Sleep, or more widely, how to maximise your recovery has been on my mind this weekend. This is partly because I was chatting with Jonathan Robinson, exercise physiologist at the University of Bath at the recent Elevate conference, and because it appears to have then cropped up in numerous conversations with clients over the weekend.
Time and again, as runners – and particularly if we ‘re also mums and runners, we tend to focus on running only as our training, and perhaps if we’re really good, a bit of foam rolling and yoga. But this is NOT what we mean by recovery, and if we got this right, we’d optimise our performance, prevent injury and avoid mental burn out.
All the research points to how recovery is the cornerstone of your training, not an add on. Ignore it, and you effectively undermine all those hard training sessions that you’re doing.
So, what do we mean by recovery strategies?
What might come to your mind are compression socks, ice baths, recovery footwear and the like, but according to scientifically proven studies, your foundations for recovery are simple -sleep, body management and nutrition.
When we sleep, our bodies get to work, helping our muscles to repair and adapt to grow stronger. According to research in the British Journal of of Sports Medicine cognition, metabolism and tissue repair are critical physiological processes that contribute to training capacity, recovery and performance and are all positively affected with the right amount of sleep.
What you can do?
Start tracking your sleep to see how many hours, on average you’re getting. I have a Garmin 920XT watch which tracks not only my sleep, but the quality of my sleep. It’s a helpful reminder to show when I’m not. If you are consistently getting injured, or not seeing improvement despite lots of training, take a look at your sleep patterns.
Simply put, this means how you are managing your body. Are you only running or are you adding strength training, yoga and foam rolling?
Recovery methods, such as at home yoga, stretching even for 20 minutes per day can help promote blood flow to the muscles and improve range of movement, which in turns helps you to run with better economy, which means less stress on the body. Moreover, focused, good quality strength training not only helps prevent injuries. Research shows that the fitter and stronger you are, the less time you’ll need to spend on recovery strategies.
What you can do?
Try a Yin Yoga class, try to remember the poses that are the most challenging for you and do those ones on your own at home. Strength wise, we have lots of free exercises on our YouTube channel that you can follow to build stability. Our more dedicated month long gym or at home strength workouts will launch in a few weeks for our dedicated Virtual Training Hub members. Pre-register here.
Follow the three Rs, rehydrate, refuel, rebuild. Running is BIG business, and nutrition has kept pace with this resulting in the proliferation of products from protein shakes to beet and sour cherry shots. Some of these can be useful if you have a very heavy training load or are short on time.
What you can do?
You can get all the nutrition you need from the food you eat or drink, whether it’s a chocolate milk/almond milk shake after a run, foods rich in polyphenols, such as beetroots (grated in a salad or juiced with ginger and apple) to help with inflammation, fish, meat or pulses for a protein kick and green leafy vegetables and fruit for a vitamin kick to boost your immune system. It can be useful to keep a food diary for three days, noting what you eat and when you eat, plus when you run. That should be enough, without any expert advice for you to evaluate whether you are eating right for running.
We’d love to hear how you manage your recovery strategies, and if you have any tips that are useful for super busy women.