Rested, Refreshed, and Ready to run, the three Rs of peak performance. Hal Higdon
Hal Higdon, the famous running coach, calls rest and recovery as the most important part of any runners training program ! The dedicated runner, ie YOU, destroy your body through hard training day after day and then let it adapt to the change and emerge stronger through planned recovery. Done smartly it will lead to the greatest gains and relentless improvement. The question is – What is smart or planned recovery?
The runner understands recovery as – recovering post day to day training or after a race or from injury/sickness. We focus on the first two in this piece.
The Effort and Recovery Connection. You train hard to stress your heart, the muscles, the aerobic system and the mind. The muscular body undergoes micro-tears – it needs time to repair…plan the recovery…the body emerges stronger. Strike the right balance :-
- Too weak an effort – not enough stress on the body.
- Too strong and effort – the recovery period required is too long and affects your training program.
- The same applies when you have too long a recovery or rest period.
- Our take – think of alternating hard and easy days with a weekly rest day.
The Post Run Cool Down and Dynamic Stretching. The most important and the most ignored ! But you say… it feels like such an anti-climax after the hard effort and the runners high….this is the difference between the amateur and the seasoned runner. Your throbbing body and super-pumped heart need to be brought to their normal state in a smooth manner. A slow jog and dynamic stretches for 10 mins post the run works wonders – faster recovery, less muscular aches and stiffness. The dynamic stretches take your mobility and range of motion to a totally new level.
Post Run Hydration and Nutrition. Immediately after the run your body is depleted of glycogen and the stressed muscles are most receptive to proteins and BCAA. A recovery drink taken within 1 hour (the timing is debatable; internet forums put this window anything from 20 mins to 3 hours) helps you regain your energy quickest while your muscles gain the most. Ideally your recovery drink should be in the ratio of 3 : 1 Carbs : Proteins. Hydrate well and replenish your electrolytes– water, coconut water, sports drinks, etc, etc. Ask Google and it will give you endless recommendations. Find the one which suits you best….the key is the timing (within 1 hour of your run).
Foam Rolling and Massage. They are your new best friends. Done on the same day - they take out the knots, kinks and tightness from your muscles. The result – you don’t wake up stiff the next day. The dreaded devil - DOMs (delayed onset of muscle soreness) stays away and you are ready to kill your next run !
Post a half or a full Marathon the body needs much longer a recovery period - Running a race has many a physical and psychological costs attached. The mind is euphoric from achieving what it had set out to do. The body is beaten by the discipline of following a training plan week after week, month after month. The final race takes every bit of strength, mental power and stubbornness to go give your best! Hence, the next seven days post running a race - the body needs some kind of pampering all days of the week.
- No Running/ crossfit/ swimmimg for at least 3 days post the race. You earned the rest - lap it up.
- Light jogging for about 5km can be a good start on the 4th or the 5th day post the race.
- For a lot of people brisk walks work beautifully on the sore muscles
- A 10-12 km non-push run with your run buddies should be great to restart a full week of proper running yet again
Rest and Sleep. Your body recovers and repairs itself when you sleep. A runner needs adequate rest and sleep. Eureka - Don’t skimp on your sleep. What about rest days and planned rest periods ? Your body needs a break after the torture of an all-out race or a really hard effort. Do have a planned rest day post your weekly long run. The post half-marathon / marathon requires a longer rest period (anything from a week to three weeks) with a gentle easing back into the training routine. More on this in later blogs.
The Recovery Run and Active Recovery. The recovery run is done the day after the really hard effort or the race. Run really slow (walk breaks are cool) with some stretching they help in reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. You also get to assess the damage you have inflicted on your body. Active recovery involves engaging in physical activities other than running at a moderate to comfortable effort level to challenge your body from a new angle and develop it holistically. Strength training, Yoga, Crossfit, Pilates, swimming, cycling, etc are all great options.
There you have it – the runners Ace of Spades ! But all recovery is not equal. During the training phase it is okay to feel muscle soreness and continue to train. It is the body’s natural process of adaptation and your training plan is continuously hitting the cycle of train – recover – train. But the week prior to the race you are aiming at a rested and fresh body which will peak on race day – hence the Taper. Post the race you are looking at total recovery ! Read, learn, plan, execute….and thou shalt become a better runner !
I Run….therefore I am !
Always looking for the next big high -physical, social, intellectual or spiritual, Gee Ess got hooked onto endurance running with ADHM 2014. Having run many full and half marathons, he enjoys penning down the intriguing nuances of running that go beyond and hit the mind of a runner.
Two quotes define him:
Life begins outside your comfort zone
Dreams are not those which come in your sleep. They are the ones which don’t let you sleep