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Recovery - The forgotten training principle

Recovery is probably the most forgotten about and underrated training principle. After training, you’ll naturally feel fatigued. A period of recovery is required to allow the body to repair the muscle damage and improve performance. If we train for 10 hours a week (which is a really good amount, by the way) this leaves 158 other hours. Now, some of these hours will be spent sleeping, which is the holy grail of recovery (and to find out more about sleep, see our other article on this important topic). But what we do in those other hours is key to our adaptation from the stress of training, however I'm sure many of us just get on with our daily lives and don’t give recovery too much thought. One of the reasons why professional athletes are so good is because they spend their time in between sessions resting - there are repots of many Kenyans getting over 14 hours of sleep a day, once you also take into account their naps! When we train, there's a stimulus that's caused, which leads to fatigue (this causes a temporary reduction in performance and muscle function). A period of recovery allows for the body to adapt to the training stimulus to improve performance by Super-Compensating, and this is where we get an improved response to training stimulus above baseline fitness. This is why we can’t train hard every day and why there are easier weeks built into a Full Potential training plan. It allows for the body to adapt and get fitter. If you just trained hard everyday you’d break down very quickly! What can you do to maximise your recovery? After each run, especially a big session (by this we mean any threshold, speed work or a long run) you should have a good recovery protocol that you aim to follow as closely as possible. Here are our top tips for recovery: 1. Sleep is king, make sure you're getting a good number of hours sleeping each night 2. Have a well balanced and timely nutrition strategy 3. Have an effective warm up and and active recovery 4. Have a regular sports massage or include some self-massage 5. Maintain flexibility A Basic recovery protocol As a minimum, after a key session you should be doing the following Make sure you spend some time cooling down, doing some easy jogging and some light stretches, just to realign muscle fibres, perhaps for 5 minutes or so. You need to get some fluids and fuel into your body to replace the, sweat, carbohydrates and protein that you've just burnt off. You should have a recovery drink like Rego Rapid Recoveryfrom SIS prepared and ready in the fridge. Milk has been touted as a good recovery product and, whilst it's good to help rehydrate you, the type of carbohydrate and protein is not likely suitable to stimulate maximal recovery. For more on this read SiS Senior Sports Nutritionist Dr James Morton’s article here. The drink is a perfect blend of carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes to rehydrate you and fuel your body of all the nutrients that it is craving. Once you’ve warmed down, had your recovery drink and taken a shower it is now that the recovery process will take a back seat. If you’ve trained in the morning or at lunch time, you’ve got work to get on with, if you’ve trained in the evening you have dinner to make and possibly family commitments. So, with this in mind, you need products and ways of helping recovery that will fit in with your lifestyle and time available. What else can you do to help maximise recovery? Compression products are good at increasing the blood flow to the areas that you are wearing them on, ideally this will be your calf muscles or your legs, and if you use a product from 110% Compression then there's the chance to add some ice in to improve recovery. If you have more time, then a recovery pump system, like the Normatec MVP is fantastic for providing the legs with some active compression. It's a big favourite of athletes in the USA and Ben really enjoyed using the product (you can read his review here). Set aside time to do some proper stretching and foam rolling. This will keep you supple, flexible and mobile. Spend time finding the sore points on your legs and generally around your body and work on them. A product like the GRID is fantastic as a foam roller, available from sweatshop for £40. There's also a brand new product out called Firefly™, it has been used by elite teams and athletes over the last year and has just gone into mass production (we plan to have a full review on the product soon). It works using revolutionary OnPulse™ neuromuscular elector stimulation (NMES) technology to increase blood circulation. Our Initial testing suggests that it really does work and it's ideal because it works whilst you're sitting at a desk in the office and can be worn under your clothes. The problem with all of these things is that it takes time. This is why you’ll find your long run and/or a harder training session on the weekend (or whenever your days off are). By doing the long hard work on these days, not only do you have more time to fit them in, but you have the rest of the day to recover properly, instead of spending you day stuck in the car, at work on your feet or hunched over a computer in the office. Whether you are going out for a light walk, enjoying some relaxing time on the sofa or giving yourself 60 minutes to properly stretch later in the day, it all helps get the body ready for the next tough session. There are also physiological benefits of training hard on a Saturday and doing an easy long run on a Sunday, especially when you are marathon training, as we can put some fatigue into the legs before the long run to mimic some of what your legs will go through on marathon day, but I want you to focus on recovery after reading this article, or at least think about it more. Recovery is a huge topic and it isn’t something you can cherry pick the parts that you want to do and still see results. You have to be managing your body by warming up well, stretching and getting regular massage as well. You need to be sleeping well. You need to be on top of your nutrition and hydration. Only once you've got these three areas sorted can you add in products like compression, the FireFly™ and using ice. If you aren’t recovering properly, you're short changing yourself after training and won’t be seeing the improvements that you deserve after all the time, energy and money that you put into your running in the first place. Good recovery could be the difference between that PB in your next big race, or just missing out. Over the next few weeks we’ll look closer and some of the other areas of the recovery process (nutrition, body management) and have some reviews on the products you can be using to help maximise your recovery.

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