Post-training and race recovery is the most important part of a well-rounded training program if you want to get back to doing what you love to do, training! You need to be smart, it is very easy to fall into the trap of adding miles back in too quickly without allowing your body to recover fully. This can lead to injury, increased fatigue, and slower race times in your next race adventure. Trust me, I have been doing this for 26 years and have lots of experience with overtraining and injuries due to not recovering properly.
I always say my best recovery practices are sleep and nutrition. Now into my late-40s, I am finding I do need to rely on some tools to enhance my recovery from my day to day routine. My recovery practices include movements to correct existing muscle imbalances, reduce knots within the muscle, inhibit overactive muscles, increase mobility and decrease muscle soreness.
Below, in order of priority, are my recovery practices.
- Nutrition: Refuel immediately. Your muscles will need to rebuild and restore their glycogen stores. Athletes need a combination of protein and carbs to get through longer workouts. Protein synthesis can carry on long after the workout has ended if the athlete chooses to refuel properly with more protein after a training session Your main form of energy is a carbohydrate, so try to have both pre-and post-workout. My favorite, easy to drink meal after training and racing, is a Shakeology. If you are interested in a sample contact me. I also follow that up with a balanced meal within 2 hours of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes), plant-based proteins (tofu, beans, Field Roasted products), and veggies. I snack on fruits and nuts.
- Sleep: Being disciplined about your bedtime can make a huge impact on your training. Instead of going through the motions in morning practices, you can wake up feeling more restored from the previous day’s training and ready to hit the pool, trainer, or treadmill (or outside). Sleep is a key time for the body to undergo protein synthesis. Lights out no later than 10:00 pm for me. I tend to wake up at 5:30 am whether I go to bed at 9:30 pm or after midnight. If you struggle, make it a priority for a few weeks to go to bed one hour earlier than you usually do. See how you feel. Research suggests that taking a quick 10-20 minute nap can leave you feeling more energized and alert. Between morning and afternoon practice, find 20 minutes to close your eyes. You’ll be able to find extra gear during afternoon practice and feel an improvement in your mood as well.
- Active Recovery: Make sure you take some time to walk around after the race is over to keep the blood moving through your muscles. I know I always feel better if I walk around a bit after a race. If you do want to get moving it is important to get in some easy movement like walking, an easy swim, or an easy spin on your bike for a short duration. Yoga and Stretching: I have made this a habit every evening and feel great. Swimming is definitely my favorite active recovery because of stretches out my entire body
- Foam Roll Rolling out on a foam roller can apply pressure to knotted areas and help release the muscle from the layer of fascia, thereby boosting circulation and helping you get your range of motion back.
- Hot and Ice baths: They do feel good, conflicting research on how effective they are. I think they feel great and follow a hot tub / cold water protocol at least once a week in the winter months because I have access to an outdoor pool that is not heated When I don’t have a cold water pool or lake, after a long or intense event, I like to sit in a bath it for a minimum of 15 minutes and include 2 X 10-pound bags of ice.
- Bodywork: Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, Massage, Chiropractic. Paula Nickel was my PT when I lived in Fort Collins, she focused on M.A.T, muscle activation technique. She was a guest on the Endurance Hour Podcast Episode #197. I also relied on Acupuncture when I would feel some preexisting tendonitis flare-up. Now living in Georgia I found ART (Active Release Technique) with Dr. Scoville, at Dynamic Spine and Sport, and absolutely love it! With massage, I am not a regular massage goer. I find immediate relief, not long-lasting, maybe because I am not a regular
- Compression: Some athletes opt for compression to help accelerate the recovery process. Recent research shows that these tight garments can accelerate lactate clearance from the muscle tissue. Socks, tights, sleeves. A friend of mine gave me SKINs in 2008 and they are my compression of choice since then. I also heard on a recent podcast that a waist-deep swimming pool provides as much pressure found in compression boots.
- 10. Recovery boots: I used them for the first time when my friend visited me this past summer. They felt good. I can’t speak to whether they provide much recovery since I am not one to wear them
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