Recover Like a Pro
Training for 100 km or 100 mile run is a big commitment – you’re excited and ALL in. At this point in the year, you’re probably in your early base period of building miles and adapting to the new weather pattern that comes with the arrival of spring. In Vermont, we call this mud season!
As weekly mileage starts to creep up, so should your focus on recovery strategies. These choices are nearly 100% within your control. The best athletes execute these techniques as consistently as workouts to improve personal performance, month to month and year over year. Recovery is just as critical as training. Increased training stress demands rest and requisite nutrition to achieve the desired physiological adaptations that lead to improved fitness, durability, and cognitive sharpness. Without a consistent recovery strategy, the athlete risks a) tissue breakdown which can lead to countless possible overuse injuries, b) fatigue, c) elevated stress, d) hormonal imbalance, e) impaired mood, f) foggy thinking, and g) lack of motivation.
The first key recovery tool is rest. Breaks from intense running should be built into your micro and macro training cycles. Short-term active recovery immediately after a hard or long run session might look like a 5-10 minute cool-down easy jog or walk. At The Run Formula, we also recommend doing 10 minutes of daily self-myofascial release with a foam roller and softball to work out any muscle adhesions; and then stretch to maintain muscle and connective tissue elasticity.
It’s equally important to prioritize sleep every single day which enables the body to reset hormones and rebuild tissues that break down during training. Dr. Amy Bender advises that high level athletes get 8-10 hours of quality sleep per day. Check out a podcast on the topic from Dr. Bender here. Keep in mind the magical power of a mid-day 15-20 minute power nap or brief supine-lying rest periods. During each 7-10 day period of training, it’s critical to have at least one “no run” day. While this can be tough for some athletes psychologically; stay positive by visualizing your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and cardiopulmonary system soaking in all the nutrients for a stronger you.
At the macro-cycle level, plan to take a recovery week at 50-60% of the total volume of your biggest week in the previous 3-5 weeks. So let’s say that your training cycle looks like this: build week 1 = 5 hrs, build week 2 = 5.5 hrs, build week 3: = 6 hrs, recovery week 4 = 3 hrs. Repeat this cycle starting week 5 with the week 3 volume and adding 10% each consecutive build week. These recovery weeks are just as important physically as they are psychologically. Training commitment generally means saying no to other healthy activities and fun with those you love. Try to plan extra family or friend time during your recovery weeks to maintain social connections and a circle of support. Balance, balance, balance.
The second critical factor in recovery is nutrition and hydration. Soreness and fatigue associated with endurance training can be mitigated with a focus on fueling the body for exercise and nourishing the body for recovery. In general, a daily plant-strong diet provides the key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support demands of running high volume. Be sure to include ample protein and carbohydrate for your body weight and training goals. For specifics, consult with a Core Diet dietician. Set a daily hydration target of same # ounces of water as 50% of your body weight (lbs). So a 150 lb person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. This does NOT include the hydration needed for exercise itself. Refer to this blog about during exercise hydration needs.
About 30 minutes prior to each workout, fuel your body up with 8-10 oz of sport drink that includes water, carbohydrate, and electrolytes to run the engine. Also take about 100 calories of easily digestible snack such as apple sauce, pretzels, half an energy bar, or sport blocks. During running take as much fluid as is needed for your sweat rate and the humidity. Energize the body during the run with about 75-100 calories every 30-40 minutes; 1 gel or a few gummy blocks. Immediately after a training bout take a recovery drink with a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein. The purpose of this small meal is to increase insulin levels with carbohydrate in order to facilitate the delivery of protein and carbohydrate to muscles cells. This recovery act will have the single largest impact on your next workout. Without it your muscles lack the glycogen and tissue-building amino acids necessary to train the next day. We like chocolate milk or Klean Recovery.
If you find yourself feeling run-down, getting frequent colds, or simply grumpy; take an honest assessment of your commitment to recovery and overall life stress management. Recovering like a pro will expedite your fitness gains and elevate your overall enjoyment factor while chasing this big goal.
Written by Lindsay Simpson