If you don’t recover between training sessions then you can quite easily over-train; which in turn can lead to a weakened and vulnerable immune system, illness and a limited ability to adapt to the stimulus of training sessions and improve performance.
There are several things you can do to avoid over training; including simply evaluating the amount of training that you do, and establishing your baseline level of ‘wellbeing’ – i.e. if you feel tired all the time; you’re probably overdoing it!
Remember that just because you’re not sore anymore, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are healed and ready to train again. Post-marathon soreness for example, may fade after a few days, but research suggests it takes up to two weeks to recover.
With this in mind, here are some basic yet fundamental tips to enhance recovery after a run…
I initially thought that foam rolling was a bit of a fad, but it’s been around now for a good ten years and the foam roller is an essential piece of kit for pro-athletes to people travelling on long haul flights. There is a growing body of evidence to support its use for recovery too, especially for optimising recovery. Here is a quick overview of some foam roller routine for runners. Some runners have started investing in cricket or lacrosse balls as well, to reduce muscle stiffness and soreness via what is known as ‘trigger point’ therapy.
A sports drink is a must for virtually any run. Not only for hydration but also to top up blood sugar levels, which in turn should spare liver and muscle stores of carbohydrates during a run, and therefore enhance performance. Drinking 500ml of a sports drink about 2 hours before a long run, should optimise gastric emptying, so that more water can be taken-up by the body during the exercise session.
Sports drinks should be sipped during exercise, ideally 150ml every 15 minutes. After a run, again a sports drink can be consumed, to replace any fluids lost. If you get chance to weigh yourself, before and after a race, replace 150% of weight lost. So if you lose 2kg of weight in sweat, drink 2.5L of a sports drink, slowly, over a number of hours.
It is possible to make your own sports drink, you can use fruit juice or squash and a pinch of salt. Ideally however, maltodextrin or glucose powder is normally added to a drink as it is absorbed quicker and more ‘easily’ than fructose, which can actually cause GI stress. If your drink contains 300ml of water, add 15-20g of maltodextrin. Glucose works in a similar way to maltodextrin, but is very sweet.
Finally, there are some supplements that you may wish to consider using to enhance recovery even further. Whey protein for example has been showed to enhance recovery of working muscles, when taken after endurance exercise, with carbohydrate. As mentioned previously, there is also some research which suggests consuming BCAA 1 hour before endurance exercise can enhance performance and time to exhaustion.
All of the above information assumes that the runner in question is eating a nutritionally dense diet, full of organic (if possible) fruit and vegetables. I would also recommend researching the impact that probiotic foods can have on gut health, wellbeing and immune function.