Many runners mistakenly believe that the only way to improve their finishing times in races is to train harder. Training smarter, however, is also a key component. If you are maxed out on what you can accomplish in training, chances are you could use a better recovery routine. Listed here are tips for better recovery.
Be Fuel Conscious
In the 30 minutes following a run, your body is primed to rebuild muscle. Kick start your recovery by eating a snack that has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Outside of running, be conscious about keeping your body’s glycogen stores filled. A study performed at Appalachian State University found that glycogen depletion hindered recovery in marathon runners.
Hydration is Key
The adult human body is comprised of approximately 60% water. For muscles, this number is closer to 80%. Without proper hydration, muscles lack the ability to glide past one another, and instead can become tight, creaky, and sore. If you have difficulties recovering after tough workouts, consider whether hydration (or lack thereof) is to blame.
Get More (and Better) Sleep
One way to naturally boost human growth hormone (HGH; an important chemical for recovery) is through sleep. However, there is a limited window of time during each sleep cycle where HGH is secreted. Maximize your recovery by taking a short nap on a daily basis. At night, improve the quality of your sleep by keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70o F. Avoid electronic screens an hour before bedtime, and limit caffeine intake after 2 PM.
Use Compression Wisely
Compressions socks and sleeves are wonderful recovery tools that improve blood flow and circulation to the lower extremities of the legs. However, when used improperly they can actually cause edema in the feet. Never sleep in compression sleeves or tights, and opt for compression socks instead for overnight recovery.
Chronic inflammation can lead to overtraining syndrome, fatigue, weight gain, and hindered performance. Oftentimes, inflammation becomes chronic when diet, sleep, and exercise are not in balance. Choose foods that fight inflammation, such as salmon, berries, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. Limit ingredients that can make inflammation worse, such as sugar, fried foods, excessive dairy, vegetable oils, and refined foods (i.e. white flour, white rice, etc.). Additionally, if your training is at a level where it is seriously impeding your ability to sleep or recover, your body is likely in an inflamed state due to excess production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Take Recovery Days Seriously
Runners should balance easy days and hard days. Relish the opportunity to go “all out” on workout days while ditching the watch and taking it easy the following day. Perform weight lifting on your hard days so that your recovery day can focus solely on recovery. If you ever experience soreness that lasts for more than 3 – 4 days, understand that an unplanned day off is required. Ultimately, recovery is one of the most important steps to improving as a runner!