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As a physiotherapist it feels good to prevent injuries rather than just diagnose and treat them. Over the years of treating hundreds, if not thousands of runners I can safely say that a major cause of running injuries is poor recovery techniques so here are my top five tips on how to recover optimally below.
For more running/marathon tips you can check out my latest radio interview on running/marathon training tips, check out the marathon training myth busters article or check out the OC website for loads of advice on running injuries and injury prevention.
Top five ways to recover
1) Rest and sleep
Most people who run marathons are not professionals. They have jobs, families a social life and plenty of things to fit into their lives other than their training schedule. So something has to be sacrificed to fit in training and the most common one people choose is to reduce time spent on rest and sleep.
This quickly results in lowering the immune system and limits the amount of time the body can repair itself from the previous training session resulting in an increased risk of picking up viruses and bacterial infections and also increasing the chance of pain and injury. At worst it can lead to nasty chronic conditions that will not only stop you training but can cause long term issues.
The way we get fitter and stronger is actually cause micro trauma to the body which responds by producing bigger muscles, a more efficient heart and lungs and more resilient tendons etc. However, this repairing response will only occur of the body is rested well and the best repair happens when we are sleeping. So sleep and rest not only should but MUST be incorporated into your training.
The harder you have trained, the more you will need to rest and sleep to recover adequately.
When we are training to increase our fitness levels our body’s need increased amounts of nutrients to repair damaged muscles and build stronger fitter ones. Unless we fill the body with these nutrients the body will simply get weaker and become injured and unwell.
One of the most common mistakes I see people with low metabolisms eating too many carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes etc) and therefore putting on weight and those with high metabolisms eating too little and therefore loosing muscle mass as a result. Get to know how many calories your body needs and try and match your complex carbohydrate intake accordingly.
Secondly people tend to know that they need to increase their protein intake (lean meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, pulses and beans) because proteins are fundamental in building muscle. However. they don’t necesarily recognise how important vegetables and fruit are in repairing and building cells. So make sure you pile in the veggies too.
3) Sports massage
A good sports massage releases tight muscles and increases circulation, thereby clearing out waste products and enabling healing agents to reach the muscles. Check out my previous article on the scientific evidence behind sports massage.
Some people swear by self-massage using foam rollers and other kit a well as and ice baths but these have not been clinically proven either way.
4) Cross training
Once you have gone to the trouble of training hard, gentle exercise in the form of cross training can help to maintain good circulation to the body and muscles and therefore aid recovery.
By cross training I don’t necessarily mean on the cross trainer itself, rather any form of gentle exercise that you enjoy. This can include gentle cycling, yoga, swimming, pilates, dancing or anything else that gets you warm whilst staying well within your comfort zone.
5) Yoga and relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, gentle yoga or simply reading can be excellent at making sure your muscles and mind fully relax. You are more likely to sleep better and recover better as a result.
I will continue my running/marathon series over the next few days on the following topics unless someone gives me a suggestion for another topic first:
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