Recover Like a Pro
Disclaimer: I am not claiming to be a pro runner, but I am claiming that I am pro-recoverer! I think Lauren Fleshman sums it up best: “Anyone can work hard. The best have the discipline to recover.”
Active rest versus passive rest. In a previous blog I discussed the difference between these and the benefits of both types of recovery. For every day you train (run, cross-train, lift, etc.) there is an associated load on your body, as the number of days goes on the load on your body increases. Until you stop, until you do nothing, that load does not reset to zero.
In 2013 I trained for this crazy event called the Maccabi Man/Woman event in Israel. It was a combination of a time trial, half marathon, Olympic distance triathlon, and a half marathon swim; these four, big events took place over 9 days. Never in my life have I been so tired. I did World Age Group Duathlon Championships that summer too, and shortly after Maccabi. After World Du Champs I was done with structured training; truthfully I thought I was done training and was going to move into engineering-career mode. That fall and winter I was on team beer drinking, played a lot on my bike and my skis, and that spring when I started running again I was fast.
It’s no longer a mystery to me. I got fast because I rested and finally let all that training I did for Maccabi and Duathlon set in. I got fast by doing nothing (aside from crushing pints and ripping fat GS turns).
Want to get faster? Let your body recover, actually recover, by doing nothing. Put your feet up, grab your favourite snack, a giant glass of water, a good book and let all that awesome work you’ve done actually set into your body.
Listen To Your Body
I seem to write a lot about rest and recovery, back in 2016 I wrote about listening to your body as it relates to injury, and of course, I still advocate for that. But you should also be listening to how it is recovering.
The other day, while running through the giant pine trees of Whistler, I was clipping along at a pretty good pace, a pace I do not normally run on my off days; I was going a little bit quick. While I felt great running when my shoe came untied and I stopped to re-tie it I couldn’t help but notice that my legs when stopped didn’t feel as fresh as when they are moving. “An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon” so says Newton’s first law.
While you’re moving you might feel great, but I challenge you to stop, to take that breath, and see if it’s momentum pushing you along or if you need to slow down a little.
When you go into a REM cycling, into deep sleep that’s when the magic happens. It is the build up from the break down, it is the ultimate recovery, it is where you do your hardest work. I love sleeping, and I am one of the fortunate few that sleeps really, really well.
A year ago I wrote down some of tips for creating good sleep habits, those have not changed. Even when traveling I try to recreate all of my good sleep habits. You’ll often find my phone in the bathroom of the hotel room because it allows me to have complete separation since I do not like having it in the room I’m sleeping in. Most hotel rooms come with a good, ol’ fashioned alarm clock and if you don’t trust that you will for sure get out of bed when the alarm is going off in the bathroom!
One of the best things you can do to get all the gains from your workout is to eat a snack within 30 minutes of completion. A snack that is an appropriate blend of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, one that makes you excited to eat it, one that will repair all the damage you just inflicted upon yourself. I know you finish a workout and are not hungry, I bet some of you even think if you don’t eat that you’re burning extra calories. Biggest mistake you can make is to not eat.
Food is to be your friend and recovery snacks should be your best friend. Figure out what works for you, always carry an emergency snack, and make sure you get enough water in you everyday.
Therapy: Self & Other
I am so thankful that I have a great team of therapists I work with. Chiropractors, massage therapists, and physiotherapists all help to keep this body in working order. Add in the self-care pre- and post-workout activities and it is a recipe to keep my body in good working order.
In California this January I was introduced to a recovery session after the Sunday Long Run. It’s a session where you check in with each part of your body, slowly moving from your toes to the top of your head. You need a foam roller, a ball, and a lot of patience, and oh my goodness do you feel so much better. It takes about 30 minutes to ‘roll’ through but it is worth every second.
We have so much in our control that we do not even realize. Things that will help us recover to be the best of our abilities, things that just make you feel better. Grab that cup of coffee or that glass of wine and spend a few minutes checking in with what your body is saying to you.