(My sister is doing Marathon Week with her running club in the UK. Basically this entails them running the total marathon distance over 5 days. Some days are short, some long, hill repeats, long run…. a real mix. I am super proud but she messaged me on Sunday asking for recovery tips. Thanks for the inspiration for this post!)
Recovery is the way you get stronger. The faster you recover from a workout or race the faster you can train or race again and hence the faster you become.
You cross the finish line and hopefully get congratulated on your fantastic run. You forget your hard effort and wallow in your achievement! The reality is that you have far from crossed the finish line yet!
It is well known among rock climbers that more mistakes happen during the descent than during the ascent of a cliff face. I hope to give you some ideas here as to make your recovery and return to homeostasis as easy and pain free as possible.
The first thing I do is try to get my running gear off and warm layers on. I like to put on more layers than I initially think I will need. Inevitably it is colder than you first think.
I walk into the supermarket in a stupor, I am dirty, I smell and I am wearing muddy trail shoes that cause the cleaners to frown and cuss. I certainly do not fit into the crowd of dolled up mommies with screaming toddlers. I am frantic but have no focus. I can’t think straight and finally, after much walking up and down each isle in a daze I find myself in the sweet isle buying junk and useless sugar.
Refuelling is all about getting the right food in as soon as you can. The Triathlete and I normally make a smoothy (4 scoops yoghurt, 1 banana or similar fruit, oats or muesli, cinnamon and a spot of water, blend the fruit, yoghurt etc and then add muesli afterwards) as soon as we finish a weekend long bike ride or run. This takes 10 minutes to make and is easy to eat. This is for sessions that finish at home. For sessions that finish away from home we plan ahead and pack at least a 500ml water bottle and some fruit. For early morning sessions we pre make the smoothy and simply add the oats after the shower. We may add a boiled egg, some nuts, yogi sip or flavoured milk as the next course depending on hunger levels. The crux is to have something easy to eat and drink close by so that you don’t have to think. We often have to encourage and nudge each other to finish our portion if we are too tired. Once you get over the initial sugar low then you are good to go and make a more substantial food decision. As a last resort a Coke is a real pick me up here. Beware it does not last very long though!
Rehydration also needs some forward thought. It is not really necessary to buy too many expensive recovery drinks. Flavoured milk (I like Sterri Stumpie) or Coke add depleted sugar to your system. I struggle to just drink water in the quantity that is required so I like to add Rehydrat to the first (or possibly second) bottle of 500ml water. I definitely do notice a difference that these electrolytes make. I drink regularly until I need to urinate regularly.
Recovery is an art that involves more than just eating and drinking. It is also about making you feel better. A good clean helps and draws attention to chafe and blisters that you did not notice earlier. Once I have a bath or shower I put my feet up for a while (20 min is good). This really does help get lactic acid out of the legs. Inevitably this ends up being a bit of a snooze on the couch!
I have used compression socks for recovery and they do help but I am not convinced that they help any more than putting your legs up for 20min and I find that is far cheaper.
Obviously a massage is good but I certainly can’t claim to be an expert here. The few times that I have had the luxury of a massage it has been great.
After Two Ocean’s Ultra a few years ago I put my legs into the cold Atlantic Ocean for 15 minutes. It hurt like hell but once your feet go numb then it is not so bad. The effect is amazing as my legs felt much better the next day. I am sure the cold, moving ocean and salt water all help in the process. I am not really brave enough to go and sit in a tub of ice water though!
Good luck with getting this right and getting into good shape for your next training session!
Let me have your tips and ideas below.