A trend we often see in patients is putting a great deal of effort into their training but not giving the same attention to rest and recovery. Your body adapts when you are resting. Not when you are training, stretching, doing yoga or ‘active recovery’. Your body adapts when you are at rest. This is when a series of physiological processes happen within your cells and tissues and your body adapts to new levels of efficiency.
The training stimulus needs to be followed by proper recovery so that it can be converted into added benefits for your body. Recovery becomes even more important when you are not a professional athlete; professional athletes generally only one job: getting their body to perform at their best.
‘Amateur Athletes’ are juggling a lot more: a full-time job which often involves 8-10hrs at a desk, looking after their family and especially in London, a long-time commute. On top of this they try to train as much as professional athletes to be able to race. The minimal time left is used for more training following the assumption that more is better; this means that recovery, sleep and proper nutrition often take the toll.
You have probably heard this before, but sleep is important! No matter how often you repeat to yourself that you are fine with 6 hours of sleep, you are not. Research has shown that sleeping less than 8 hours a night decreases your output, and no, you can’t catch up on sleep at the weekend, our bodies don’t work like that. Restricting your sleep to less than 6 hours can further negatively impact mental and physical performance as well as your metabolism.
Simple strategies to improve sleep:
- Track your sleep with an app. This will be a big eye opener on how much sleep you get and how efficient it is. There are several free ones for both iPhone and Android.
- Get into a routine. Put a sleep alarm and go to bed at the same time each night.
- Use some relaxation techniques before going to bed.
More on sleep in a couple of weeks’ time, click here to sign up to our newsletter and stay tuned!
During activity our muscles use up all our energy reserves, especially with longer runs. It is important to replenish the energy stores as soon as possible to make sure your muscles are ready to recover.
Keeping your carbohydrates slightly higher before/after your workouts can help having more energy and making sure glycogen is stored for the next training session. A good meal 30-60min after your session with easily digestible carbohydrates and proteins can help you recover more efficiently. Fats tend to slow down your digestion and nutrient absorption, so they are generally better later on.
Remember that even if you are trying to lose some body fat, if you are active you need energy, so you need to make sure you are feeding your body enough to perform and then be able to carry out the recovery process.
Epsom Salt Baths
There are several health benefits associated with Epsom salt baths but the 3 main reasons we suggest runners to make this at least a weekly routine are:
- Magnesium uptake: Epsom salt is high in magnesium which your body can absorb though the bath. Magnesium deficiency is common especially in endurance sports and topping up the reserves will help with better muscle recovery, reducing cramps and improved sleep.
- Relaxation: nothing can relax you as a hot bath before bed!
- Skin protection: the skin on runners’ feet takes a lot of battering. Espom Salt baths can help keep the skin healthy, heal wounds like blisters and avoid fungal infections. To get all the above benefits from your Epsom Salt Bath you need to make sure that you are using enough salts, the recommended dose is 500mg for a bath.
Sports massage has several benefits both at a physiological and psychological level, as well as having potential benefits for injury prevention and management, so it’s important to incorporate massage sessions in the training programme. We generally advise our runners to plan a massage every 4-8 weeks when healthy, with more sessions during higher intensity periods – if managing an injury a higher frequency of weekly/fortnightly treatments may be needed.
What are the benefits of sports massage for runners:
- Improved blood flow, pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
- Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles, improving posture and range of motion.
- Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
- Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defence system.
- Promoting relaxation