I have been researching a lot about recovery lately. I had a really hard time recovering from the last race a few months ago. I was constantly fatigued and unmotivated. I am realizing now that over the course of the summer I must have over-trained and over-raced. I think that this is something that plagues a lot of endurance athletes. We train super hard running/ riding miles and miles whether our body is ready for it or not. We get up super early to get the workout in then head to work for 8-10 hours, head home and maybe throw in another workout, cook and clean the head to bed possibly too late, and then do it all over again the next day.
Training hard is all well and good if you are recovering properly. Here is some of the big things that I have found in my research. There are way more than this but here are three ways to start recovering after workouts and between your hard training days.
Refuel: Let me start by saying that I am not a nutritionist by any means. Below are some really great sources for you to check out when it comes to specifics. All I can say is that you must eat something (preferably 4:1 parts carbs to protein) within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. It is critical to replace your calories right away so that your muscles can start healing as soon as possible. In the next hour to 3 hours after the workout, you need to eat a complete meal. I love to eat homemade food rather than pre-packaged sports foods because I know what is in it and frankly, it tastes better. But, if you are looking for convenience or grabbing something on the run, Picky Bars and Larabars have very little ingredients and are pretty delicious. Don’t forget to hydrate!!!
Stretch/ roll it out: There are many days when I finish my hard run and then just hop in the car and head home. I cool down is so important to let your muscles relax and start healing. I have started stretching lightly right after the run in the parking lot of whichever trail I’m on. I even keep a blanket in the back of the car to make it a little more pleasant. I also attend 2-3 yoga classes every week. The slow breathing and stretching can realign joints, relax tense muscles and bring an awareness to your body. I am a yoga instructor so I obviously think that yoga is the answer to everything! But, there are a ton of little stretches that you can do at home in the evening. My favorite thing is my foam roller!! If you don’t have one, you need one. (You can also use a large Nalgene-like water bottle full of water.) There is a link below on how to use one and why they are so great.
Take a mental break: Make sure that you are making time in your day for you! For things that are not related to work or training. I love to paint, knit, read… Allowing your brain and body a break reduces stress and helps your muscles relax and heal. Creating a balance in your daily life will make everything else you have to do seem more pleasant and fulfilling.
These things are really easy things to add to your weekly plan and I can attest that they do really help my body recover from the day’s workout and get me ready for the next workout. You can do serious damage to your body and quickly get burnt out if you are not taking care of yourself. Below are some of my favorite sources.
Feed Zone Portables Cookbook by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas
Running Your First Ultra by Krissy Moehl
Yoga for Athletes by Sage Rountree