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Recovery - Why? & How?

WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR BODIES WHEN WE TRAIN AND WHY IT MAKES US FITTER?

If you are building up the intensity and volume of training with the aim of working towards your first race or hoping for a marathon PB it's important to understand the physiological stress that steady training (especially running) places on the body, and endeavour to lessen the possibility of overuse injuries.

Muscles are continually tailoring themselves to adapt to the their experiences/activity. Now when the amount of usage or level of stress on a muscle is too great, the fibres that that make up the muscle are damaged, these damaged cells degenerate and are replaced by new cells, by a process called "degeneration-regeneration cycle".

The "degeneration phase" begins with the inflammatory process where enzymes and white blood cells clear up the resultant debris left behind after muscle fibre damage.

Next is the "proliferation phase" where stem cells gather along the edge of the damaged muscle fibres and the differentiate into new muscle tissue. This process continues until complete regeneration of muscle fibres.
Training will increase the muscle cell mitochondria (cells energy/power-house), number of capillaries, blood flow & O2 consumption capacity, which improves muscle metabolic activity (fitness). Leading to improved fatigue-resistant muscles.

Although this breakdown & renewal of muscle tissues eventually improves overall muscle fitness, too much muscle trauma can have a negative effect.

So to get the benefit of training and limit the risk of overuse injury, time for rest and recovery & regeneration needs to be applied to your training plan, it's the time between workouts where you become a better athlete!

TIPS FOR RECOVERY

The advice below is guidance long trusted by endurance runners, but not necessarily scientifically proved. Just find what works for you best.

GRADUAL INCREASE OF RUN TIME/DISTANCE & THE 10% RULE (TRUTH OR FICTION)

Don't increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10% (for example if you complete 20 miles in one week, your running volume for the next week should not exceed 22.2miles).
This will allow your body to adapt to the increasing levels of stress.
Having said that there is poor empirical evidence to scientifically back this up with two recent studies indicating that prescribing to the 10 percent rule doesn't reduce your chance of injury.

However, to get fitter each week, your mileage totals don’t necessarily have to follow a linear progression.

Many elite runners and coaches follow a “3 week up, 1 week down” philosophy. Whereby, they increase mileage slowly for three weeks and on the fourth week they take a step back and bring their mileage total back to the number at week 1.
For example, a runner’s mileage totals might look like this: 20, 25, 30, 20, 30, 35, 40, 30 until they build to the maximum mileage they want to hold.

Some runners respond well to down weeks every five weeks, while some runners need them every three weeks to stay healthy.

HARD/EASY LAW

Avoid doing hard run-training sessions on successive days, either have a rest or an easy recovery run.

36-HOUR RECOVERY CLOCK

If you are training hard giving yourself 36 hours between sessions may give your body time for regeneration.

MIX CARBS & PROTEIN

Some studies show that adding protein to a carbohydrate-rich post-run meal will enhance the release of insulin into the blood & hence improve carb uptake by your muscles & thereby increasing glycogen manufacture. Ratio of 4 carbs :1 protein has been suggested.

LIMIT NSAIDS (NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAM DRUGS, ASPIRIN/IBUPROFEN/NAPROXEN.

Studies show that long term NSAID use may lead to a decreased muscle cell regeneration ability. Foods naturally containing antioxidants mop up the free radicals, produced with tissue breakdown during training. More info with the below link http://www.webmd.boots.com/healthy-eating/guide/antioxidants-free-radicals

REHYDRATE

Following a run your body's recovery process requires water to hydrate& lubricate the tissues.

REST/NAP

Take time out for relaxation, physical & emotional stress causing generalised body tension. If your muscles are clenched they're not recovering efficiently.

HYDROTHERAPY

A swim mobilises the muscles & joints without the compressive forces of running, aiding blood circulation and recovery. Some athletes find a cool bath or shower over the legs feel restorative.

Further info can be found at http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/recovery-from-running-hard-workouts/