When I first began this somewhat crazy and exciting journey to a more healthy me, I did what most people do. Well actually, I didn’t do what most people do because I didn’t QUIT. Not yet. Not ever. I did the second most common thing that people do. I just went out there and worked. And I worked. And I worked. Piling training session onto workouts onto training session. Yes, I stepped up my sleep game and went from getting 4-5 hours a night to 6-7 hours a night. That helps. When I was sore however, I just powered through. I didn’t listen to my body and do the right recovery steps and rest when I should have. What happened? I got injured. I bent my body until it broke and it cost me a trip to Washington to run the Marine Corps Marathon last October. The bottom line is that proper recovery prevents injury and enhances performance.
Fast forward to this morning, I’m flipping through my Instagram feed and one of the people I follow posted about their awesome 7 mile run that she had. She wrote a comment with her post asking for help with soreness and recovery. I love when people ask questions on social media that I can actually answer because I generally like to help people, especially where their training in concerned. So I started commenting on her post. Before I knew it I had more than quadrupled the character limit for Instagram and so I thought… Blog post. It’s about time for a new one.
Proper Recovery Steps and Protocol
Some of what I am about to say has been said before in other places, but I had never really seen it in a consolidated list in the order that produces the best results, so here goes…
- Start by dynamic muscle activation before your workouts. It takes 2-3 minutes but it gets the muscles ready to go before you start your workout which will break the muscles down. Watch this video from Bobby McGee: Bobby McGee Muscle Activation
- When you start your run, the first 5-7 minutes is warm up. Don’t just go out and start running at training or race pace. The muscle activation above helps but you still should warm up, then do your run.
- The last 5-7 minutes (or longer for longer workouts) of your workout is cool down. People blow this off, but cool down is really important for recovery. It prevents your muscles from immediately tightening up which will cause additional soreness and it will also reduce the chance of injury. If you’re concerned about your swim, bike or run splits, turn the watch off and then do cool down.
- Stretch. Now don’t really torque down on the muscles trying to “feel that burn” as some trainers say. You just want to get a bit of a stretch on the muscles impacted during training. When you feel muscle tension in the stretch, that’s good enough in my opinion. There are good videos of these on YouTube as well.
- Feed the muscles and do it within the first 30-40 minutes post-workout. Timing is important. The muscles are thirsty and are best prepared to feed in that window of time. You need protein as someone mentioned above, but you also need to resupply the muscle with glycogen, so don’t be afraid the throw some good carbs in there too. I make a smoothie after my workouts with protein, coconut milk, kefir, green powder, and some kind of fruit. The thing to avoid in these post workout recovery “meals” is fat. I am a big fan of healthy fats like coconut oil and usually put them in my smoothies, but post workout you don’t want it because fats actually slow down the transfer of glycogen to the muscle. You want that stuff on board as soon as possible.
- Sometime later, get to the foam roller or massage stick. I usually wait and do this before bed. They are important steps though.
Science is a beautiful thing. It provides us with new and exciting ways that we can recover from hard workouts and in some cases injuries. Here are a couple of my favorite things that I like to do to aid in recovery.
- Normatech Compression Boots – Normatech boots use something they call Sequential Pulse Technology where it applies compression on the legs in “stages”. You can read all about the science behind Normatech here What I can tell you is that when I tax my legs substantially, I like to visit the boots because they provide some comfort and really speed up my recovery allowing me to go to work again as soon as the next day.
- Cryotherapy – I visit American Cryotherapy every other week or so. The major response that I get from this treatment is a substantial decrease in inflammation. Cryotherapy is the process of entering a chamber where the practitioner uses liquid nitrogen to push very cold air (as cold as -200 degrees F) onto your body. I wear socks, slippers and gloves and underwear to protect from acute frostbite.
Supplementation to aid in Proper Recovery
- Water, water, water. Get at least half your bodyweight in ounces per day. More than that on workout days.
- Branch Chain amino acids. Protect muscles before and during workouts and help them recover after. Especially an amino acid called Glutamine. Not all Amino Acids are built the same, so do your homework. I use two personally. Master Amino Pattern (MAP) which I get from Amazon and Endurapro, which I also get on Amazon.
Periodization allows for Proper Recovery
If you don’t know what it is, read about it. Essentially, you should have a period every so often where your workout volume and intensity is lower allowing for additional rest and recovery, if you’re looking not at best you can always use this to locate orogold stores near you and get some makeup. For example, I put most of the long course (70.3 or above) triathletes that I coach on a 4-week periodization schedule. They do three weeks where volume and intensity increases each week, then they do one week backed down by 30-40% from week 3 allowing the body to recover. Then it starts all over again. I believe that even casual runners and endurance athletes should incorporate this paradigm even when training for fitness and not competition. They’d find themselves feeling better and getting injured less.
This is the protocol I use with the triathletes and runners that I coach. I use it myself and it seems to work well for me. I’m 41 and pile on some pretty high mileage on big, old muscles and I can go day after day without soreness most of the time. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask. Feel free to share this info with anyone that can benefit using the share links below. If you have any additional ideas that people can benefit from, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear it.0