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How to Recover Faster & Run Longer

April 10, 2012

What I love about ultra running so much is when you think you’ve hit your limit and can’t go any further, you manage to find that little bit that’s left to keep going. One step at a time until you get to the finish. These efforts take their toll, however they are the best memories of all-the adventures where everything is uncertain and new and scary and exciting.

Training for Zion hasn’t been easy, the long mileage and double days definitely takes a toll on the legs, body and mind. I’ve talked about burnout here, but these are some ways that has helped me bounce back quick.

  • Epsom Salt Baths

I used to loathe taking baths because I’m very impatient and the thought of just sitting in a bathtub for 20 minutes did not sound appealing. But once I started doing these regularly after a long run, I feel so much better the next day. Epsom salts have a number of health benefits, including improved concentration and sleep, increased energy, elimination of toxins and reduction of inflammation, soothing of sore muscles and alleviation of pain or cramps. I just mix 2 cups of Epsom with hot water and soak in it for 20 minutes, playing on my iPhone of course.

  • Compression Recovery Socks

I live in my recovery socks after a long run. I really like CEP Compression, though a bit expensive ($50/pair), I think it’s so worth investing in a good pair of recovery socks.

Why compression?

Every muscle cell needs energy in the form of oxygen. This is transported to the muscles via the blood. The better the blood flow in the arteries, the better the muscles are supplied – and precisely this supply can be positively influenced by compression.

PROVEN TO REDUCE INJURY

Shin Splints:
Reduces vibration, increases oxygen and promotes healing.

Calf Cramps: Increase oxygen to optimize muscles, removes lactic acid.

Achilles Issues:
Increases oxygen to the Achilles; padding prevents damage.

Pulled Muscles:
Increases blood flow to increase warmth in the muscles.

Source

  • Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for the heart; they also help to reduce inflammation and joint tenderness and pain intensity. If taking a pill is not your thing, you can eat fish to reap their oily benefits; salmon, sardines, or tuna can be eaten several times a week for the same results as taking the supplements.  You can also find omega 3 and depression helpful proteins in cheese and eggs.  Red meat is another excellent source of omega 3.  I make sure to take a fish oil capsule after every long run.

Here are a couple dishes I like to make at home:

Honey Soy Grilled Salmon

Potato & Onion Frittata

Steak & Bleu Cheese Tostada

  • Good quality protein

Especially for women athletes, we need more iron than our male counterparts. After a hard run, I make sure the rest of my day is filled with quality protein. Women of childbearing age, such as the majority of female athletes, are at a greater risk of iron-deficiency due to the monthly menstrual cycles women experience. There are many foods rich in iron. Foods such as potatoes, beef, chicken, avocado, broccoli, spinach and beans are foods rich in iron. Consuming foods that contain vitamin C, such as oranges, grapefruit and apples, alongside iron containing foods will help promote greater iron absorption.

Check out my recipe page for healthy and nutritious post recovery meals

Steaks after Northface 50

  • Ice/Stretch/Foam Roll

I’m not too good at keeping up with this one. I’m usually too sore or tired to stretch after a run and then forget about it the rest of the week.  BUT it’s so important to do these preventative care stuff before and after a run to avoid injury in the long run. I set out to do this at least twice a week, I know it won’t happen everyday, but anything is better than nothing. Also making sure I get a massage at least once a month has helped tremendously. True story: I always cancel my massage appointments at least three times before finally going. Yes, that is how much I hate getting massages.

  • Sleep

I’ll be the first to admit that I sleep a lot. I know compared to most of my friends, I’m like a hibernating bear with the ridiculous amount of sleep I get. Even on trips, I’ll be the first one asleep or in bed before anyone else. As active as I try to be, sleep is just as important for performance and recovery. I aim for 8 hours of sleep each night and usually a nap on the weekends. A week after a race, I aim for 9 hours and if I can afford a nap after work I’ll take it. I really think that has been instrumental in my recovery and allows me to run long the next day after a long run.

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