Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Magic of Recovery


Does running make you stonger?

A) Yes!
B) No!
C) Uhhhhh, you didn't say there was going to be a quiz!
D) Shut up, stinky, you should take a shower before you blog!

The correct answer is...







B! No. Running does not make you stronger. Recovering from running makes you stronger! Let me give you a quick example as proof. You just ran four 1 mile repeats at a very strong effort. Could you immediately repeat the same workout again? No, of course not! The workout made you weaker for the time being, but as you recover, your body builds back stronger.

What if you don't let it rebuild?

Injury. Illness. Lack of energy. Dead legs. Grouchiness. Burn out.

We've all been there, I'm sure of it. Whether it has been caused by sudden good weather, peaking for a marathon, a new ambitious running partner, or any other reason I've missed -- It sucks. It's something to be avoided at all costs, if we'd like to continue to reap the health and fitness gains from our commitment to running.

There are two key ways to avoid these negative effects: Decrease the time it takes to recover or increase the time spent recovering. Easy enough, right?

Decreasing the time it takes to recover is the route most runners want to take. Faster recovery equates to more miles/higher intensity equates to better performance come race day. Although these are intuitive, they're easy to overlook. The main idea here is recovery happens during those 22-23 hours every day you aren't running! Here are some tips to decrease your time to recover:
  • Sleep more. Make it a priority to get 1 more hour of sleep every day (either at night, or with a nap) and your running will reap the benefits
  • Eat healthy. Food = fuel. This is especially important before or after a hard day. What fuel would you rather burn on a fast or long run: ice cream or pasta? See Heidi's post and everything she links to. It's full of great information!
  • Eat to recover. As soon as you finish a run, eat! The 30 minutes following a run your body is begging for nutrients, and it soaks them up like a sponge. Take advantage of this.
  • Stay hydrated. Always have a water bottle with you to sip from. Being well hydrated will help your body repair itself.
  • Get a massage. Obviously this isn't something to be done frequently (unless you have a money tree), but getting a massage every month or two can really help recovery after a hard week of training.
  • Increase your mileage slowly. As your body gets used to more miles, it recovers from them more efficiently since that is exactly what you're training it to do. However, if you increase too fast you're begging for all the symptoms of overtraining listed above!
Now for the other side of the coin. Increasing duration of recovery:
  • Take more time between workouts. Obvious, right? The only problem is we always want to run more. We don't want to take a day off.
  • Take a 'fake' day off. This is for people who just can't take a day off from running. They're so horribly addicted that hell would very likely freeze over if they missed a run. For you guys, take a fake day off: One day run early in the morning, the next day run late at night. This gives your body 36+ hours to recover between workouts.
  • Run easy. After hard workouts, your body needs the break. Don't underestimate the benefit of an easy run. Focus on relaxing for the entire run. Pfitzinger's book, Advanced Marathoning, advocates the idea of the Hard-Easy principle. You want to run to recover, rather than recover to run.
Does anybody have any tips to add to these lists? What do you do to make sure you're ready to run hard when it counts?


Jess said...

The only thing worse than a pop quiz is a pop quiz with a "trick question"! Geez, Doug!

Marcy said...

We all know how you love to get a "massage" :P This was a good post Doug!

Nancy said...

That settles it, you were born to teach. :D

Nice post.

Steve Stenzel said...

Always good advice!

(I would have said "D")

Viv said...

Thanks, Doug as a newbie runner I found a few great tips here. OK starting now, I am going to bed an hour early right now. goodnight

Anonymous said...

This post is super timely for me. On Sunday, after three hard days in a row (purposefully stacked that way), I was totally demolished.
As in, I went to bed on Sunday night at 6:00pm. There was a ton still that needed to be done, but my body just would not stay up any longer. I thought I was getting sick.
Just completely whooped.
13 hours of sleep did me right up. The next night I slept 9. After two solid days or rest, I went out today and totally nailed a very taxing triple day (10mi run, 40 min bike intervals, plyometrics). To say the rest and recovery made me stronger would be a massive understatement!
And I cannot underline enough the importance of sleep. The body is an amazing healing machine!
Great post.
I love the "fake rest day" idea.
Very sneaky.
Very clever.

Stuart said...

Dude, you have wayyy too much time.

I'll be faking my body on the weekend, run Sat am and Sun pm, my TP has me running 3 hours each day!

You should mention that running on Monday morning would not be a good thing!

Oh yeah and marry a PT/Massuse now there's a good idea!

Perry said...

Good tip for people who can't take a day off. I'm actually not obsessed with running (or joggling). I just started a streak last year and don't want to break it.

Just Your Average Joggler
Perry, 44

Anonymous said...

I just turned 50 & my goal is to qualify for Boston. I'm a lean
"Clydesdale" @ 6' 4" , 190 lbs...
NOT your typical marathoner. I
started doing ice baths to speed my recovery. I did'nt want to be buying ice or making it every day.
I froze 8 quart bottles in my freezer & insert them in half-filled tub of cold water. After a hard run I sit in tub for 12-20
minutes. I bring land phone, cell phone, post-workout meal & make use of my "icy recovery" time. It takes a minute to put 8 containers into a large bucket (w/ wheels) &
put them back into freezer. No expense of buying ice, no time buying ice, pouring it into tub... etc. Hey, it works for me & @ 50 I need help in getting faster. Wish me luck in Milwaukee on Oct 4th as I need an 3:35:59...which is approx. 12 minutes faster than my PR. BRIAN.