As athletes we are always reminded that recovery is just as important as the training itself. In order to adapt to the hard sessions that we do day-in and day-out, we must allow our bodies to recover. It is an integral part of our daily routine as it allows out tired and well used muscles to repair and rebuild themselves, making us stronger and more resilient. Steve always drums it into us that if ‘we aren’t recovering, we aren’t adapting’. We’re all learning to become masters of the recovery process, and we understand now that recovering well is far more than just having a protein shake after a hard session!
Many of us joined Team NB MCR straight from university life where recovery is often very much neglected and is the first thing to go (closely followed by any prehab/rehab exercises) when there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in everything you need to do. With busy lives and social calender’s, recovery often falls by the wayside. A training session may have been followed by a few slices of jam and toast, and then a night out for a friends birthday, or a night in the library with our books….in hindsight, not the ideal recovery! This is something you can get away with for a few days to weeks, but over time, neglecting recovery can lead to niggles building up, illnesses, sessions getting slower and races not going quite as well as hoped.
Since joining the team, I think we’d all say we’ve started to make recovery a far bigger priority. There’s some debate about the possibility that too much “enhanced” recovery can attenuate the body’s adaptations to training, but for elite athletes with high training loads the need for recovery likely outweighs any hypothetical downsides. Endless research has been put into the best strategies for recovery and we could probably write a very long list of these things, some more wacky than others. I’m sure you could find somewhere on the internet that the key to recovering well is sleeping with socks on your hands or eating 20 apples a day (don’t worry, we don’t actually do this!). We try to keep things pretty simple including; getting plenty of sleep, hydrating, refueling well after training, sports massage, foam rolling, compression, icing and running easy in between our hard sessions and just generally relaxing! We are fortunate at Team NB MCR to be in an environment where recovery is made easy, it is not uncommon for us all to be in bed by 10pm, or for us to be having a nap on a Sunday afternoon wearing our compression socks. Sleep is arguably the best thing you can do with regards to recovery. There’s some individual variation to exactly how much, but generally if you’re training at an elite level and not spending nine hours a night sleeping, you’re not doing everything you can to maximise recovery and adaptation and improve.
We have an ice machine for when anyone fancies an ice bath (it’s more of a regular occurrence in the summer!), and we aim for 10 minutes at 15 degrees C. We have several foam rollers lying around the place to help iron out sore muscles and flush out toxins. In addition to this we aim to have sports massage around once a week which really is helpful in the recovery process and in keeping us injury free. Finally, we all make sure that we’re getting the right food in at the right time, and are well hydrated (the SOS Rehydrate sachets make this much easier!).
People often are intrigued to know what we eat or if we follow any certain diet. Whilst we don’t follow any particular strict diet, I think we all know what we should and shouldn’t be eating, and we try our bests to eat a healthy balanced diet. Arguably, the most important time for eating in a runners day in in the 30 minutes or after a run when our muscles are hungry for food, this is also called the glycaemic window. We aim to refuel with a combination of carbohydrates and protein (a banana and a protein shake is a common combination) in this window as it aids massively in the recovery process. This is then followed up by a good meal of carbs, protein and vegetables within 2 hours. Whilst we all make sure we’re eating the right foods to help us recover, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we deprive ourselves of the occasional treat. We all love the odd slice of cake (the girls can often be found concocting some sort of cake in the kitchen, some more successful than others!), or burger and chips for dinner, but we know that it probably isn’t in our best interest to have junk food before a session, or to be eating poor quality treats everyday. There is a time and a place for everything though, and there is no harm in indulging in a slice of cake every now and again, and the odd curry or pizza as long as we are getting adequate amounts of high quality non processed food for the majority of our meals.
Sometimes the hardest part of recovery is being content with just relaxing and doing very little! It may sound a little strange, but in a country where there are so many things to do, people to see and distractions galore, it is often hard to just relax and do nothing. Despite not being particularly stressful or strenuous, a day of shopping after a hard session or a late night our with friends can definitely have an impact on recovery, whilst it may only be small, over time it can have a big impact. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we just run eat and sleep. We do like to enjoy ourselves and be sociable, but I guess we are just mindful that we don’t put too many things on our plate and that we turn up to sessions feeling recovered and ready to work hard. Many of us on the team are either studying or have jobs, but we are in fortunate positions where we are generally able to coordinate our work around training so that it has minimal impact. In a way, working is a nice distraction from running, but it about finding the right balance, and being organised!
This weekend Andy and Ben will be toeing the line over 5,000m at the British Championships and Jonny will be running the Alderley Bypass 10km as he builds up again for the Berlin Marathon in September.
Good luck guys!!!