goal of drinking during exercise is to prevent excessive dehydration and abnormal changes in electrolyte balance to ensure that performance is not compromised. (American College of Sports Medicine, 2007). There are many complex hydration monitoring techniques, but weight monitoring is probably the easiest implemented technique that shows good effectiveness. The American College of Sports Medicines guidelines are useful and easy to follow
Timing Amount Adaptation
2hr before exercise Drink 500ml None
During Exercise Drink 600-1200ml per hour Drink 150-300ml every 15-20 mins
After Exercise Based on pre and post exercise Drink 150% of the amount
bodyweight changes, drink enough needed to restore body weight.
fluid to restore body weight This amount compensates for urine losses
(16oz of fluid =1lb of bodyweight)
(American College of Sports Medicine, 2007).
- Sleep- Factors such as the amount of sleep, the quality of sleep, as well as the timing of your night’s sleep are factors that play a role in an athlete’s ability to train, maximise the training response, recover and perform (Haussworth et al, 2014). Aiming for 7-9 hours a week and monitoring the quality of your sleep is advisable. And the power nap….who doesn’t love a good power nap!
- Massage - while there is mixed evidence, there are some studies that clearly state that massage can decrease pain, muscle tone, hyperactivity (Roberts, 2011) and some pro inflammatory markers at a cellular level. (Crane et al, 2011) I have no doubt there is a placebo effect for some individuals. But if it works for you, why not? The post-race massage is a ritual for a lot of athletes and it has many psychological benefits post-race that can benefit the runner. A lot of recovery modalities, due to their mixed research benefits, should be given the “trial and error” approach. I’d definitely recommend the post-race massage for the trial.
- Cryotherapy – again, another area where the research is mixed. (Crowe et al, Pfeiffer et al, 2010) Whole cold water immersion, ice baths, cryotherapy chambers can definitely decrease the perception of pain or discomfort associated with athletic performance, it’s not the most comfortable of recovery strategies. See points 3 and 4 above!
- Recovery systems - we use the Normatec a recovery system here at PhysioElite. It’s an air compression system that works on increasing circulation and removing lactic acid as well as giving similar effects as massage such as a decrease in inflammatory markers. Research in the Journal of Sports Strength and Conditioning has shown its effectiveness in decreasing pain, muscle tenderness and stiffness post exercise (Sands et al, 2015). I love it, our runners love it and it’s something anyone serious about a training plan should try during a high mileage week or heavy training load.
- Cross training- most of us like variety and so do our muscles. Varying the type of exercise you do allows muscle groups to recover and maybe some less dominant running muscle groups to take over a bit of the work load. Doing hill run or speed sessions continuously with no variety to your schedule will leave you with knees and quads that are not impressed with your carry on. Varying your schedule and including other types of exercise such as cycling, strength training and Pilates may even improve the quality your run sessions as well as decreasing injury risk.
There is an endless list of other recovery options - self myofascial release foam rolling, mobility/flexibility, hydrotherapy with each of these recovery sessions being a blog post in itself. This is only a brief taster but when you’re designing your training programme, don’t forget to incorporate your recovery schedule. I can promise you, your body will thank you for it.
Crane JD , Ogborn DI , Cupido C Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Sci Transl Med 2012;4:119
Crowe MJ, O'Connor D, Rudd D Cold water recovery reduces anaerobic performance. Int J Sports Med 2007;28:994–8.
Peiffer JJ, Abbiss CR, Watson G, Effect of a 5-min cold-water immersion recovery on exercise performance in the heat. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2010;44:461-465.
Roberts L Effects of patterns of pressure application on resting electromyography during massage. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork 2011;4:4–11
Sands WA, McNeal JR, Murray SR, Stone MH. Dynamic Compression Enhances Pressure-to-Pain Threshold in Elite Athlete Recovery: Exploratory Study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2015 May;29(5):1263-72