Five Reasons to Take Recovery Seriously

Five Reasons to Take Recovery Seriously

Once you've started running the last thing you want is an injury holding you back. From amateurs to Olympic athletes, injury can be a mental as well as physical handicap and prevention is always better than cure.  As well as making sure you choose the right running shoe, the best thing you can do to avoid injury is to listen to your body and push it without breaking it.

To do that, you need to take recovery seriously. Recovery is important not only because it ensures you get the maximum benefit from your exercise as your muscles rebuild, but it will also help ensure that you have the best chance of avoiding injury. Sage Rountree, author of "The Athlete's Guide to Recovery", tells us the basics of recovery.

1. Why Recovery Matters

It's during recovery that you grow stronger. Your workouts wear you down; recovery is where you build yourself back up to better than you were before. Without recovery, you'll be digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole that is tough to climb out of. When you are properly recovered, you'll perform to your best potential.

Over training can leave you demotivated and unable to train2. How to Tell if you're Overtraining

If you're new to running then you should be aiming to run about three times a week for roughly twenty minutes, but bear in mind that everyone is different and you might be able to manage a little more or less than this. Whatever you do, make sure you are not running on empty. "True overtraining is a serious medical condition and doesn't happen too often," says Sage. "Instead, most endurance athletes face the problem of under recovery. It's characterized by a decline in performance, often accompanied by trouble sleeping, moodiness, a change in appetite, and a lack of enthusiasm for training."

3. How to Avoid Overtraining

This isn't about making excuses for sitting on the couch; the key to avoiding under recovery is to focus on recovery! Happily, this means partaking in such pleasurable activities as sleeping well, getting massages, and eating a healthy diet. More difficultly, it also means having faith that days off serve you, and dialing back the intensity of your workouts periodically so your body can catch up with the overload you've placed on it. Check out beginner's training plans to see what combinations of rest and activity are advisable.

4. Best Recovery Techniques

The single best technique for recovery is to sleep more. Probably much more than you currently do, to the tune of nine or more hours a night. Support that with a good diet and a sensible training progression. Recovery starts at the end of the workout with some light activity, stretching, a snack if you went long and a good meal soon thereafter. The book contains some timelines for proper recovery after a workout or race. Everything else, from ice baths to compression socks, will be extra, bonus points toward your recovery.

5. Nutrition and Hydration Basics

The key to nutrition is eating a variety of plant-based foods, ideally organic, in season, and local. Eating seasonally will give you access to a full range of vitamins and minerals. Protein is also important, as it supplies the fuel for your muscles' rebuilding. Drink to your thirst, so that your urine is very light yellow. This will ensure you stay hydrated. Dehydration will impair both your performance and your recovery.




All the above topics and more are covered in depth in 'The Athlete's Guide to Recovery' by Sage Rountree. Sage is a certified coach with USA Triathlon and the Road Runners Club of America as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. To purchase a copy of the book visit Amazon or Cordee online.





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I'm just recovering from over training syndrome. I had it at the start of the year and even now I'm struggling to get my speed back. Struggling in cross country races, really hard when you are being over taken by the people you used to beat.



As regards hydration, the advice in this article to "Drink to your thirst" is excellent and has shown to be the correct way in recent research.  The idea that the human body, following millions of years of evolution, does not know how to control the amount of water it needs, is spurious to say the least. More deaths have been caused by over hydration in marathons than by dehydration, due to too little salt in the system compared with water, known as hyponatremia.  If severe, this can cause a swelling of the brain and lead to death.  People are so scared by the media hype surrounding dehydration that they are drinking more water than they need both before and during a race.  In a recent study on ultra marathon runners running in hot desert conditions. the majority of the runners had mild though symptomless hyponatremia during and after the race caused by overhydration, some even before the race.  

The body has well rehearsed mechanisms for keeping the concentration of sodium in the plasma within narrow limits and maintaining plasma volume.  When water is being lost due to evaporation through the skin, from the breath and in sweating, the concentration of sodium increases in the plasma and this stimulates the thirst receptors to encourage drinking.  Great......drink some fluid!  At the same time the body also inhibits the amount of water lost in the kidneys to conserve water.  Loss of some sodium in the sweat will also be an advantage when plasma levels are higher than normal.  If excessive water is consumed, then the body will try to conserve sodium in the kidneys and excrete less in the sweat to keep the concentration of sodium constant in the plasma, as well as excrete more water in the urine of course.   However, under water overload conditions, the body may not be able to maintain enough sodium to compensate for the excessive water intake, leading to hyponatremia, unless some sodium is consumed in tablets or in energy drinks.

I do not agree with the comment in the article that the colour of urine is a useful guide to dehydration.  Yes, maybe under rest conditions but not under race conditions.  The urine will be automatically concentrated during a race in hot conditions, in order to conserve water and maintain the sodium concentration in the plasma at optimal levels.  Therefore it is the plasma concentration , not the urine concentration that indicates dehydration. If the body is doing its job right, the urine should be concentrated under these conditions.  By concentrating the urine, water is being conserved for the body.  Drinking too much water merely messes up the body's tried and trusted means of hydration control. See reference:

Water and sodium intake habits and status of ultra-endurance runners during a multi-stage ultra-marathon conducted in a hot ambient environment: an observational field based study

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:13 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-13

Published: 15 January 2013

Ricardo JS Costa, Ana Teixeira, Luis Rama, Abigail JM Swancott, Lisa D Hardy, Benjamin Lee, Vera Camões-Costa, Samantha Gill, Jessica P Waterman, Emily C Freeth, Edel Barrett, Joanne Hankey, Slawomir Marczak, Encarna Valero-Burgos, Volker Scheer, Andrew Murray and Charles D Thake


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