Five Steps for Recovery: Post Training and Post Race

By: Paula Burchat, BA, RMT, CSMTA(SF) • June 2, 2015

Five Steps for Recovery: Post Training and Post Race

Many people think of training as simply going out and doing their sport, but an important aspect of training is recovery. Recovery is the downtime your body needs to adapt to the training stimulus; and it’s a process that, like training, must be learned and repeated so that your body understands what it is you are doing.
Recovery has the following components, which I’ve listed here in their order of importance, according to the peer-reviewed literature:

1. Sleep

Sleep is the number one way to recover from hard effort. We all know that lack of sleep leads to reduced performance. However, research shows that even for athletes getting proper sleep and achieving good performances, more sleep rather than more training is sometimes the key to more improvement.

2. Hydration

Hydration is one of my pet topics and my clients have gotten used to me asking them how much they are hydrating. Breaking down the numbers is often more effective than saying “you should drink more,” so below is a daily fluid intake equation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that I find useful. This is the minimum amount of fluids you need for simple day to day living.
0.3 x weight in lbs = oz of daily fluid (8oz = 250ml)
E.g. 0.3 x 150lbs = 50oz or ~1.5 liters
For athletes, runners in particular, another rule of thumb is that you need to drink 250ml for every 20 minutes of running or 750ml/hour. This is in addition to the daily fluid intake listed above. In very hot weather, this goes up from 750ml to 1 liter/hour. And for activities lasting over 1 hour, your hydration should be electrolyte drinks. Adding a pinch of salt for every 750ml of electrolyte you drink because most e-drinks sacrifice needed electrolytes for sugar to improve the taste.

3. Nutrition

Nutrition and diet vary from person to person, but no matter how active you are, eating normal food is the best way to get in your carbs, protein, fat and nutrients. Specially designed products are not necessary. Generally speaking you have a 4-hour window after your workout to refuel your muscle and liver glycogen stores. This is particularly important after hard and long workouts.

4. Self care

Self-care, or maintenance of your body, takes some work, but it’s worth the effort. A few simple maintenance activities include:

  • Active recovery: using activity to move your muscles in a different way, such as easy bike ride, yoga or a swim the day after a hard run.
  • Hydrotherapy: for example, a cool bath for 5-10 minutes after a hard effort. A cool bath of ~15-20 degrees below body temperature (98.7F) is sufficient.
  • Dynamic movement: or warming up your muscles before a hard effort or cool them down following a workout, such as legs swings for about 30 seconds in each direction.
  • Static stretching: the more readily known form of stretching where you hold your leg in a position of stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Always make sure you are well warmed up before doing static stretching.

5. Therapy

Finally, therapy, such as massage therapy or ART, provides a great many recovery benefits, but most people can’t afford a daily or weekly treatment. Periodic treatment, however, especially when used in conjunction with other forms of recovery, will help you improve your performance, avoid injury and speed recovery.
So, if you’re working on training hard, you should also be working on recovering well, which means sleep, hydration, nutrition, self-care and therapy.

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