By: Brian Elder
Recovery is one of the most important yet overlooked elements of training for runners. Recovery is even seen by many as a small window of time, but in fact recovery never stops. Runners often think that the longer and harder they run, the more benefit they will get out of their training but this is a recipe for disaster that will likely lead to injury. Here are some of the best ways to recover and the tools that are going to help you do just that. Sit back and relax.
Hydration is often one of the most boring ways to recover, but we want to touch on it first because it is arguably the most important. There is a reason your body is made up of 60-70% water and that is because of all that water does for your body. It is actually hard to list everything good that water does for your body. It helps regulate your temperature through sweating, digest food, deliver oxygen to the body, lubricate muscles and joints, produce saliva, flush waste from your body, and aids cell reproduction and growth. All of these things are essential for runners! While people debate about how much water you should drink before and after you run, it is always a good indicator that you need to drink if you are thirsty. There are other ways to test your hydration levels such as the color of your urine that can be helpful as well.
Tool: Nalgene water bottle
2. Replenish and Refuel
You might have heard the old adage that "you are what you eat" and while I might not technically be a Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich, I eat and run enough to know that what you put in your body matters. If you eat bad food and drink bad fluids in excess, you are likely going to feel bad while running. Our bodies are similar to cars in the same way that certain cars require premium fuel to run better. While some people who live stagnant lives may be able to get by on lower quality "fuel" (aka food), runners need healthy food to help replenish and restore their muscles. After a run this begins with snacks that are high in carbs and protein to restore energy and muscle tissue. Chocolate milk is a commonly recommended post-run drink among runners because of its combination and ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Tool- Horizon Chocolate Milk
3. Balance Meal
Not only are snacks important, but you want to replenish after a run at a meal with lean proteins, complex carbs and nutrient rich vegetables. These will help your body recover and prepare for the next run or race because recovery isn't a one time thing, you are constantly recovering and readying yourself for what is next. Dinner is a great time to include healthy fats in your diet and by healthy fats we do not mean chocolate cake. Healthy fats such as almonds or walnuts on a salad or olive oil with pasta and a lean protein will offer your body what it needs to properly recover.
Tool- Salmon and walnut spinach salad
4. Foam Roll
Along with hydration, another highly debated topic in the world of running is stretching. While many studies have now shown that pre-run/race stretching can be detrimental to your performance, if you are accustomed to stretching before you run a little will not kill your performance as long as you are not stagnant for too long a period of time. Stretching and more importantly, foam rolling, can help any runner recover. Foam rolling will help get rid of the knots in your muscles so that you can continue to do runs at a faster pace without discomfort. Another tip: while it doesn't actually remove lactic acid out of your legs like some people claim, "leg draining" can leave you refreshed after a hard run or race. Simply place your butt against a wall in your house and put your hamstrings against the wall above your head as you lie with your back on the ground for 5-10 minutes. This will help to keep the blood in your legs from being stagnant after a hard run.
Tool- Tiger Tail Foam Roller
Besides hydration, we have saved the best for last. While hydration is arguably the most important step for recovery when you are active, sleep is the recovery your body and brain need to perform at its best. When you nap you can use this as a time to elevate your legs to help speed recovery but you need longer periods of sleep to reach REM to fully allow your body and brain to recover. Running is just as much mental and it is physical and we want you to have an edge in both areas. Sleep deprivation has even been shown to increase stress hormones and prohibit your muscles from recovering properly through nutrient absorption so make sure you are catching some z's.
Tool- The nearest couch or bed
Brian Elder is a learner, amateur explorer, and runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere. He is a graduate from the University of Georgia where he studied English and Religion. After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels with an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive. Follow Brian on Instagram.