is an aspect of training that is getting significant attention right now because
research is revealing the various techniques you can use between workouts that
will have an important effect on your response to training. By understanding and
applying the science of recovery and regeneration, you can plan effectively to
ensure that you give your body the help it needs to repair, heal, and grow. This
is the key to becoming "the 24 hour athlete."
essential idea that every 24 hour athlete needs to embrace is that your
attention and effort do not end when your workout is over. Because the healing
and repair process is as important, if not more important, to your fitness as
the actual running training, there are several things you can do when you are
not pounding the pavement. In effect, fitness and training are a way of life –
not just something you do when your stopwatch is running.
first stage of an effective recovery is a proper cool down, which I prefer to
call "active recovery." By staying in motion at roughly 50-55% of your
maximum level of exertion for a period of time after your workout – typically
10-15 minutes – you help your body remove metabolic waste products such as
acids and potassium that have built up in our muscles and blood during your run.
Low intensity exercise helps to increase circulation to your muscles. This is
important because the longer acids and other metabolites like lactic acid (or
lactate and hydrogen ions) are in your muscle fibres, the less time your body
has available to work on rebuilding your muscle glycogen stores.1 If
your mitochondria are battling with waste products and processing lactate, they
are spending less time converting glucose into the glycogen you will need for
your next run.
critical phase of the recovery process is the inflammatory response that occurs
as a result of exercise and training. When muscle fibres are damaged,
inflammatory cells called neutrophils and macrophages move to the area and help
break down and remove damaged tissue. The inflammatory process in the muscle
also involves increased flow of fluids to the exercised areas, which can cause
swelling and soreness. Another key step in the inflammatory process is that our
body produces a powerful hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
This hormone instructs satellite cells to initiate repairs to damaged muscle
fibres and begin producing new ones. This is an example of the intra-muscular
response that takes place after a resistance training workout in the gym, or a
hills or interval running session. The inflammatory process can take up to 72
hours to complete, so you have to make sure that you mix your hard workout days
with easier training to give your body the time it needs to repair muscles and
for the inflammatory response to work it's magic.
is a critical healing process, and if you interfere with it you can limit your
physiological progress as an athlete. Anti-inflammation techniques like
anti-inflammatory medicines (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDS), cold
tubs which constrict blood vessels, or compression clothing are gaining
popularity because they may reduce post-workout soreness and pain but may
actually slow your progress because they block or impair the inflammation
process that signals the body to rebuild itself in response to the training
stress. Your body needs the process
of breaking down, experiencing inflammation, and making the repairs in order to
develop and improve! That said, compression clothing and cold baths can be
useful as you approach a race to decrease pain and to blunt the inflammatory
response when you are not in the development phase of your training. They can
also be helpful if you are planning 2 workouts on the same day, or if you are
planning on 2 hard training days back-to-back. I know this is complicated so
work with your coach to determine when it's best for you to use, or not use
techniques that "speed" recovery from intense exercise.
some keys to using regeneration to become a 24 hour athlete:
down for 10-15 minutes after you work out
your body's natural inflammatory response occur during your training phases
so that you can maximize regeneration
recovery techniques strategically, not all the time
It is a
mental shift to think of recovery as an active process, which is why so many of
us don't do it properly. Taking care of your body requires that you commit to
being a 24 hour athlete and that you put as much effort into helping your body
adapt between workouts as you do in the training sessions themselves.
Vescovi J, Falenchuk O, Wells, GD. Blood lactate concentration and clearance in
elite swimmers during competition. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011