Recover to Run Faster
Has machismo taken over running? I've lost count of the number of running friends who are pounding the pavements in Run Every Day challenges. Day after day strava posts of runs into work, parkruns and long runs at the weekend. Maybe 5k, maybe 10 and training for the big one later in the year.
Then all of a sudden silence. They're lost from Strava and gone quiet on Facebook. That niggle they'd been ignoring has turned nasty.
You see, Run Every Day is a great challenge, but unless your body is up to the continued demands and pressures of relentless exercise at some point it will say stop.
Read on to find out more about why you need to Recovery to Run Faster.
What is recovery and why is it so important?
Recovery after running is important to repair, rest and refuel, and allow returning to a ‘normalised’ state. A period of recovery also allows your body to adapt from the running and training work you've done and to gain strength and fitness.
The hours and days between your training and running matter. Whilst you’re resting, your body isn’t ‘inert’ it’s working hard on recovery so you can be ready for more running!
Different periods in your training cycle require different strategies for recovery.
When you’re training hard, running high mileage and including hard speed sessions during your training programme, it's normal to feel tired and have sore muscles because muscles are adapting to the heavy training workload to make a stronger endurance runner. You're pushing yourself and working your body hard to deliver improvements in strength and fitness so after expect to feel tired and sore.
When you're pushing hard in training it's equally important to include rest and recovery into your training week to allow your body to build and make strength and fitness adaptations. If you run or train back to back you’re not allowing your body time to do this, so recovery and overall training impact on building your strength and fitness might be impaired.
When you're in the hard training period you need 'active recovery' that will help the body adapt to the training pressures and exertions you're putting it under.
When you get close to a race, whether it’s a half you’ve booked to test out your speed and fitness or your end goal marathon recovery is all about helping you to get race ready, for you legs and body to feel fresh and ready to run.
It’s important to build a taper period into your training programme, to allow your body time to recover and refresh itself, so that you’re rested and ready to race. If you’re running a half, then I would taper (reduce running mileage and intensity) the week before a race. Marathon training plans usually allow 3 – 4 weeks of taper, where run and weekly mileage is gradually reduced to allow the body to rest, recover, repair and refresh ahead of the all important race day!
Recovery before a race is 'rest recovery' to ensure your body is well rested and in peak condition before your race.
So what can you do to help with recovery?
Foam rolling is a great recovery tool and it’s more effective than stretching. Foam rolling helps to push metabolic waste (from your exercise exertions) from your body, it helps with circulation as well as to ease and loosen tight and worked muscles.
Good sleep is the best way to recover to boost your fitness and running performance.
When you get good quality deep sleep (in the third and fourth stages of a sleep cycle) human growth hormone is released, which helps build and repair tissues. If you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more cortisol, which interferes with this tissue repair.
Also not getting enough sleep impacts on glucose metabolism, which could leave you with lower carbohydrate (glycogen) stores to fuel long runs.
Good nutrition is critical to help your body recover. After a hard workout, such as your weekly long run, you need to replenish the carbohydrates you will have burnt running and eat protein to help your body start to repair your worked muscles. It’s recommended that after a hard workout you aim to eat a meal or snack which contains both carbohydrate and protein in the ratio 4 : 1, carbs to protein. Real food is much better than powders and shakes. Milk or a sandwich made with cheese, egg, ham or tuna are excellent quick snack ideas.
If you’re training hard, and have another session (maybe a strength & conditioning workout later after a run) then try to eat something within 30 minutes to 1 hour, to maximise refuelling and recovery. After your workout your muscles will be ‘porous’ to take up the nutrients for rapid refuelling and recovery.
But make sure that your post workout recovery snack is proportional to the exercise you’ve just done. You don’t need to be eating huge amounts after an easy run (waiting until your next meal is fine!), otherwise you risk putting on weight.
Take a Break
After training hard for a few months it’s also important for your body and mind to take a complete break from running. Don’t feel guilty about going on holiday this summer and not running, or taking a complete break over the Christmas and New year period just before training in earnest starts in spring.
If you’re a regular runner, who runs to rest, relax and recuperate from the stresses of life, taking a break can be hard, but you’ll feel rested, relaxed and recuperated after which will help your overall running performance.
Your holiday is a time for rebalancing and strengthening your body and mind in different ways to rejuvenate you. So instead of taking a complete break from fitness and exercise go for long walks, swimming or cycling, try yoga, dancing or a new class at the gym.
In summary, recovery is important and needs equal focus to training to allow your body to consolidate and repair from the training effort you’re putting it under, so make sure you take rest and recovery seriously through your marathon training to maximise your race day performance.
If you're training for a marathon this autumn or have your sights on one for next spring join Marathon Club Hub for support along your marathon training journey.