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Training for Rest
Posted date: 23-Jun-2016

Getting fitter is not just about running as long and as hard as you can. Charlotte Manning explains the various post-run recovery strategies. 

 

 

If you believe that the most important element in preparation for any running event is the training mileage you put in beforehand, you would be wrong. If you don’t manage the recovery phase properly then the time you spend in the gym or out pounding the pavements will be wasted. It is also essential to realise the importance of the post run/race ritual, which should vary depending the person and on distance completed. You should not only be training for your run, but also training for rest.

 

I recall my first marathon in London where my only goal was to complete the race in one piece. I didn’t have a clue about the importance of a ‘recovery technique’ as the only thing I was focusing on was finishing and surviving. It’s no surprise that 4-days after the marathon I found myself hobbling between trains on the underground, trying to choose new routes where steps between platforms were limited as a result of my extreme muscle pain and overall immobility. Had I appreciated the importance of a cool-down ritual at the time, I would have likely avoided that level of discomfort.

 

Many recovery rituals will vary depending on the exercise being undertaken and the climate in which that exercise is done. Seasoned runners have the ability to predict, to a relatively accurate figure, their calorie requirements for a particular race and appreciate calorie deficiency side effects. If you fail to replenish calorie loss after a run your body’s self-healing ability will fail due to lack of energy.

 

Common Post Event Treatment

 

Water consumption is equally important. If you lose excessive water because of competing or training in a hot and humid environment, rehydration will be absolutely essential and should be prioritised after your run. Nutrition and hydration deficiency will lead to muscle cramping, extreme fatigue and delayed aerobic and physical recovery. There are many common post event treatment modalities to consider, including:

 

  • Rest
  • Stretching
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Compression clothing
  • Hydrotherapy/ice baths
  • Massage/Osteopathy

Resting post event will allow the micro tears in your muscle tissue to heal and for inflammation to reduce once it plays its role in tissue repair. Stretching will ensure that muscle fibres don’t lose their elasticity due to inflammatory mediators being present. Exercise is important to aid residual lactic acid removal and the delivery of fresh oxygenated blood to damaged muscle fibres. Nutrition is essential, as the body requires energy for any type of metabolic activity to take place in the body. Compression clothing can be beneficial for circulation and to minimise any stagnant inflammation that can build up in key areas such as calves or thighs. Hydrotherapy is a common treatment modality for pain, which can also play a role in reducing inflammation, but the primary focus tends to be on pain management.

 

Finally, treatment such as massage or osteopathy can help the body remove residual waste that may have built up in muscle tissue, gently stretch tight and damaged muscles and break down any adhesions that may have developed. This type of treatment will also improve blood flow to tissues around the body, which will help remove unwanted waste and bring desired oxygenated blood to the area.  Resulting effects will be tissue elasticity, improved mobility and decreased pain.

 

In the past few years there have been conflicting ideas when it comes to icing (cryotherapy) to deal with pain management and inflammation. If one were to look at the inflammatory process and the side effects of cryotherapy, one might agree that ice is not the best treatment for inflammation alone, but that it in fact plays a big role in pain management. Our body’s natural healing process is a remarkable thing and doesn’t stop working in the absence of ice. Ice will decrease the nociceptive response (pain) we have to tissue damage following injury and will minimise swelling at the site of injury. Cold temperature does this by having a narrowing effect on blood vessels meaning less blood and interstitial fluid will flood the site of injury. It is important to understand however that inflammation is completely and absolutely necessary for effective healing to take place.

 

Major Phases of Tissue Healing

 

There are 4 major phases of tissue healing which we must take into consideration when undergoing any type of demanding physical exercise, especially when it comes to endurance activity. Bleeding, inflammation, proliferation (rapid cell reproduction) and tissue remodelling all occur as a result of tissue damage. These phases all take place over a period of months, meaning that tissue damage such as muscle tear isn’t resolved in just a few short weeks. Your body will still be remodelling at the site for months afterwards, even if it feels completely healed.

 

 

The pain we feel post run is usually due to pressure from inflamed muscle tissue on nerve endings that then cause discomfort. Muscles will develop slight micro tears after activity and this will directly cause inflammation and post-activity ache. If we stop moving immediately after a run without a proper cool down, blood may pool in the legs and cause extreme tenderness and cramping. This may also lead to further tissue damage due to oxygen-deprived tissue (tissue hypoxia). An effective cool down will eliminate harmful waste from the body and will help quickly delivery oxygen and nutrients to damage muscle tissue to aid in repair.

 

Running Distances vs Recovery Practices

 

The below chart outlines the type of recovery practices to consider based on varied running distances covered.

 

Recovery practices chart

 

* Ensure to not overstretch the muscle; this stretch should feel comfortable and relieving rather than painful.

 

Whatever the ritual undertaken following a run, whether it be a 5km jog or 42km marathon, ensure to plan your resting technique. Do not wait for the day of the event to trial your routine, as your body will respond differently to that of those around you. As soon as you start training for a race start training for rest. What sequence of techniques works best for you? Do you find healing is quicker if you stretch immediately after cooling down or if you wait 30 minutes post run?

What type nutrition does your body get on with best once you come over the line? Bananas? Energy bars? Do you find an ice bath is essential for a quick recovery or is a cool bath and specific icing regime more effective? Whatever works best for you, make sure the routine is tried, tested and truly reliable for race day. Train to not only run and race, but most importantly, train to rest and recover!
Text: Charlotte Manning

 

Charlotte Manning is a Canadian-born Osteopath trained in the UK and now enjoys treating an array of patients in Singapore at the Osteopathic Centre. Find out more about the clinic online at www.osteo.com.sg.

 

This article was originally published in RUN Singapore. Besides the print edition published bimonthly, selected stories can also be found online at www.runmagazine.asia.