For endurance racers or anyone active for that matter, your muscles are the basis of which your performances rest. Without a strong and ready to perform body for training or on race day your results are impacted. Here are our 7 recovery tips for athletes during heavy training weeks, in prep for a race and post race.
Your health starts from the inside out. If there is one thing that you should do after a long or hard session is replenish your fuel stores as soon as possible. Your body is depleted of essential nutrients including electrolytes, protein and glycogen (carbohydrate) so it’s important to replenish these asap after your session to aid in recovery, reduce inflammation and keep your immune system strong.
Failing to refuel can lead to fatigue, long recovery times and make you susceptible to illness.
Example: within and hour of a long session, have some electrolytes such as Edge Electrolytes, eat a banana and have a protein shake. I like natural protein powders, one favourite is Happy Way Vanilla flavour. Choose easy to consume and prepare foods. Other options include a peanut butter and honey sandwich or homemade pancakes with maple or agave syrup.
In the few hours post race or event, keep snacking on foods such as nuts, fruits and whole foods. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar as these can only impact your recovery and could enhance inflammation. Don’t forget to keep your hydration up. Okay a beer or two to celebrate your effort is okay, but not as your primary source of fluids!
I’ve spent some time with the Nutrition team at Queen Street Physiotherapy in Brisbane. With DNA testing we have taken the guess work out of what to eat and when around training. If you struggle with your diet or need guidance on the right foods for you, I recommend seeking professional advice.
If training in the morning and the whole day is in front of you, give an ice bath a go. Once you’ve braced the icy water for a few moments, ripple the water every few minutes in the ice bath as the water around your body warms up with your body heat. Go for at least 15 minutes, then drain the water then fill with hot water and magnesium salts.
After a heavy run I have stopped at the local gas station and picked up a couple of bags of ice for the bath prior to getting home.
I don’t recommend an ice bath or cold shower before bed time as this could make you more alert and you could have difficulty getting some sleep.
Instead, go for a warm salt bath prior to bed which has been known to decrease inflammation and relieve muscular soreness. In addition to this it will minimise the effect of painful muscular cramps. I find I naturally relax in temperament after a bath with Amazing Oils Magnesium Bath Flakes which further contributes to stress reduction by relieving muscular tension.
Stay Active with stretching and natural movement
Don’t sit still on the couch and put your feet up for prolonged periods. Kudos to you if Strava crowned you king or queen of segment, but being sedentary can increase the chances of you tightening up and cramping, prolonging recovery time. Walking, house maintenance and being generally active keeps the joints and muscles mobile and loose. Add some simple and easy stretches in for the glutes down to the feet. Got kids, well there’s never an inactive moment there!
Compression on muscles after exercise has mixed reviews, however personally I find this beneficial. By adding compression to muscles after exercise, it is said to increase blood flow to the recovering m
uscles, flushing away lactate. Calf socks and compression tights are easy to conceal under clothes during cooler months. Zensah Featherweight Compression leg sleeves are ones I’ve used during and after long runs to help calf muscles relax, taking pressure off the achilles. Also, Lululemon have super comfortable compression pants that I use often which I highly recommend.
Foam roller and trigger pointing
Rolling out knots and niggles in muscles is great if you can embrace some of the pain that comes with it. Just a few minutes on a foam roller over each of the major muscles should make them feel more relaxed and less tight. Try putting pressure beyond it being comfortable but not too much your are bruising yourself (leave that to your Physio!) Trigger pain points with a tennis ball sized massage ball or a bear trap from beartrap muscle compression therapy. For hard to reach spots like hip flexors, use the end of a broomstick or rolling pin by leaning into a wall.
Massage and professional treatments
A sports massage or Physio treatment is required after every run right? Sure, if your a professional or have the money to spend! I find it’s important to check in with a trusted Physiotherapist frequently to check over your mobility to keep you in check and avoid injury. Small niggles are not to be ignored and can easily be treated in the early stages. A physio will always push a little bit harder than you in the right places to support overall performance and recovery. I’m a regular visitor at Queen Street Physiotherapy with Phill and his team. I have always said, I run my best the day after a treatment!
I’m a fan of yoga and the benefits it offers connecting the mind with the body. It’s a great way for recovery for athletes and anyone to relax and calm the body and mind. Yoga is a learnt technique that can really push and pull your body into positions that I believe compliments running. Running for hours on end is repetitive, impactful and a small movement of the body. Yoga allows you to truly stretch out your body from head to toe, at the same time providing a time for you to relax your mind and connect with yourself.
Disclaimer: The above tips are from own personal experience and what I do regularly to aid in my own recovery from training and events. Trial what works for you. If you have any other tips, let us know!