It’s generally understood that you can maximize your training and progress with optimal recovery practices. So it stands to reason that when you are stingy with recovery, you “minimize” training progress. Ask any coach or runner, and they’ll no doubt agree.
Mac Allen, a staff member at Ready to Run, knows a thing or two about recovery. Allen, who turns 60 this year, recently finished a 3:51 at the Boston Marathon, which age grades to 3:09.
“You definitely need to build recovery into your training,” said Allen. “Especially as you get older.”
“It’s an individual thing,” added Allen. “The best advice is listen to your body. If you come back from a hard run a few days after a work out and it completely exhausts you, then you learn that you need an extra day. Once you figure out how many ‘easy’ days you need, it will really help. It’s a little tricky but it’s as important as the workout itself.”
While your track repeats and killer long runs are great workouts and make for really good post-run talk, believe it or not, it’s the couch-time and sleep-time where all the training adaptations take place.
Without adequate rest/recovery, not only do you compromise your ability to improve and race faster, but your body won’t have time to adapt to the stress, which can lead to illness or injury.
True, it’s hard sometimes to build in recovery—especially if you are running for reasons other than race training—but it pays off.
There are a number of different factors involved in recovery, but the more obvious ones are: getting sufficient sleep (huge!); engaging in low-impact “active recovery” like walking or swimming, and just relaxing in general.
More running-specific actions include wearing compression apparel (available at Ready to Run). Compression socks for example, help to improve circulation in the surrounding muscles and push blood back toward the heart. The increased blood flow helps to flush out metabolic waste that accumulates after a hard race or workout.
And of course, there’s the fuel aspect of recovery. Start by drinking enough fluids to rehydrate. It’s well known that the body absorbs nutrients more readily within 30 minutes to an hour after running. It’s also been documented that a combination of carbohydrates and protein is the best mixture for refueling. In fact, chocolate milk has been cited as an ideal blend, and who can argue with that?
Bottom line: recovery means rehydrate, refuel, and repair damaged muscle tissues. Your body will thank you when you start your next hard workout or race.