I enjoy sharing research based information I come across. In this posting I’ll briefly cover the research supported methods for recovering from workouts. Since so many of you are now preparing for fall or winter marathons you may not be quite as interested in recovering. However, I think you will find the following information essential to your training program. I’ll lead with this little research tidbit. Did you know that two out of three marathoners arrive on race day with muscle damage from not recovering properly from their training – i.e. not tapering properly? It requires 17-21 days to recover from training and that last 20 miler at a cellular level.
These are proven and research supported recovery methods from those hard weeks and long runs. This means that there was one or more well designed and controlled experiments that supported its use.
• Aqua-running – deep water
• Rehydration with electrolytes
• Nutrition (carbs) – especially in the first 30 minutes after hard workouts.
• Warm-down – short 5-10 minutes
• Icing – 10-12 minutes with 20 minutes off
What has not shown (through controlled research) to speed recovery
• Contrast baths
• Hot tubs
• Ice baths – I do not know why icing has been shown to assist recovery where ice baths do not. But, I only report what I find.
• Benefits to your neural system are immediate after workout; in other words your nervous system responses show immediate improvement. A recovery period isn’t needed.
• Workout adaptation is speculated to be about 36 hours (little true research to support, mostly based on protein synthesis measurements); it takes at least that long for a workout to make a difference in your physical condition. This is also a good reason to look at how your schedule your workouts; read about hard-easy.
• After a 9 mile run the rate of cell damage increases dramatically. Now you can see why it’s better to have “long” runs every two or three weeks, not every week.
• After a 26 mile run it requires about 4 weeks for complete cell recovery. Anecdotally – it may take much longer! If you trash yourself going to your very limits, it may take many weeks or even months.
• Training improvement can be seen even after a 6 week block or phase of training with progression of reps/weights/etc. Therefore training blocks or phases do not need to be limited to 6 weeks; you can go 10-12 weeks even if you modify quantity, quality or combinations of workouts. However, recovery weeks aid in conditioning allowing the body to rebuild from steady training. Therefore, schedule a low mileage easy week every 6-8 weeks. Anecdotally – there is wide variation on what any athlete can handle. I need an easier week every 4-5 weeks in order to feel fresh – and recovered.