Recovery Tips + Tricks
A few weeks ago, I did an Instagram Q&A and received a question on what I do for recovery aside from my compression boots (Rabid Reboot) and easy running. This question made it clear that I don’t share enough of the things I’m doing to help my body recover from tough workouts and high mileage weeks if people think all I’m doing is laying in recovery boots and doing recovery running.
One question I ALWAYS get when I share something about, say collagen or my BCAAs is - does this really help with recovery? Short answer is, yes, but do I know the extent? Not really. Do I notice a difference if I only get in 1 weekly session with my Rapid Reboots versus 3? Not really. If I miss a day of collagen or end up with one night of 7 hours of sleep instead of 8? No. But missing or not doing these things for several days or weeks, I definitely notice a difference. A few weeks ago, I had to push back a 20 miler because my body had just not recovered well enough since my race 5 days prior to it. In an effort to be transparent, I sometimes do a terrible job at recovery - my schedule and routine that week was out of wack, I didn’t get the sleep necessary to prepare me for the mileage, and I didn’t eat well due to some time constraints and not being in my routine. The idea here is to do your research and fit in as many things that make sense for you and your life to aid in recovery. I’ve included a list of things I incorporate into my life for recovery below - I hope you find it helpful!
Sleep is the number one thing I rely on for recovery. Sleep has been proven to aid recovery and allow your body to adapt to training, which equals better overall performance. One study suggests that it can prevent injury and help keep your immune system up too. If you’re experiencing recurring injuries or overtraining, sleep - or lack thereof - could be the answer for you. I shoot for a minimum of 8 hours/night, but I try to get 10 as often as I can.
Nutrition is something I’ve taken much more seriously since I started running marathons, and essentially asking my body to do much more work. I’ve also focused a lot more on this as I’ve aged. I focus on getting in a nutrient dense meal following my long runs, proper hydration, and avoiding things like processed foods and sugars that lead to inflammation. I’ve done a lot of my own research on nutrition for endurance runners, but our nutritionist Paula has also been a great resource for me.
I’ve been taking collagen consistently for the last 2 years. I shared this post about the benefits of collagen for runners if you’d like more detail on how it works for your body and a few recipes to incorporate it in your diet. Ultimately, its good for your bones, joints, muscles, skin and hair. Taking it helps strengthens your bones and joints, reduces inflammation and betters your performance.
I take BCAAs a few times/week, but after doing more research on them, I’m planning to up this to everyday. What are BCAA’s? Branch Chain Amino Acids are a group of 3 essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine). They are considered essential amino acids because your body cannot produce them, so you have to get them through your diet. This article does a great job explaining BCAAs in a clear way. There’s research that suggests consuming them before endurance activity reduces muscle fatigue and damage. BCAAs have long been associated with body builders looking to build muscle and recover quickly, but they can be really valuable to endurance athletes with all the muscle damage we endure from high mileage and tough workouts.
I use Scivation Xtend BCAAs. They are NSF certified, which means it meets the highest standard for public health - this is hard to come by with supplements because they aren’t regulated and you never know what you’re going to get. NSF certification essentially confirms what’s on the label is what’s in the supplement. I found this great blog post from an elite runner regarding her own experimentation with BCAAs and what she found out, which is a huge reason why I’m going to add these into my diet everyday. I imagine peak weeks will get easier if I do this!
Supplemental Therapy - Massage, Chiropractic, ART
I’m all about the extras - if you can afford it. I’ve been able to get access to massage therapy and chiropractic care through my insurance, which is awesome. I try to visit them every other week during training, and every week in the month before my goal race. Massage therapy is something I do on a recovery run day (get the massage done after your run) or on a rest day. It does a great job getting blood flowing and loosening all the tight muscles and myofascial buildup that cause soreness. My chiropractor does a bit more than adjust me - he also does cupping and laser therapy, which helps with tight muscles and reducing inflammation. I’ve shared a lot about ART (active release therapy) in this blog post. I now go to my ART doc for maintenance about 3-4 times/cycle and always go the week before my goal race to ensure that I’m as limber as possible and everything is working appropriately. If you’re consistently suffering from injuries or just not feeling good while you’re running, find an ART doctor.
Rapid Reboot Compression Boots
These are my favorite way to loosen things up before a long run or recover after a speed workout. You can read my full review of the Rapid Reboot compression boots in this blog post. I’ve had them for about 3 years now and use them at least 3 times/week. It is well worth the investment to be able to use these in the convenience of your home. If you’re interested in getting them, the code rinehartshop gets you 5% off your purchase!
My feet are always sore. Once my weekly mileage gets into the 50s, its hard for my feet to feel good at all. I ice my feet after long runs and tough workouts, which helps a ton (icing reduces inflammation and swelling), but I also wear Correct Toes toe spreaders. Essentially, our toes are shoved into our feet which pushes our bones and muscles together. This can cause bigger issues and reliance on orthotics, medication, or a need to get surgery from continuing to run and exercise with our feet out of alignment. Correct Toes push your toes back to their natural alignment and strengthens your feet and toes. They’re intended to be worn and walked in so your feet can get to their natural form. I love them and notice a huge difference when I wear them for a few hours each night.
Easy Running + Consistency
This is huge. I do about 80% of my mileage easy. I also have a great base of mileage built up before I do any speed work. A little background on me: prior to starting running marathons 4 years ago, I ran without a watch for 6 years and pretty much ran the same pace for every run (in the 8-9 minute mile range I imagine). I basically spent 6 years building up my endurance base. Since then, I’ve not taken more than 2 weeks off from running. The importance of building a base is paramount to your success as a runner. Getting in those few months of easy miles helps to improve the bodies ability to absorb and process oxygen and store glycogen, it strengthens your muscles, adapts the tendons, muscles and bones to be able to manage the stress of running, and most importantly - it teaches discipline. Never underestimate the power of base building. You may not need 6 years of it, but if you’re just starting out or coming back from injury, I highly recommend at least 6 months of easy and consistent running.
I hope this is helpful and gives you some insight into a few of the things I do to help me recover from my runs. What are some of your best methods for recovery??