How to stop digging and start recovering

Lots of runners are keen to do the physical running that forms the bulk of their training, but not so keen to get the right amount of rest and recovery that will actually enable them to run at their best. Unfortunately this is an all too common approach that many recreational runners as they dig themselves into physical holes or repetitive cycles of injury, which could have been avoided through adequate rest and recovery.

Given that we are coaching and running in the ‘endurance sports’ space, the number of hours spent training and the subsequent stress that we on our bodies, is high. As a result, we have got to make sure that we recover adequately and give something back to our bodies.

So what can we do ourselves to help our own recovery? From my experiences as a coach and building on my own training and recovery habits, here are 4 practical tips for aiding recovery:

  1. Water. Drink plenty of it. Take a sports bottle to work, top it up when you can, particularly in the hours before or immediately after a session. It can take days to truly recover from being severely dehydrated. Being dehydrated will negatively affect your training and makes you crave some dubious food choices. When the weather is hot or humid and when the training load increases, it is definitely worth adding an electrolyte tablet or powder in to make sure that your electrolyte levels are all topped up as well.

  2. Massage and rolling. I am a massive advocate for foam rollers and most other self-massage tools. Rolling can be an unpleasant experience, but the results are well worth it. If you can do a couple of 20 minute rolling sessions for the major areas in your legs (gluts, quads, hamstrings, calves) and back per week, you will feel less stiff, more mobile and more able to run fluently. This applies particularly to people who are not overly mobile in their day jobs. Sports Massage Therapists will also tell you that their massages are more effective and less painful if their clients do some rolling themselves.

  3. Cross Training. This is not a new idea. Athletes at all levels have been using cross training to improve their performance in their chosen sport for years. Particularly for us runners, where the constant impact of running over time can take its toll on our joints, cross training can work wonders. It also adds variety, by doing different sports / activities such as pilates, swimming and biking. As a coach, I like to see these aerobic activities like swimming and bike riding in training plans, as this importantly adds aerobic fitness, without adding too much impact on joints.

  4. Easy means easy. This is one of the top pieces of advice that I regularly give out to the runners I coach. Easy or recovery sessions are not designed to be hard. They are strategically and deliberately placed in a training program to aid recovery. For example, an easy walk, bike ride or swim following a harder run can help to get the muscles moving again and help us actively recover. The trick is to get over our own egos and do these sessions at the intensity for which they were designed. Easily.

I am not suggesting that you have to be as fresh as a daisy for every session, but without recovering properly for key sessions or giving back to your body, the likelihood is that in the long term you will burn out or get injured. As a coach, unfortunately I have had to pick up the pieces of runners who have gone too hard, too long, too often, too soon and foregone recovery. In the search of quicker results they have jeopardised the longer term.

Wishing you all the best for your running and in implementing some of these recovery tips.