If I summed up my work as a Sports Therapist in one word, it would be ‘Recovery’, whether that be from a stiff neck, a cruciate ligament reconstruction, or your latest long run. It’s fairly obvious by my working in this industry that it is something of an interesting subject for me, and I’m often asked my opinion on post exercise recovery protocols. I have been lucky enough to have worked with a vast variety of people in a wide range of activities, from people new to exercise, to back-to-back marathon runners, to elite, international athletes. For all of these, my recommended protocol changes very little.
I break my recovery down into 3 different areas – Nutritional, Physiological (or Neurological), and Psychological.
So, what do I mean when I talk about Recovery? Recovery starts the minute you have finished your chosen session. Not after your shower; not after you’ve had a chat and said goodbye to your training partner. As soon as you have finished, we need to give your body the very best opportunity to be ready to go again. And so;
Within 20 minutes of finishing, you ideally need to be getting a hit of protein to start repairing the damaged muscle fibres. Protein Shakes are by far the most convenient, but obviously come at a cost. A cheaper alternative to this is Semi Skimmed Milk Powder. High protein foods such as chicken, tuna or nuts are great. This doesnt mean you only need protein. Your snack will ideally also include carbohydrates and some fat. If you can’t stomach food right after you finish, grab a sports drink instead. The importance of replacing fluids is huge, and although there are various formulae for working out how much weight you have lost through fluid loss, it is simpler (if a little less glamorous) to monitor your urine colour back to a ‘light’ colour.
ICE BATH; This is contenscious; i’m an advocate, not everyone is; sitting in a bath of cold water, for up to 10 minutes. The theory is that the icy water causes the blood in tired legs to disperse, alongside that nasty stuff, lactic acid. When the legs warm up again they are filled with ‘new’ nutrient rich, oxygenated blood which invigorates the muscles delaying that very ‘in’ acronym, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Some people dispute the benefit of this – it is argued that the practice can also limit the growth and strengthening of muscle fibres, which is a key goal of training, but certainly anecdotally, they prove very popular.
MASSAGE/SOFT TISSUE TREATMENT; Obviously, this is not always possible immediately post-run, unless you have a very supportive other half! .However, many people schedule their Sports Massage for post hard workouts, or to coincide with an intensive period of training.
ACTIVE RECOVERY; Sitting on a stationary bike for 10 to move on any lactic acid build up is perfect. In absence of this, I would suggest a walk around the house coupled with a decent stretch at some point in the evening. It may feel like an effort when all you really want is to lay on the sofa, but, benefits for the following day are huge and your body will thank you.
COMPRESSION WEAR: My wife can often be found shaking her head whilst I stroll around the house in my compression tights, post run. They’re often not a great look, but are fast becoming my favourite part of recovery. Graded compression is what you are after ideally.
Don’t be shy in congratulating yourself on another hard session, and another day closer to any event you have decided to enter. If the session hasnt gone well, consider why, and what you could change, but dont dwell on faults. The next training session is very soon…which leads me to… every bodies favourite part of Recovery – SLEEP. If you are training for an event, and take one thing from this blog, make it this; treat sleep as part of your training. Sleep long, and sleep well, you’ve earned it.
For more information please visit www.dc-injuryclinic.co.uk