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While logging miles, speed work and interval training are important elements to improve your performance, recovery, which is often overlooked or underestimated, is one of the most important factors to boost your running.
To many, recovery means rest. Some think rest means to do nothing. As a runner, doing nothing is impossible. In fact, it’s complete torture. However, rest and recovery don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Recovery factors in nutrition, exercise, stretching and, yes, also rest.
“Recovery is important for women because it helps loosen unnecessary physical and mental stress while repairing muscles and balancing out hormones,” says pro athlete Margarita McKibben. “Recovery to me means taking the time to repair your body inside and out. In a way it’s like showing your body gratitude for being the amazing machine you ask it to be, pushing activities to the limit and beating your personal best. The right post workout micro-nutrients, movements and wellness routines is just as important as your training schedules.”
If you want to increase your running performance, look at how you can maximize your recovery days.
Make Self-Care A Priority
Dr. Chris Stepien, D.C., CSCS, CAPP of Barefoot Rehab, helps many runners overcome sports injuries and helps them maintain a strong recovery program to avoid pain in the future.
“Women, especially those who are successful and who are always striving to do better, need to prioritize and do something that is for her and her only,” expresses Dr. Stepien.
He suggests a massage, facial, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, or a nature walk to decrease sympathetic—fight or flight—stimulation and increase parasympathetic—rest and digest—stimulation. These will help boost the immune system, which will help maximize recovery and decrease stress.
Do Gentle Movement And Foam Rolling
You’ve probably heard how fabulous foam rolling is, and it is—it’s fabulous!
Dr. Stepien suggests gentle movement and foam rolling to be done either after a workout or on rest days to speed up delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and to improve nutritional uptake to all relevant muscles.
“Tight muscles can lead to muscle imbalances, which can cause injury,” says McKibben. “Adding in massage rollers, deep tissue or sports massages, inexpensive chair massage or even a luxurious pedicure with a foot massage to unknot tense muscles does wonders for a woman to recover.”
Aim for rolling two to three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes. Try to get a massage at least once a month to loosen stiff muscles and to let go of any stress.
Add In Cross-Training
If you’re not already doing a cross-training routine, then start a program. Running only works certain muscles and can only take your fitness level so far. To be a balanced runner, it’s imperative to work muscles that are not used from running. Dr. Stepien suggests at least a one-quarter of your workout should be a power and strength routine to increase the fitness level of muscles that are not developed from running.
“A good strength routine for runners includes: lunges, hamstring and glute exercises, and a power movement, such as squats or deadlifts, performed in the 5-to-10-repetitions range with heavier weights,” says Dr. Stepien.
Try Dynamic And Yoga-Inspired Movement
A yoga flow and dynamic movement increase your circulation and opens up range of motion.
Related: Best Yoga Poses For Runners
McKibben works hard four to five days a week, giving her body two to three days of rest to maximize her recovery. “On recovery days I do dynamic warm-ups and yoga stretches to increase circulation, loosen muscles, and flush out extra soreness or fatigue.”
Feed Your Body With The Right Fuel
“A post workout regimen is often missed by women especially—and perhaps stereotyped for only bodybuilders—however anyone who is engaged in regular high-intensity activity and workout routines needs to add post-protein fuel for proper recovery to replenish glycogen, insulin levels and amino acid retention,” shares McKibben.
Opt for a protein shake after your run. But, if you can’t get a post-workout protein shake, then at the very least eat a banana within 15 minutes after your workout.
McKibben also suggests you prep pre-planned meals to fuel your body with whole food nutrients. This helps you stay on track with your goals and healthy eating plan, getting the right nutrition your body needs to work hard.