“Recovery is key” you’ll hear that everywhere, you probably already have, but what does it mean?
Recovery subjects your body to a series of processes to repair the worn-out muscle fibres, building new blood vessels to the damaged areas, and restoring homeostasis.
As a keen runner, your consistent training (the runners bug) improves your performance no doubt. However, training without setting aside enough resting time, attracts injuries.
Recovery involves three aspects:
- Replenishing energy stores
So how do you recover like a pro?
Rehydration and Refuel
The first rule is to ensure you attend to your hydration and nutrition needs.
Rehydration plays a very crucial role in achieving a healthy body and of sound mind. This has a significant effect on you as a runner.
Your body comprises 60% water. Even if you haven’t sweat a lot, its important to replenish your body with sufficient water, to keep your body working as it should – Essential in removing excess waste from the body and keeping your major organs going. Water also aids decreasing muscle soreness, as well as cramps and injuries, overall it is key to help maximize your running performance.
What are some tips for a Runner to stay hydrated?
The first thing to practice as a runner is drinking water regularly. From running with a bottle or camel packs to sitting with a water bottle post-run.
An intake of 8 – 12 glasses of water each day will help you replenish water lost during running.
Normalize eating fruits rich in water content, such as watermelons, pineapple oranges, and apples, to help cope with dehydration.
A good indicator of hydration levels is to check your urine. When you find that the colour of your urine is clear or pale shade yellow, you are safe, and your body is well hydrated (expect a good strong running performance today). Whereas If you realize that the colour of your urine is dark yellow, brown, or orange, this indicates that you might be facing dehydration, so glug more water before heading out today.
A second advisory towards hydration would be to avoid alcoholic drinks. Alcohol viciously dehydrates and will affect your performance as a runner (in more reasons than one). Consumption of alcohol will also result in inadequate storage of carbohydrates in your body, making your muscles weak and increasing your injury (alongside the hangover, headaches, fatigue and loss of balance).
Caffine also naturally dehydrates, so maybe opt for a caffeine free beverage to help increase your hydration especially when its cold out.
Third little tip; take note of your excess loss of water through sweating. Because if it is salty, its worth adding salt to your hydration plan (a pinch with some fruit juice never gets noticed). Otherwise for a higher sweat rate (which is perfectly normal, we’re all different). It is recommended that you take 12-16 glasses of water daily (especially on a run day).
A Proper Cool Down
At the end of any running session, cooling down is a must.
The activities are done during cooling down sessions speed up the recovery rate.
The recovery element of your training plan helps give your body chance to restore your body’s energy as well as repair the damaged muscles. You see, as you run, there are microscopic damages caused to your muscles. (you’d be familiar with the soreness after a long run? yeah that’s them!) If you neglects to recover, serious injuries might occur, as micro tear after micro tear can take its toll, becoming a big tear.
Why recommend cooling down?
During any running session, there usually is an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. A sudden halt on these two might cause you to feel dizzy and somewhat disoriented. This is why you will see most experienced runners keep jogging at the end of their race, even if a hundred meters.
What is the cooling down procedure?
Reduce your running pace gradually to a jogging pace. (A sports watch with a heart rate monitor is fantastic for controlling this, exerting about 50% of your maximum heart rate for a cool down – find out more here) otherwise, keep jogging for about 5 minutes. Your heartbeat will adjust and slow down to normal.
Consciously take deeper breathes as you slowly jog or walk, followed by a full body stretch, keep mindful of your body and take longer if you need.
More Cool Down exercises
- Jogging or walking
Jogging is the most common exercise done by runners after any running session.
You are recommended to do a 5 minutes jog followed by 1-2 minutes easy walk before becoming stationary.
- Upper Body Stretch
Interlace your fingers and force palms away from you, arms straight.
Maintaining a straight spine stretch your arms above your head, perhaps focus more to the left by moving palms towards the right side (or the right by moving arms towards the left) then both equal out in front to stretch back of the shoulders and arms.
You can also stretch your chest this way by interlocking hands behind your back, palms facing you, and straighten the arms out.
If you want to add a neck stretch you can look down or tilt your head so an ear touches your shoulder on one side, then repeat.
- Seated forward bend
While sitting, stretch out your legs.
Elevate your arms and hinge at your hips, then fold forward.
Put your hands on your ankles, calfs or the floor.
Hold this position for around 1 minute.
- Knee to Chest Pose
Lie down on your back with your left leg bent.
Place your right knee in toward your chest, interlacing your fingers of your skin.
Old on this position for 1 minute, then repeat for a minute.
- Standing Forward Bend
While standing, slowly hinge your hips to bend.
Stretch your spine, and allow your head to fall heavy towards the floor. Keep a slight bend in your knees.
While placing your hands on the floor, hold your right and left elbows behind your thighs. You can opt to interlace your hands behind your back.
Maintain this position for approximately 30 seconds.
- Shoulder Stretch
Lift your right elbow and place your hand near your neck or spine.
Put your left hand on your right elbow and press gently on your right and down your spine.
For you to deepen the stretch, put your left arm alongside your torso and reach your left hand up to clasp on your right.
Note: none of these stretches should be painful, if they are, just ease off the position until you feel a light stretch and hold there instead.
What are the benefits of Colling down?
Cooling down exercises is termed to be the start of the recovery process. It increases your flexibility and promotes relaxation, perfect state for the body to start repairing its self. By completing these exercises at a gradual pace after a run, keeps your blood circulating and preventing you from feeling dizzy. Overall, cooling down helps to gently bring your body temperature, pressure, and heartbeat back to a normal, more relaxed state.
It is of great benefit to your body that you spare time for rest since most of your muscle repair will occur. Cooldown generally improves your body’s overall function and flexibility, allowing you to perform better on your next event and minimize chances for injury.
Consider seeing a professional trainer or coach for assistance since he or she will make sure you carry out these exercises correctly and provide feedback to stay safe while maximizing your potential.