I’ve blogged before about how I feel that rest & recovery are just as important as the actual training sessions we do to prepare ourselves for any event. I’ve read about and witnessed too many fellow athletes who have pushed and pushed only to overtrain themselves to an injury when a simple day off could have prevented the “medically mandated and mandatory downtime”.
So with this in mind I want to share the methods I used during the Goofy Challenge Weekend to feel well rested and ready for the next event even after three back-to-back race days equaling 42.4 miles.
I want to talk about nutrition in two ways, the WHAT and the WHEN.
What: Protein & Carbs
A combination of protein and carbs is best for helping muscles, tendons, ligaments and the body as a whole recover from an intense session of training. My personal opinion is that the protein is most important, but that the carbs help increase the recovery of damaged systems. It’s fairly common knowledge that an exercise session does some amount of damage to muscles and that when recovery is allowed the muscles repair to a “bigger, stronger, faster” state.
From previous blogs you know that I am an EAS guy or a Pacific Health Labs guy. I like EAS because I can tolerate and even enjoy their ready-to-eat shakes as well as their powdered products. I would dare to say that EAS has the best tasting products I’ve ever had in the nearly 20 years that I’ve been drinking protein shakes. Every exercise session (cardio, race, weights, spin, run, etc) is followed by protein intake and many times carbs too.
When: Before, During & After
First let’s discuss carb loading. If you read a lot like I do then you know by now that the pre-race night spaghetti dinner is completely NOT needed except for the camaraderie of it all which IS important on the mental side of things. By all means go have fun chatting with fellow participants and make those connections with fellow athletes! Just don’t stuff yourself with too much pasta.
However, if you want to carb load then just sip on some Gatorade or Powerade throughout the day 24-48 hours in advance of your race or endurance event. To clarify, on the Thursday and Friday before a race I sip on Gatorade throughout the day and have a couple meals with a serving or two of carbs. This amount of carbohydrate is all that is needed to “top off the tank” before an event. Next, choose a combination of carbs and protein for your pre-race meal (breakfast usually) and stick with this for every event. For me, I eat a peanut butter crunch cliff bar and drink some gatorade or water along with a half cup of coffee 60-90 minutes before a race. That’s it…no big secret. This was my exact breakfast before each event of Goofy Weekend.
Finally, I do use gels and my product of choice is Accel Gels by Pacific Health Labs due to the 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Taking in a small amount of protein along with carbohydrate has been shown to reduce exercise induced muscle damage which is an inhibitor of performance and endurance in long distance events. This also helps reduce recovery time as there is less damage to recover from after an event. Make sense? I pop a gel 15 minutes before my race to get a good kick start. I did this before each race on Goofy Weekend except the 5K…no need due to the shorter distance, but could have if I wanted.
Not much to type here that I didn’t just type in that last paragraph. I use gels, Gataorade, Powerade, Accelerade, etc during a race or other endurance event. I used them during the Goofy Challenge as well.
One other thing I used during the full marathon was chocolate covered espresso beans. Sounds odd I know, but a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans will give you quite the mental and physical kick when you need it the most. If you want to try this be sure to see how these wonderful little magic beans interact with your digestive system BEFORE race day. In fact, I would test them several times on a long run (15-20 miles) before employing them for an event. I had my wife carry them and hand them to me around mile 11 of the course from the sidelines. Talk about a rush of mental clarity!
Finally, I did ingest a single salt packet during the marathon on Sunday (like you get from any take-out restaurant) to make sure my sodium levels were replenished in the Florida heat and humidity.
Post race nutrition is many times overlooked by recreational athletes. They accept the bag of chips, cookies and bananas that the volunteers are handing out on the way to get their picture taken and call it a day. What you should be doing is realizing that as soon as you cross the finish line a stop watch starts on a window of opportunity for maximizing recovery for damaged muscles.
