Running can be hard. We assume that isn’t news to you, but what is surprising is the fact that the part of running people often get wrong is actually the recovery, rather than the run.
“The run is just one part of what runners do,” says UK endurance coach Barry Fudge. “It’s also important to recover, because that’s when the adaptations happen.”
Fudge recently led a Q&A with track athletes Laura Muir, Charlie Grice, Kyle Langford and Ellie Baker at the launch of the Nike Joyride Run Flyknit shoe in St Moritz, Switzerland. The topic at hand was running recovery, and these are the four top tips we gleaned from the pros to help ensure you’re getting yours right.
1 Recovery starts as soon as you stop
It’s tempting to flop onto the lounge after a hard run, but you need to jump-start the recovery process before you relax.
“I try to get in a protein shake as soon as I finish a hard session – within half an hour,” says Grice.
“I make my own smoothie and I’d have that straight after, or even before my warm-down,” says Muir. “I do a 10-15-minute warm-down, have the smoothie, and then I ice a lot of the time as well. A 10-minute ice bath, which is often just a bucket to my knee.”
2 Pace your recovery runs right
You can run by feel if you’re sure you won’t overdo it, but a heart rate monitor can make it easier.
“Heart rate tracking is useful,” says Muir. “If you hit a hill, your heart rate is going to go up. You might be running slower, but you’re working harder. If I’m on a hill, my watch will beep at me to slow down to get my heart rate back to normal.”
For recovery runs, you want your heart rate at around 60-70% of your max. Most running watches will show you what zone you’re in.
3 Try a contrast shower
If the idea of sitting with your legs in a bucket of ice isn’t appealing, try mixing up the temperature of the water in your post-run shower to help with your recovery. This is something Baker does between rounds in a competition when she has to recover as quickly as possible for her next race.
“I do a minute cold, then a minute warm, three times. It helps flush the lactic [acid] out so you feel ready the next day to go again,” says Baker.
4 Sleep, sleep, sleep
“Sleep is massive,” says Langford. “Sometimes after a big session, I might not sleep well, so I make sure I have a lie-in. If I can’t do that because I have a session in the morning, after that session I’ll have a long nap.”
You probably don’t have the option of a lie-in or an afternoon nap, which means it’s all about the rest you get at night. An early bedtime might be the way to go if you find fatigue is building up during your running training.
“If you get less than eight hours sleep, you’re more likely to get injured,” says Grice.