This blog post continues the theme of sharing some general running advice, pulled from the pages of my own developed “coaching manual” and as influenced by my own racing experiences. The following is collected from some dialogue between coach (me) and runners on the topic of “recovery.”
One the runners who I coach asked me about my own recovery after watching my Big Sur Marathon mileage build on Strava: “I would love to hear about some of your post tough workout recovery ‘tricks’. I see you putting in some serious miles and wonder how you do don’t get too sore/tired/injured, etc”.
Her question made me stop and think. I’m sailing along with this marathon build, in full health (knock on wood). How am I doing it? Mostly I just feel like I’m making it through one day at a time with my focus on raising happy kids, being married, working full-time and running/training comes last. Oh and coaching Love Training More runners! That’s somewhere in there too! But I must be doing something right because here I am with 12 weeks to go, in great shape.
In no particular order, here’s what I think works for me:
1. A safe mileage build in increments of no more than 10% per week. In fact, in looking at my build, I have built in 5km increments. I started December 1. Like many, my running coach Lee (Halifax Road Hammers) has me build x 3 weeks and then there’s a down week where mileage is reduced by 25%. Down weeks are important for recovery and allowing your body to make adaptations to the stress you’ve but it through over the previous 3 weeks. In regular non-goal race, running for fun, I average about 60km per week so that is were I started in December. See my last 6 weeks (so visually pleasing!):
90km ending Feb. 4, 2018
60km down week
2. I run pretty slow during my easy runs. I have no problem running 5:45/km if I feel like it. I am a Strava user. I run completely free from any Strava-pressure to show off and run fast all the time and have my posts show: “Look what I can do, I can run fast.”
I think of the Kenyan elites often. They run slow when they are supposed to run slow. They bring it and run fast when they are supposed to.
What does slow mean? Some coaches prescribe easy pace as 5km pace + 75 seconds. My 5km times are bit of a gong-show as this is a very challenging race distance for me (you can read my “5km Manifesto” here). Last year I ran 19:09 while fit and 19:44 and 19:47 off of my running background and grit, not off of fitness. I ran a 1:30:12 for half marathon in January, ’18. So for me, 5km pace is somewhere in the ballpark of 3:54-59/km. That pace + 75 sec = around 5:12/km. That’s just a coaching formula though. No coach would blanket-apply it to everyone. We are all unique. I know that I do better in my training cycle if I let myself run slower during my easy runs. Then I can bring it for workouts and long runs.
Friday is the day of the week that I put in the mileage that I need to meet my weekly goal as I can see where I am at and I know what my long run distance will be on Saturday. Sunday is my rest day. I always get up 5-10 minutes earlier than needed on Friday so I don’t end up running as fast as I can to get the mileage in before I have to be home at 6:15am.
3. Eat all the food. I pack a probably foolish amount of food for a workday. I eat all day. I never run on an empty stomach. I run early up to 3 days per week and I set my alarm for 15 minutes before I want to be out the door. The alarm goes off between 4:50am and 5:05am. I can’t stomach food that early. So I eat 2 tbsp of maple syrup and chase it with a class of water before these early am runs. In my long runs, I use gels every 7km. I fuel my body for recovery.
4. Recovery snack. I try my best to get a recovery drink within 15 minutes of getting in the door from a run with a 3:1 carbo:protein ratio. I use Nestle Quik Chocolate Milk juice boxes…. because I know that no one else in my family will touch them in the fridge. My husband and kids would drink all the chocolate milk in a regular jug. You buy these chocolate milk products off the room-temperature grocery store shelf, best not to overthink that. After long run, I use a chocolate milk box and eat “creamy coconut” instant oatmeal from the organic foods section- it has protein in it. Then I eat real lunch after long run shower. Often at the superb diner across the street from my house with my family.
5. Stretch post long run. I am a busy mother-runner. The only run I have time to stretch after is my long run. My kids get in on it, they stretch too. After all of my other runs, I dive back into motherhood as soon as I am in the door and have chugged my chocolate milk box. I do walk to work, 5km round trip, a few times/week weather depending (like weather for 3 year old).
6. Foam roll = BFF. I foam roll like a boss. I make sure I get all the leg parts at least 2 times/week and sometimes up to 5 times/week. Evening relax/Netflix time doubles as foam roll time. If it’s early evening, my kids like to “help” I also use a lacrosse ball for my feet and I slyly hide it after each use lest my 3 year old biff it through any of the five 87 year old French Doors in my home that are all amazingly still intact.
7. I naturally go to bed early. I have little kids. Our family life is full. My kids are tucked into bed at between 7-7:15pm. I like to go to bed at 9pm. Y’all can go parent a 3 and a 5 year old and then tell me what time you want to go to bed at. If I’m up past 10pm, I feel like I’m being irresponsible, haha! I was “training-tired” last week as I got back to 90km for first time in 14 months, so I went to bed even earlier once or twice.
8. Yoga. I try to get to one yoga class per week. There’a studio super close to my house and it’s a great place. The 8pm classes work well with my family life and there’s one every day of the week. I don’t need more training in my life but the stretch and core is good and it’s nice to add some variety to the strength and core work that I do at home. I squeeze some yoga poses in at home from time to time, aided by my kiddie helpers.
9. Strength/Core: I try to get two sessions of strength and core in per week. One at the yoga studio and one at home. I have a home workout video program that I purchased while injured. I like this core video. I follow some trainers on Instagram and use their stuff too. I don’t always achieve two sessions. But it’s my goal because then I will be recovering strong muscles, not recovering weak muscles at risk for overuse injuries. This is what rehabbed my childbirth related pelvic floor injury and I plan to keep it that way.
10. I just love training. I am motivated to recover as well as I can so I can keep training. I know myself and I need to keep it fresh and mix it up. I love the track, enjoying that right now.
In terms of how I recover as well as possible, that’s probably it.
There’s nothing magic.
It’s interesting, eh, there’s no secret formula for recovery just like there’s no secret for getting fit and fast. It reminds me of this quote from the classic “Once a Runner”:
“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared, to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?” — John L. Parker, Jr.
There’s no magic to recovery: Enjoy it, foam roll, eat all the food, go to bed early.