Recovering from Training

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
• Sleep
• 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
• Stretching
• 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.

Recovery Tidbits
• 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.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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5 Responses to Recovering from Training

  1. Jimmy Holub says:

    Thanks for the great info!

    Hey, regarding the damage/recovery for “9 miles”….

    Some people can easily run 9 miles in 60 minutes. Others take 90 minutes. That’s a big difference.

    Did the researchers disclose any more info? What kind of pace were these people running? How many minutes did the 9 miles last? What level of effort?

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    I don’t know that pace was specifically mentioned as a factor but effort would be. So, whether 60 or 90 minutes was a race-like effort expect more damage. If it were an everyday easy effort expect less damage.

    So, the harder the effort the more the damage. As you condition yourself of course over time, the same effort can get you farther or you’ll cover the distance faster. It’s due to your muscle conditioning; therefore you would experience less or more damage depending on your level of conditioning.

    I hope that makes sense.

  3. Merv says:

    Hi Dean

    Great site, thank you for publishing so many interesting articles. Ironically enough, given a couple of your blogs re. the name change, I found your site via a link from Runner’s World 😉

    I just started runnning in April this year and completed a 10K in June (47:58) and did a half marathon at the start of September (1:35:59). I’m really enjoying it and have been devouring everything I can from various sources about how to get my training together. I’ve read various articles about focusing on quality workouts rather than ‘just doing the mileage’.

    I really like this approach, because my knee has been a bit dicky and it suits me to do 3 quality workouts/week with 48/72 hours recovery in between, rather than runnning 4/5 workouts per week of less quality and less recovery time (it also suits my work/life balance).

    So at the moment my winter plan is a tempo, a speed or hill workout and a long run per week. I had been intending to keep this up as until about January when I will start a training phase for a marathon in late May. However, I’ve saw you mention a couple of times about the recovery required from long runs and to only do them every 2/3 weeks, so what should I replace them with?

    I like my hill workouts, so would it be a good idea to do a speed workout and a hill workout in the same week? My main focus is getting my speed up, so that when I start my marathon training I can, hopefully, benefit from a good fast base which will enhance all the workouts that I do then.


  4. Dean Hebert says:

    I like your question. Stay tuned. I’ll post a new article to answer you.

  5. Merv says:

    Cheers Dean, I look forward to it.

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