Rest and recovery play an important part in any sports training program. Despite the importance, recovery is often overlooked as both beginners and experienced runners a like seek results. How can you ensure that you get enough rest and recover efficiently to allow you to continue training and pushing for results?
Before each run it is important that you take time to warm up. I will be doing a future post on the best stretches for warming up muscle groups, but a slow pace walk or light jog is also a good method.
It is recommended that absolute beginner runners (people who go from couch to running) have a rest day in between running days (avoid running on consecutive days). This ensures that your muscles have time to recover from the stress that running puts on your joints.
Alternatively, if you wish to train on a rest day, mix it up a little and cross train; cycle, swim, row, etc. Find another activity that you enjoy and supplement your running with that to utilise different muscles and joints. This could also include strength training to help build and strengthen your muscles.
Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Try to drink little and often rather than swigging down a large amount all at once. Staying hydrated also reduces the risk of cramping during your runs.
Try to eat as soon as you can after completing your run. Your meal should consist of complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice or wholemeal pasta, and plenty of protein to aid recovery. Green vegetables such as broccoli are also important as they contain a lot of fibre. Chocolate milk is also good for recovery as it contains protein, plus it’s also tasty and convenient!
Ah, the good old ice bath! Many athletes across a variety of sports still utilise ice baths for recovery. As such, it can be a useful method of recovery for runners. The idea is that the ice restricts the blood vessels to help flush out lactic acid. If you aren’t feeling brave enough for a full on ice bath, then a cold bath (around 24 degrees Celcius or 75 degrees Fahrenheit) is also beneficial.
Ice baths can also reduce swelling so if you have any injury related aches (not just muscle tightness) then make sure you ice them down after your run. You can use a frozen bag of vegetables or purchase a freezable ice pack which is designed for sports injuries.
Soaking your legs in a hot bath helps your muscles to relax and remove any tightness. Hot showers are also beneficial, especially if you have had a soak in an cold bath as per the above. Changing the temperature from cold to hot can help prevent muscle stiffness.
Sleep plays an important part in recovery for runners, yet it’s something that often gets sacrificed for early morning runs. If you intend to run in the morning, try to go to bed a bit earlier to ensure that your body is getting enough rest.
Sports Massage / Foam Rolling
If you find that you have persistent tightness in a muscle, it may be worth taking a trip to get a sports massage. Purchasing a foam roller is recommended (cheaper ones can be found on eBay) as you can then roll out post run muscle tightness at home. There are a number of foam rolling videos on YouTube, and I will also be creating a post on the subject soon.
Listen to your body
Rest and recovery is a personal thing because we are all capable of different things – I can run further than my fiancé before needing a rest day, but he can run faster than me. There isn’t a one size fits all approach then it comes to training or recovery, so it’s important that you listen to your own body. You may be following a training plan, but if you don’t feel 100% recovered then you may be best to move your run to another day or alter the schedule slightly.
It isn’t always a case of “no pain, no gain”! Rest and active recovery should play a key role in your training program. It can be hard to find the time to recover properly, however it is worth the time investment! Looking after your body will help to ensure that you are ready to train rather than sidelined by injury.
If you have any other methods of recovery for runners, please add them to them comments section below!