30-60 minutes is the window. If I have a “cheer squad” with me that day then I’ll have them carry an EAS shake to hand me as soon as I finish with my picture (Hey, I still get the pic, but I’m just thinking about the nutrition!). If I am solo that day then I will stash an EAS shake in my gear bag at the bag check and be sure to grab it as soon as I finish. Combine the EAS shake with the free banana (or other easy carb) at the finish line and you have a combination that gets you on your way to a speedy post race recovery. You could also stash or have someone carry any other type of protein shake/recovery drink besides EAS…I just like that brand personally and EAS uses whey protein which absorbs into the body faster than other types of protein.
R.I.C.E.? Isn’t that an acronym used in first aid? Yep! It’s also the best means by which to recover from extended exercise in my humble opinion. Though I rearrange the letters to I.C.E.R. which is slightly more difficult to remember and is only technically a real word. What is an “Icer” anyway? Sometimes a football coach is an “Icer” when they call a timeout before the opposing team’s field goal attempt. According to Webster’s dictionary an Icer has to do with baking or covering food with ice…so yeah…captain tangent…..apologies…Webster’s pushing it I think.
Or ice bath rather. WHAT?!!? Yes, you read right. I will swear on a stack of runner’s world magazines that “taking the plunge” will do more for post-race recovery than…well…I don’t know, but it really really helps! An ice bath reduces inflammation BIG TIME and almost immediately. I take a 20 minute ice bath as soon as I can after finishing a race. I did this right after the half and full marathon on Saturday and Sunday. It made a big difference for me.
Here’s what you do.
- Grab a stop watch or wear a watch.
- Draw a bath with cold water only. Fill the tub enough to cover your legs completely.
- Throw in a bag of ice from the corner grocery OR just dump the entire ice container from the freezer in there.
- Get in for 20 minutes.
That’s it. Take a deep breath and take the plunge. I did this every Saturday after every long run for almost a year when I first started running and I truly believe it helped me recover from those long runs.
There are many products on the market for compression including a simple ACE bandage from the drug store. I go a little more high tech with mine and use Zoots compression gear. I’ll admit they are a bit expensive, but they are designed for triathletes and are at the top of the list for quality.
The story behind compression gear is that it forces lactic acid and other waste products out of the lower limbs for a faster recovery. As an example compression socks are used in hospitals post surgery for the same reason. A good product will have enough pressure to even raise your heart rate a bit as it will need to work harder in order to force blood flow into the lower leg. If you happen to have any cardiac or blood pressure issues it would be advisable to check with your doctor before using these products for recovery.
As soon as I dried off from the ice bath I put on my Zoots compression socks for the remainder of the evening. I even slept in them the night of the marathon.
For ninety minutes to two hours I elevated my legs with a pillow after each Goofy event. This is just a common knowledge practice. Use gravity to help return blood to the heart and help to remove waste from the legs. I also (as much as possible) tried to sleep with my legs elevated…at least I started off sleeping that way.
This goes right along with the elevation piece. Notice I didn’t go walk around the parks Saturday night…I rested. Yeah, it killed me to do so for the second straight year…I need more park time that doesn’t include stopping for Biofreeze! 🙂
So anyway, I rested after the half on Saturday and then had a nice early dinner, caught a sit down show (Cirque du Soleil) then went to bed shortly after 9:00pm. On Sunday I did all the previous and then took a short nap before heading to EPCOT in the afternoon.
On a rest side note I also took it easy on Friday before the half marathon and I went to bed early. Rest isn’t always about recovery.
Finally, after I completed the Goofy I have taken it easy for a week afterwards in regards to running and training in general. I was planning on getting back to the gym a week ago, but have been sidelined by a nasty rhino virus after my own mandatory week of recovery so I ended up with two weeks of inactivity (rest) before initiating training for my next race. I’m back in the gym this coming week though and ready to start training for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon. I’m hoping for a PR this year!
So that’s it. I feel that I have a good recovery regimen for endurance events. That being said I am always looking for something to add so I can recover better or faster.