Written By: Max King
Lets start off the recovery post by saying that everyone recovers at a different rate and that depends on a lot of factors. Age, physiology, training, etc all play into how quickly someone can recover. But, while there are factors out of your control, there are methods that can help you recover faster than doing nothing at all.
The past couple of years I’ve done a double that I consider probably the hardest two days of the year. The Flagline 50k has been scheduled for the day before the Xterra Trail Run National Championships, a race I’ve done the past 5 years and have a good winning streak at. I haven’t wanted to give either of them up, so I decided doing both with a flight to Utah in the middle would be a good challenge. I knew going in that recovery in between would be a huge key to my success so I did everything I knew how to recover.
The old R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) adage works well when discussing recovery because training hard is pretty similar physiologically to an injury so you can treat them very similarly as well.
Rest, obviously, will help you recover, that’s a no-brainer but that takes time and sometimes we just don’t have enough of it and when we push ourselves to the limits recovery time is usually the first thing to go.
Ice is a touchy subject. Recent research now suggests that icing really doesn’t do much to aid in recovery. But for anyone that has ever jumped in an ice bath after a hard workout or run will tell you, it sure seems to do something. Whether that’s just psychological or physiological more research may be needed but people will tell you that it really does help. Now, I hate ice baths. They’re cold. I don’t do them very often, only five times a year in fact, but during the Transrockies 6 day stage race I do them each day after the stage and I always feel a little more refreshed the next day.
Then we come to compression, a good friend of mine. Compression is probably the single biggest thing you can do for recovery. Putting some compression on your legs after (and sometimes even during) exercise has huge performance benefits. Squeezing your muscles to aid in the circulation, clearance of exercise metabolites, and re-oxygenation of the cells with fresh blood, compression can speed up natural recovery over just rest. It will take a trained doctor or physiologist to explain the intricacies of what happens, but that’s the jist of it. After long races that really beat me up I always throw on a pair of Reco-Fit Leg Compressors, a full length compression sleeve that are easier to wear than full tights. After Flagline 50k the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to have Mark DeJohn waiting at the finish line for a little post race massage then right into Recovery Boots, the ultimate in post-race compression. Recovery Boots are a peristaltic active compression boot that repeatedly squeezes then releases from toes to hips. A spendy tool, but one that many have found worthy in the long road to recovery.
Elevation is like the lazy mans compression; it works, just a little slower. Coupled with compression though, the benefits are awesome. At Transrockies each year a common site is people in their compression tights, sleeves, whatever, all lying on the ground around a building with their feet up. I guess if that many people are doing it then it must do something. Elevation coupled with compression is going to help speed the circulation of metabolites out of muscles and legs by utilizing gravity, keeping metabolite rich blood from pooling and sitting in your legs after exercise.
After compression, post-workout nutrition is your next tool to help you recover faster. Taking in a mix of 4:1 carbs to protein within 30min of exercise will help replenish glycogen (your fuel during exercise) faster than any other time during the day. When you eat, carbs are turned into glycogen fuel but quite slowly so the increased rate of conversion right after exercise can help get you ready for another hard effort the next day. All the major exercise nutrition companies have a recovery formula like Hammer Nutrition’s Recoverite, a favorite of many here at the shop including myself, but one of my alternate favorites has always been chocolate milk. It works, it’s cheap it’s easy to find, and it’s good.
Good nutrition shouldn’t be relegated to post-race only however, proper nutrition daily is what will help you train, race and recover better on a consistent basis. Speak to a nutritionist or see our blog post onnutrition for more guidance.
This next and final piece of advice is going to seem pretty obvious but it is really the key to being able to recover faster and do things like Transrockies or a weekend race double, and that is training. Obvious right? Train more, train specifically for what you will be putting yourself through and you’ll be better prepared for harder and longer runs, your body will be stronger and won’t break down as much and your physiological systems will be better adapted to the stress of muscle breakdown and metabolite clearance and processing. No recovery tool or technique will ever make up for what you can do with a little more training.
Keep in mind that recovery is going to be different for everyone and that just because your buddy can do something two days in a row does not mean that you can. Training more will always help with recovery but we’re often limited by time so the recovery tips above can help speed up recovery and get you back on your feet faster. With the recovery tips above, hopefully next time out you’ll be taking it to your buddy on day two of your adventure.
Learn more about Max King.
Learn more about Max King.