Whether you’re training for a 5k race, preparing to run a marathon, or simply looking to make running easier on your body, recovering effectively cannot be overlooked. It's a solid staple of all high-performance runners. But what exactly is involved in running recovery other than just resting, stretching, and massage? And what can I do to help achieve it? Don’t fret…Dr. Rob here to provide some helpful tips….
WHY IS RUNNING RECOVERY SO IMPORTANT?
Recovering from the stresses and strain we put on our bodies while running is essential for us to keep going in our training plans and to feel fresh EACH AND EVERY SINGLE RUNNING BOUT. Recovery though is much more than just taking a break from stress inducing activity, especially if we have full time jobs, family, and other responsibilities to take care of.
We need to be able to get rid of inflammatory mediators, flush out lactic acid or lactate build up following activity, and we need to replace fluids and electrolytes so we are ready to go again. Having intention when going about your recovery is almost more important
than running or the act of recovery itself. Planning for your recovery takes extra time but once you are able to understand what your body needs, when it needs it, and how much it needs after certain workouts, it becomes routine, just like the rest of our training.
Below I have included a number of tips and some different types of recovery options available to you. Have a look and see if there are some you haven't yet tried but would be interested in. Let us know if you have any questions. Please email us at email@example.com . We would be happy to assist you.
So let’s read on to see what tips Dr. Rob has in store for you.
Cold therapy is a staple for most elite athletes after a grueling race or training bout. By decreasing the number of nerve impulses, offering a numbing effect, and decreasing oxidative stress/secondary damage due to training, cold therapy is a great way to help your body recover. Think about it – if you’re able to reduce the amount of inflammation and stress your body feels after a workout, you’ll be able to run faster and increase your performance the next time you go out.
Most people associate cold therapy with ice baths. While ice baths are great, they have their limitations and are not the most popular choice...because well...it's really cold. The cold you experience in them can be in the beginning unrelenting, penetrating physical cold but as time passes, the numbness and the alleviation of any aches from the workout sets in. Give it about 10-15 minutes (max) and you will be feeling brand new!
For those seeking the benefits of cold therapy but not willing to go through the sometimes arduous event of getting in and remaining in ice immersion tank, there is another option for you. Used by professional runners and other athletes across the world, cryotherapy chambers can help optimize anyone’s training. “How so?” you might be asking.
Let’s first look at how cryotherapy chambers works. When entering they cryotherapy chamber, the blood vessels in the dermal layer of your skin will contract. This means that your blood moves away from the skin to protect vital organs and stabilize your body temperature. As it travels, your blood gathers hormones, oxygen, and other healing enzymes. This enriched blood is the vessel of cryotherapy benefits. After a cryotherapy session, the skin returns to its normal temperature. As it does, blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate. This allows the enriched blood to flow back—faster than before—to the rest of the body. This same effect occurs in ice immersion tanks but takes longer to occur.
So what are the benefits of using cryotherapy chambers over ice baths? For starters, cryotherapy is much more comfortable when compared to ice baths, as they use cold air rather than moisture. So even though the cold air being used to cool the body is anywhere between -150*F and -220 *F(now that’s cold!), only the skin temperature drops to 30 - 45 degrees over the entire; the core body temperature remains steady.
Now, the effectiveness and the duration of the effect of cryotherapy chambers has not been as significant as that as ice baths (more so because of the level of research put into both. However, my own clients and other athletes feel like it helps them and therefore can be "good enough" to say they are both effective. Let your own results be your guide in this vane.
One caveat about ice baths and cryotherapy chambers, if not done at an appropriate facility, is that especially for those with high blood pressure, cold induced asthma, uncontrolled diabetes, or other health conditions, can result in negative effects and spending more than 20 minutes in freezing water may lead to frostbite or hypothermia as well. Please make sure you speak with your trusted Doctor of Physical Therapy (hopefully that's me!) or your MD before partaking on your own.
If you’re hoping to help ease sore muscles and speed up muscle recovery, trying cryotherapy might work for you!
Infrared Sauna Therapy
Just like cryotherapy, the same can be said about infrared saunas over regular steam saunas. Generally, people like saunas because they cause reactions like those caused by moderate exercise, such as vigorous sweating and an increased heart rate. But many athletes are finding that an infrared sauna has an edge over its predecessor; they’re able to gives the same results at lower (aka: more comfortable) temperatures. How does that work?
Well, infrared sauna therapy is a form of sauna that uses infrared heaters that release infrared lights you experience as heat as it gets absorbed through the surface of the skin. Infrared sauna therapy used Far Infrared Technology (FIR), which is a non-invasive light therapy that can penetrate your body as much as three inches. Through this process, infrared sauna therapy heats your muscle tissues and internal organs without heating the surrounding air.
This heat helps your organs and tissues to detoxify and pushes toxins out of your bloodstream to be eliminated by perspiration or sweating. And just might be the right choice for people who can't stand the heat of a standard steam sauna.
Infrared sauna therapy has also been shown to improve physical endurance, which is great news if you’re hoping to achieve improved running efficiency. When engaging in physical exercise, both your body temperature and the strain put on your body increases. However, by getting acclimated to heat though infrared sauna, you can improve your body’s self-cooling mechanism. Research has shown that it can help your body to perform better in hot climates or summertime. Also, research has shown that infrared sauna may improve blood flow to your muscles and increase red blood cell count for better oxygen transport, both of which benefit your exercise performance and endurance.
Another way athletes can achieve running efficiency is through compression therapy. By using controlled, intermittent pressure to decrease swelling in your legs, flush them of lactate or inflammatory mediators, many of my clients (both elite and amateur athletes) have turned to compression therapy to enhance their performance.
While compression therapy comes in many forms, such as socks, stockings, and bandages; compression boots are probably the most beneficial and most common to runners. And not only can runners benefit from its use; swimmers, runners, cyclists – basically, any type of athlete that uses their legs or arms will find compression boot therapy to be very helpful.
But how does it work? The therapy allows the muscles to be wrapped around compression boots, which are then pulsated to relax the muscles and facilitate increased blood circulation. The process allows the unhealthy and deoxygenated blood get away and healthy blood to flow in a natural process.
And the results? Well, when it comes to recovery from workouts and athletics, compression boot therapy has been shown to offer numerous benefits; while able to increase range of motion and blood flow, it can also decrease onset muscle soreness and muscle fatigue post exercise.
Finally, nutrition plays an important role in running recovery as well. As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, what runners, or any athletes for that matter, tend to overlook (and has to potential to catapult them to the next level) is their nutrition. Yup, believe it or not - what you eat throughout your training can greatly impact your personal goals.
Elite performance can be hard on the body and focusing on nutrition can make up for that. I truly believe that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of recovery, so if runners are looking to get the most out of their run, training doesn’t stop with the watch. You need to be mindful of the amount of water you drink, the number and type of calories you ingest, and even the timing of when you eat.
So there you have it folks! If you have other questions about what you should be doing to help you achieve running efficiency, please let us know! We would love to hear your goals and assist in any way to make sure you achieve them. If you would like to learn more or speak with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, please give us a call at 516-387-0053. If you would like to read more of our blog posts, please CLICK HERE. If you would like to follow us along as we present more information about different topics related to endurance athletics, please give us a follow on our Instagram.