Team long run

Running Tips #5: Recovery

The Virtue of Recovery.

Fewer things in life are more satisfying than making rapid progress.  As a runner, those moments and days of progress are truly the “golden hours”. Looking back, I think it’s why running is such a powerful positive addiction. Similarly, fewer things can be more discouraging than feeling stuck, especially when we’re working hard.  

In all aspects of our lives, we know the virtue of work.  It’s so easy to see and feel. Harder to see and feel is the virtue of recovery. Smart and disciplined recovery is vital to progress.  Mentally, I think that’s the toughest, most counter-intuitive concept for a runner to grasp.  When an accomplished runner- especially one who’s on a chartable arc of progress, gets stuck, recovery is the first thing to look at.

If you are self-coached take note: it’s also one of the toughest things to coach well.

Recovery has to be carefully planned, and then executed.  Again, that can be very tough for a runner.  If you head out for a recovery run (yes, easier than normal) and you feel great… it is so tough to stay off the gas pedal, to sit back on hills.

I’ve been to several clinics and conferences that focused on “recovery modalities”. They all boil down to a fairly simple idea: timely and adequate rest allows us to increase our capacity to work.  What that means is a little different for everybody.  I have friends who swear by ice baths, and can point to the science that supports them.  I have other friends who go straight to hot water, equally confident (based on their own experience) that’ll do the trick. I have friends who jump on a bike for a recovery day, and others who feel “all tied up” the day after a ride.

Three things seem to be constant, though.  First is a reduction in both volume and intensity.  Tough if your work ethic overwhelms your reason.  Second, eating and drinking after a workout.  If you’ve followed sports nutrition, you probably remember the happy discovery that chocolate milk was the ideal post-workout recovery drink. Chocolate milk.  Finally, I think sleep is probably the most important recovery modality of all.  College runners figure that out quickly, sometimes the hard way.

You need to record the frequency, timing, and nature of your recovery as diligently as you record the frequency, timing, and nature of your workouts.

In other words, work at recovery.

Shontee Pant:

"Usually, I jog for 20 minutes, tell myself I’ll go through emails while stretching to make sure I stretch long enough. Or if I’m feeling unproductive I’ll watch them last Colbert or John Oliver episode while stretching."

Casey Clark:

"For me, especially after a tough workout, I like to do a 20-30 minutes cooldown jog, a 10-minute walk, lots of stretching, and then a tall glass of ice cold chocolate milk :)."

It sure is interesting how when we are younger it is an afterthought at best and then as we age it slowly gains more importance.  

Anyway, I have discovered through my own training and over time that recovery and training are truly practiced in conjunction simultaneously.  If I had more of sports doctor training background I could get into the technical terms and processes.  I do have a friend here in Chicago, Dr. Jonathan Dugas who is an expert in that area and maybe sometime we could get his take on this.

Recovery is one of the most underrated exercises of training.  Whether you are a novice, elite or pro the most important thing to remember is that recovery is essential.  Developing an individual training plan is not complete without the addition of a thorough and detailed recovery plan/process.  In fact, the more detailed your recovery plan is, the more meaningful your training and use of recorded metrics are in providing guidance for your training.

I have found that recovery is best determined by keeping a detailed log of workouts.  This log entails the essential data needed to review and assess any one day’s workout and the intensity thereof in real performance metrics combined with the analysis of individual body’s response during, immediately after and the recovery period.  For instance, in my own logs, I will write down the specific workout including duration, performance level in speed, distance, time and perceived effort versus real-time metrics of heart rate during the workout, the average heart rate, and maximum heart rate.  I will also add notes of my performance of the workout including execution of form, stamina during, strength or lack thereof and perceived performance.  I find all of these metrics to be helpful when determining my next workout or any needed recovery.

Recovery then includes an established systematic routine of monitoring fluid intake, nutrition, actual rest period and sleep along with comparing my established resting heart rate versus recovery period resting heart rate.  I can then compare each day’s performance based on similar metrics which provides me with more meaningful data and allows for constant monitoring of performance improvement in workouts.

I practice this for all of my workouts whether it is for endurance heart rate training or speed work.  

I will add that I enter this data manually into an excel spreadsheet for each day, I do not use an ap or rely on any third party software.

- Leonard Hatcher