One of the simplest and most important aspects of running and exercising, which is often overlooked by athletes, is that of rest and recovery. If you ignore advice and refuse to take a day off from your training routine, you are at your most vulnerable to injuries like shin splints, stress fractures and strains from overuse and training too much. Repair and rebuilding of damaged muscles can only occur during a recovery period. Therefore, your ambitions whatever they are can be seriously undermined.
The recovery process even starts when exercising as you need to include a warm up and also a warm down to prevent your legs from becoming stiff and sore, and therefore preventing injury and allowing you to train for your next session. Ideally this should be at least ten minutes for both. Nutrition is also vital, as you need to introduce food into your system, ideally within thirty minutes, as this is your first step to aid in the process of recovering faster, and should ideally be a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Your second nutrition intake should be within one to three hours (post exercise), comprising of a meal or snack that is high in protein and ideally includes a healthy fat and carbohydrate combination. This will help decrease muscle soreness and increase your ability to push harder and run faster during your next workout. To help complement this, sleep is also vital, as apparently incorporating adequate sleep and nutrition can account for about 90 – 95% of active recovery. This is particularly important, during taper weeks, as you should ideally aim for about eight hours sleep per night, so you are at your optimum performance, come race day.
I am also firm believer that wearing various compression shorts and tights has aided in the recovery process and limited my exposure to becoming injured. However, after a very tough run or session, where my legs are feeling stiff and sore, I'll wear my compression calve sleeves. These help muscles benefit from improved oxygenation, helping to reduce the possibility of cramps and injuries. Another minor aspect I have started to use more regularly is the use of a foam roller. After battling an ITBS injury back in late January, the roller helped fast track the recovery process. This can be particularly important if you have soreness from a hard workout, as it helps you push the metabolic waste, and promotes circulation.
he bottom line comes down to the fact that an athlete must give this process proper focus over the long haul, if they want to reap the benefits of active rest and recovery. Whatever process you use, it should ultimately be given the same dedication as your training schedule to make it worthwhile.