A workout is only as good as your recovery.
With only 10 weeks to go runners will be getting into those long long weekend runs. Ensuring you follow a good recovery plan post workout is essential for maximum endurance gains and for minimizing illness and injury. If you are recovering optimally, you will be feeling stronger and stronger, not more and more tired and sore.
Your recovery can be summed up in the 3 R’ -, Refuel, Re-hydrate and Repair.
It is important to as quickly as possible replenish your glycogen stores, which would have been depleted during a run lasting 90 minutes or longer. Immediately after completing your long run, either drink a carbohydrate drink or eat a high GI carbohydrate snack such as banana or dried fruit. Fruit juice, smoothies and milk are also winners. Keep this on hand in your car ready to grab straight away. My personal favorite is to buy a liter of milk, pop a straw in and drink on the way home. The goal is quick absorbing carbohydrate.
Then, aim to have a more substantial meal with approximately a 3:1 Carbohydrate to Protein ratio within the next hour. If you struggle with appetite after a long run, keep snacking on smaller high carbohydrate snacks over several hours.
Replenishing your glycogen stores timeously not only speeds up muscle repair,but also helps keep your your immune system strong.
For those training in the Southern hemisphere you will be doing a lot of your long runs in high temperatures. Not only will you lose a lot of water during the run, but also electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium) which play an important role in the healthy functioning of your muscles, nerves, heart and overall energy system. It is therefore important that you ensure these electrolytes are replaced along with fluids.
Rest is best. Feet up! Sleep is paramount for muscle repair as we release the important hormones for rebuilding the muscles during sleep. So be sure to be getting both enough and good quality sleep during your peak training.
Going for a gentle walk in the late afternoon also helps with the recovery. Make sure that the day following your long run is either a complete day off or a very easy jog. Take note – cross training is training not rest!
Some gentle massage and mobility work will also help speed up repair. Resist taking anti-inflammatories, it has been shown that the inflammation is an important part of the repair process and while they reduce pain, they also reduce gains from the training session.
Enjoy the journey!