Recovery. That dreaded activity we runners often don’t carve out enough time for. I mean, who really has the time to recover? Between work, kids, chores, social events, training, sleep…somehow recovery just gets lost in the shuffle and sadly forgotten. You might start out great, foam rolling after your first long run or drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes of finishing your hard workouts, but then it happens, or should I say, stops happening.
Recovery is just as vital to your training as is putting in all the miles. To ensure that I make the time to recover properly when training for a race, I have to add it into my training plan. If it’s in the plan, then I’ll be sure to follow it. The purpose of a recovery routine is to start the body’s healing process immediately so that you can be ready for the next workout.
It took me a while to figure out the best way to incorporate recovery into my life. After a lot of trial and error, I have a pretty good system down for recovery. In case you find yourself at a loss for how best to recover, I thought I’d share with you my recovery plan for my upcoming marathon. So without further ado, here is my (arguably obsessive) recovery strategy:
Immediately Post Long Run: Chill Out
- When my long run and cool down walk is complete I like to take the load off of my feet and lay down on the floor with my legs placed vertically on the wall for 5-10 minutes as I analyze my run stats on my Garmin Connect App.
- I make a recovery shake that consists of protein powder blended with an electrolyte drink and ice.
- I soak my feet in a bucket of ice for 10 minutes as I drink my recovery shake.
- I take a nice, hot shower
- Finally, I prepare a healthy post-run meal comprised of quality carbs, fats, veggies, and protein.
Did you know? Consuming both protein and carbohydrates post run will enhance the storage of glycogen as well as provide nutrients for the rebuilding of damaged muscle. Aim for a carb:protein ratio of 3:1 within 30 minutes of exercise completion. You should also replenish electrolytes and fluids lost during exercise.
Day after Long Run: Swim ‘n Soak
- I swim for 30-45 minutes
- Immediately I follow up my swim with a 15 minute soak in the hot spa while putting any sore muscle at the mercy of the jets
- I keep moving in hopes to best avoid DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). I walk my dog around the neighborhood. We go on a family hike on our local trails. I go grocery shopping and meal prep for the week. If I sit, I get stiff.
Did you know? Swimming for recovery enhances performance by lowering muscle tissue inflammation resulting from a long run.
2-3 Times a Week : Loosen Up
- I dedicate my 30 minute lunch break to stretching and rolling out the tight spots
- I incorporate hip and glute stretching for 15 minutes, courtesy of a Jasyoga youtube video.
- After my Jasyoga stretches, I foam roll and lay on the orb ball for 15 minutes (about 7 minutes on each side of my lower body)
Did you know? Many injuries can be avoided through proper stretching and foam roller use. Try this: Instead of foam rolling back and forth constantly, roll until you find the most tender spot and then keep the roller on that spot for 60 seconds. Focusing on sensitive spots will help your muscles relax.
Once a Week: Get Work so I Can Werk
Once I hit the half way point in my training, I rotate between seeing my chiropractor and a sports massage therapist so that I never go more than 10 days without getting some kind of body work done to ensure I’m prehabbing any muscle imbalances.
Did you know? Regular massages reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, increase joint range of motion, and improves connective tissue healing. Used as a preventative program, having body work done on a consistent basis can help in faster recovery and injury prevention.
Every Night: 8 Hours for Power
I make sure that I get 8 hours of sleep with consistent go to bed and wake up times. This means that I must be asleep by 8:45 each night. This also means that I had to give up my love for watching a TV show while snuggled in bed. For too long, I functioned off of an average of 6 ½ hours of sleep while training and my body just continued to get run down until it stopped functioning the way I wanted it to. If I want to keep training at a high level, I have to respect my body’s needs and that includes sleep.
Did you know? Getting proper sleep while endurance training aids in building and repairing muscle tissue and bones. Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone, cortisol, which can prohibit the body from recovering fully and interfere with soft tissue repair.
Recovering post run allows our bodies to heal and acclimate from the stress we put it through on our hard workouts and long runs. Once you embrace recovery as a chance to make you stronger, you can reap the benefits for a longer and healthier running lifespan. A recovery routine is not one size fits all. It has taken me a couple of years to find a system that works for me to help me bounce back quicker. The key to any recovery plan is consistency. Be as dedicated to your recovery schedule as you are to your training schedule. These go hand in hand to guide you to the finish line. Respect the process and reap the rewards.
Jenny is a marathon mom in every sense of the word. Not only does she run marathons, but she is constantly running around with her two kids, helping to teach them the value of an active lifestyle.