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Tips on recovery from hard or long running workouts

Posted by George Parker on

If you are training for a race, at some point you are going to run hard. And, if you are running hard, you have to recover well so that you can continue running hard. 

One of our runners asked about recovery tips to help during his hard training cycle. Here's a recap of my response back:

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Alright, I have a bunch of thoughts on soreness and recovery! I'm going to type and, hopefully a few of them can help you:

First, you're going to be sore more days than not --- in the beginning. After a couple of weeks, your body will adapt. Then, you'll have another hard workout and breakthrough to a new level --- and you'll be sore again. 

Now, some specific tactics on recovery:

  • Monitor your resting heart rate: I wear a Garmin watch all the time, including while sleeping. It measures my resting heart rate while sleeping via an optical wrist sensor. If I notice that my resting heart rate has jumped +10-20 beast over my normal resting heart rate, I take a day off or an easy day. That's the quantitative data from your body saying, "give me a break!" If you don't have a watch, try to take your pulse before you sit-up in the bed in the morning.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch:  I finally started stretching at least 5 minutes when I'm done running. It helps. Your muscles are warm, so the benefit is high and risk of energy is low. A good post-workout stretch helps remove the lactic acid from muscles, accumulation of which can cause fatigue the following day.
  • Foam rolling: I have one and try to use it almost everyday while watching TV, playing with the kids, whatever. Give those legs a good massage to get the blood circulating to the muscles. This circulation will carrying in nutrients (e.g. protein, amino acids) your legs need to repair themselves.
  • Hydrate all day: Pay attention to your urine color - you know what it should look like. Try experimenting --- maybe for you water + electrolytes vs. water alone will help more on hard workout days. Staying hydrated will keep nutrients flushing to where they are needed in the body.

  • Eat something after working out: I know it's hard to do especially after a hard workout. But, you need to replenish glycogen stores. A hard +1-2 hr workout can deplete 50-75% of your total glycogen stores. And, it can take 48-72 hrs to replenish them. So, if you go hard again you're body is literally out of gas. What to eat: Carbs and Proteins. But not donuts carbs, good carbs.

  • Consider taking a Fish Oil supplement: The research is strong on the reduction of inflammation and improved heart health.

  • Compression Socks: After a hard workout, I will put on a pair of knee high compression socks. If I workout in the morning, I'm wearing the compression socks to work. If I work out at night, I'm wearing the socks to bed. Give them a shot. In my experience, the compression helps increase circulation in the legs improving recovery and reducing fatigue the next day (see foam roller above)

  • Sleep more --- Good luck, I know it's hard...but, do the best I can.
Hope this helps! , -George

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