Saturday, March 26, 2016

An Introduction to Adequate Recovery

By Meg McCarrick

In DRC, you see us talk a lot about recovery, but what does it mean? Is it healing up after an injury? Or taking a day off after an intense work out? Is it just a word reserved for elite athletes?

Look, if you are a member of DRC, you are an athlete. It is time to recognize that and treat yourself as such.  

With the weather on the verge of a spring upswing, we are all counting down the minutes until our feet get to hit the pavement or trail each day. Not surprisingly, the highest incidence of injury is often associated with this rev-up in running. As glorious as it is to be out there increasing speed and mileage, sometimes we neglect applying the necessary recovery to our running lifestyle.

Ok, so… remember, we are athletes here. We are killing PRs and pushing our limits and crushing the physical standards most people expect of themselves. Let’s take a couple minutes to talk about the parts of the day NOT spent running, but that definitely affect our running.

Hydration: Hydration is an everyday necessity and our general population is kind of terrible at it. 3-5 liters of water a day. Who does that? Well, athletes …like you. So get yourself a heavy-duty BPA-free, or steel or glass liter bottle and keep it with you. DRINK!  Replenishing fluid for your body after exertion or time in the heat or wind or even extreme cold is key to keeping the cells of your body turgid and productive. You cleanse your digestive and urinary systems more regularly and efficiently with a steady flow of water consumption. The healing process actually speeds up with effective hydration. You get over illness more quickly, repair an injury with less time down and stay mentally sharp, all simply by consuming an adequate amount of water on a daily basis. Be ready to pee a lot.

Nutrition: There is a very obvious disconnect with Americans and the purpose of food. We typically do not view food as fuel, or as sustenance, or as specific to healing or health. We tend to limit ourselves rather than green-lighting a feeding frenzy of actual real food. Calories derived from real food sources are easily utilized by our systems at rest and during physical demand. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have better food education built into primary, occupational, or even medical schools. So, it is up to us to look for the information and to apply it even when that type of lifestyle is made challenging in our common culture. Food is basic and simple… if it is basic and simple: fresh, clean, live foods are going to create a fresh, clean and live environment within our bodies. If you are eating junk, your system will be junk. The “you are what you eat” saying rings very true to those people looking to reach their physical and mental potential. Athletics aside, wouldn’t it be great if all people ate for health? We would eliminate diabetes and most cancers, as well as drastically reduce occurrences of common viral and bacterial infections because we would be more capable of fighting those things off, JUST BY HAVING A HEALTHIER SYSTEM. Now, imagine what kind of an impact a diet full of fresh, clean, live foods can have on your preparation, performance, and healing as it links to your running lifestyle.

Rest: Good sleep is paramount. We are up before the sun and not in bed until well after it goes down. We sleep restlessly as our body fights the daily sugar spikes, screen time, work and life stressors. We sleep with other restless bodies, barking dogs, noisy traffic, kids that need to get up to pee. Even when we do get in bed, as tired as zombies, sleep is often hard to manage. Napping is viewed as laziness, but we are all tired. Someone once told me to make sleeping a hobby and habit, enjoy it, don’t apologize for it and take all that you need. 8-10 hours, try to make time for it. Your body’s cells actually heal more quickly while you are at rest; while sleeping, complex systems are still diligently filtering, processing and creating new cells, pathways and products.

That’s the recovery trifecta. By becoming more in tune with your water intake, pushing a heavy diet of good foods, and making sleep a priority you can take on quality workouts, make huge gains, and heal in a fraction of the normal time. This is essentially the secret to evolving to your most impressive athlete and self. Ok, so training and balanced workouts are extremely helpful as well, but I would venture to say that how you recover actually plays a larger role in your ability and potential than just jamming out intense training. Further, you are going to be able to jam out a whole lot harder with the right regular big picture care.

Stress Avoidance: In addition to those main three, Hydration, Nutrition and Sleep, there is another facet of well-being that effects recovery. It’s a little sticky to avoid stress as we are bombarded with it in most aspects of our lives. Heck, it is why a lot of us run in the first place. If you focus on the trifecta, you will find that some stress is more manageable anyway, but there are some areas that require a little more thought. We all have those issues in our lives that make just getting by difficult. Money, other people, jobs, expectations… some of these things are static and you just have to sip your herbal tea and let it roll off your back, while in downward facing dog, listening to Fleet Foxes. But some other stresses can be lessened with clear decision making to avoid overly-heavy situations, setting up smart systems and even considering cutting your obligations. The most effective way to lessen the effect of stressors is to stay positive and stay thankful. Take time to really value those great relationships, accomplishments and joys in your life. 

Solid athletic performance and recovery will always be complimentary of one another. As DRC athletes, and especially going in to this busy season of running, remember to place some importance and focus on recovery. Proper hydration, nutrition and sleep, along with keeping a peaceful mind will strengthen your running ability and allow you to make those changes in form and training that lead to even bigger gains. Happy Running, DRC!