Long-distance events are a tough slog; training and competing in them is a mammoth undertaking, and the toll on the body can be huge. When athletes take on these challenges, recovery can become just as important as training and nutrition to ensure the longevity of an athlete's career.
Luckily, MH has your back, and we've tracked down two of the all time greats to give us some tips on recovering from a long-distance event. Jase Cronshaw and David ‘DJ’ Jones, Nuzest Athletes, endurance athletes, and the Founders of V&B Athletic, are here to save the day... and your muscles.
Find your inner Yogi
Yoga and running are the Yin and Yang of fitness. The reason? Runners can use yoga practice to balance strength whilst increasing their range of motion and flexibility. When you consider that an average runner strikes the ground nearly 1,000 times in a single mile, pounding the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments with each step, practicing this ancient art regularly is the perfect supplement to an effective running program. And, yes, even one class a week counts.
Yoga practice is so powerful because it’s multi-dimensional, teaching you to coordinate your breathing with each subtle movement. Eventual result? The integration of body, mind and breath. Through consistent and systematic practice, you can engage, strengthen and place demands on all of your intrinsic muscle groups, which support and stabilise the skeletal system. This offsets the effects of your running workouts, which tend to be more one-dimensional. A win for your body, and your PB!
Take a cold shower
It works! By simply taking a quick post-workout shower you can help reduce soreness and inflammation from whatever sweat session you've just completed. And the colder it is, the better.
Cold water therapy or immersion activates the body’s natural healing and can relieve the after effects of high intensity exercise. If practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion can even provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance overall quality of life.
Any activity that causes your muscles to exert beyond their accustomed limits leads to microscopic tears in the muscle fibres and inflammation in the muscle tissue. Cold water therapy has been found to help counteract these side effects as it lowers the temperature of damaged tissues and constricts the blood vessels. This in turn helps to reduce any swelling and inflammation. Which is why you often see NRL and AFL players visiting their local swimming pool or beach following a game.
Get a good night's sleep
This isn’t just about the hours, it’s about getting the highest quality sleep possible. And even the smallest changes can make a huge difference. Start with a good mattress and a comfortable bed. Keep a regular sleep schedule, so that you always wake and get up at the same time. Also, set a routine of stretching or reading to relax and wind down in the hour before you hit the hay.
Lastly, put away the phone, tablet or computer! Studies have shown that being exposed to the blue-and-white light given off by electronic gadgets at night prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that sets the body's circadian rhythm, the 24-hour “clock” that helps control when you fall asleep and wake up. Which means it takes us longer to fall asleep and can mess with our internal body clocks. So step away from your phone for better quality shut-eye, overnight.
Fuel with good nutrition
There are millions of guides out there on the best nutrition strategies for runners. However, having a decent diet strategy and sticking to it matters more than going hard on the latest eating trend.
Nutrition varies from person to person and you should have an idea of what foods work best for you and what to avoid. If not think about seeking out the advice of a qualified nutrition expert to help craft your own diet plan, so you can plan your meals in advance. This will help you recover far more effectively than jumping on the latest fad diet.
Additionally, as your training mileage increases, so do your calorie needs, especially calories from quality carbohydrates to replenish muscle fuel stores and lean protein to promote muscle repair. Dairy foods such as flavoured milk, smoothies or fruit yoghurt can be a great option as they can provide carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolytes in one handy serve that ticks all the boxes.
One of the most fundamental ways to boost recovery is hydration. The biggest issue? It’s so often overlooked. Our muscles are actually 75% water, which makes getting enough H2O, daily, even more vital.
While the role that hydration plays during exercise is widely accepted, the power of post-workout hydration is key to unlocking optimal performance, as water plays a significant role in repairing muscles damaged during exercise. Exercise causes muscles to become stronger by first breaking them down and then rebuilding them using muscle protein synthesis. This protein synthesis, however, hinges on muscles being well hydrated. If you’re dehydrated following a workout, the protein synthesis that rebuilds muscles will be slowed, subsequently delaying recovery from the workout and increasing the soreness from inflammation.
Don't just wing it on race day either. That means being properly hydrated in the days leading up to any event, and not just downing that bottle of electrolytes at the start line. As a general rule, men should aim to drink 2.5 litres of water each day. Follow this simple rule for peak performance and you’ll be standing on the start line feeling strong, fit and focused.