Runners are now starting to up the mileage ahead of the upcoming London Marathon. Tom Craggs – UK elite running coach and OOFOS® ambassador – reminds competitors that putting their feet up during a training week is equally important to slogging it out on long gruelling runs.
Here are Tom’s 8 top-tips to help the body recover during training and avoid those dreaded injuries that keep runners from making the start line.
1. Take the hard with the easy
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to run every session hard. That’s not the way endurance physiology works and will likely leave you struggling to recover from the collective load of all the miles.
Try this: Avoid running back to back hard days. Mixing hard days with easy run or rest days is the best way to ensure you expose your body to a mix of running intensities. It will also ensure you have adequate recovery to adapt to the harder sessions.
2. Get to bed
Sleep is your key recovery weapon. Whilst it’s great if you can get eight hours sleep a night, the truth is the quality of your sleep is just as important. We move through several cycles as we sleep and it’s when you are in your deep sleep that the crucial growth hormones are released.
Try this: Leave smartphones and laptops outside the bedroom. Also try to avoid eating immediately before bed or drinking caffeine or alcohol late at night. A cool, dark environment and a consistent pattern of getting to bed at the same time is effective.
3. Cut it back
Progressing training is a key element of getting fit for the marathon. That said, if you just view your training as a block of 10-16 weeks where each consecutive week just gets harder than the one before, it’s both mentally and physically exhausting.
Try this: Aim to include a cut back week every 3-4 weeks in your training where you slightly reduce the overall volume. Reduce the length of the long run in order to give your body that extra rest it needs to adapt and progress.
4. Kit yourself out
Products designed to speed up your recovery are now widely available. Many can give you that little extra edge you need to feel great on your next run.
Try this: Compression garments are increasingly popular as a recovery aid with some research suggesting they can improve blood flow and speed recovery. Each time your foot hits the ground when running you put 2-3 times your bodyweight through your feet. OOFOS footwear is a fantastic option – reducing impact when standing and walking allowing your feet to relax between sessions.
5. Fuel and recover
Your nutrition is clearly a critical factor in your recovery between your running sessions. As your training progresses, your focus on getting the right nutrients to refuel and recover should also progress.
Try this: Aim to get some fuel back into your body within 15-30 minutes of finishing a session. A mix of three-to-four parts carbohydrate to one-part protein is a great ratio, and many people prefer it in a liquid form – such as a milkshake. Refuelling quickly after a session will speed up your recovery and is particularly important if you are training most days.
6. Sweat the small stuff
For most athletes the key to recovering well is never due to one single factor. The athletes who are best at recovery get the ‘little things’ right frequently.
Try this: Get into a good routine and develop a habit of daily stretching. Complete a simple core routine 2-3 times a week. Snack well between meals and ensure you have a warm dry set of clothes to change into quickly if training in cold, wet conditions.
7. Be flexible
Runners sometimes chain themselves to their training plan. The truth is, life throws unexpected things at us that factor heavily on our ability to recover. Sometimes you just need to accept this and adapt the plan.
Try this: If you are going through a particularly stressful period at work or home, you might need to reduce the load of your training plan. Chronic stress will likely have a big impact on your ability to recover, and an extra rest day, or a lighter week might make all the difference.
The ability to relax mentally as well as physically should play a big part in all recovery plans. Yet most of us neglect the mind totally.
Try this: In your key weeks of training, ensure you have time set aside to relax with family and friends. Ideal company are the people with no involvement in running at all! If you want to go a step further, regular meditation practice has been shown to significantly improve recovery and performance at times of high stress.
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