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Recovery Essentials

Recovery is an important consideration for athletes at any level, whether you are an Olympic athlete representing your country or a community level player with your local sporting club. Being able to recover more efficiently means that we can reduce the effects of fatigue and therefore perform better in subsequent training and competition. The main aims of recovery are to:

  • repair muscle damage
  • reduce muscle soreness
  • clear metabolic waste
  • refuel energy stores.

The three most crucial components of recovery are things that we do in everyday life: sleeping, eating and drinking. While we may do these all the time, we need to ensure that we do them well!

Sleep

Sleep is essential for our bodies to function and the negative effects of having a lack of sleep are well documented. In terms of recovery, ensuring that we get adequate sleep is of paramount importance. The exact amount of sleep that we need each night can differ between individuals; however, the recommended amount for healthy adults is 7-9 hours with adolescents generally needing a bit more. The time we are sleeping is when our bodies have the best opportunity to recover. Sleeping for longer enhances the body’s resistance to fatigue and improves markers of recovery in the blood. In contrast, a lack of sleep can impede the repair and adaptation of our muscles.

Try and keep a set routine for your sleep:

  • Go to bed at a similar time every night
  • Wake up at a similar time each morning
  • Have a set pattern before going to sleep to help wind you down and become relaxed

More information on the importance of sleep for athletes is available in our earlier blog post at https://radcentre.com.au/why-sleep-is-so-important-for-athletes/

Nutrition

After a game or training session you have began to ’empty the fuel tank’ – therefor it is super important to refuel and put some ‘good petrol’ back in the tank. Eating a meal or snack that is rich in protein and carbohydrates is important for recovery following fatiguing exercise. Consuming carbohydrates helps to replenish our energy stores that are used during exercise, meaning we can have the energy needed to exercise again sooner. Protein is essential for repairing and building our muscles. Having enough protein available in our bodies ensures that these processes can work effectively. Getting our recovery nutrition right is especially important when we need to perform exercise again the next day.

Some food options post training/game:

  • Lean chicken and salad roll
  • Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
  • Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yoghurt
  • Spaghetti with lean beef bolognaise sauce
  • Chicken burrito with salad and cheese
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers plus a banana

More information on nutrition and hydration for recovery can be found at https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/

Hydration

Re-hydration is another key component of recovery. During fatiguing exercise, especially in warm conditions, the body loses fluids and electrolytes through sweat. It is important to replenish these in the early stages of recovery to prevent dehydration and to ensure that we are adequately hydrated if we are exercising again soon. The recommendation for how much fluid you should intake after exercise is that it should be greater than the amount of weight that is lost through sweat. A general guide is about 1.5L for every 1kg of body weight lost.

Water alone is an adequate source of re-hydration and paired with a snack or meal can be effective to meet your recovery nutrition needs, however it may be helpful to include a sports/dairy drink if food is not available or practical.

Additional Methods

Other common practices that can enhance our recovery include stretching, massage, hydrotherapies and compression garments (this can include commonly worn garments such as tights as well as modalities such as Normatec Boots). These are extra things we do to provide an added benefit, but they should not form the base of our recovery strategy.

We will discuss all of these additional methods in further detail in an upcoming post. Diving into the finer details of how each method works and if it is the right fit for you.

Take home message

As a general rule, our recovery practices should be treated just like any other aspects of our training and performance. The main priority should be to ensure that we are doing the fundamentals right first (sleep, nutrition and hydration) and then we can include the additional things that help to give us extra benefits.

References

  1. Maughan RJ and Shirreffs SM. Recovery from prolonged exercise: Restoration of water and electrolyte balance. Journal of Sports Sciences 15: 297-303, 1997.
  2. National Sleep Foundation, Sleep needs across the lifespan. http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/Sleep-Needs-Across-Lifespan.pdf
  3. Samuels C. Sleep, recovery, and performance: The new frontier in high-performance athletics. Neurologic clinics 26: 169-180, 2008.
  4. Sports Dieticians Australia, Recovery nutrition. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/
  5. Versey NG, Halson SL, and Dawson BT. Water Immersion Recovery for Athletes: Effect on Exercise Performance and Practical Recommendations. Sports Medicine 43: 1101-1130, 2013.
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Running Strength Training

The importance of single leg strength for runners:

It doesn’t matter if you are a runner competing over short distances around the track or a marathon out on the road – it is super important that you add in some form of strength training to help you stay injury free but also improve your running performance.

Historically runners have been hesitant to do strength training because of the perceived negative effects of it and the chance of increased hypertrophy, muscle bulk (Yamamoto et al, 2008). It has now been shown on many occasions to actually aid running performance from increased force production and power development, improved motor unit recruitment and enhanced stretch shortening cycle (Balsalobre-Ferna Ndez et al, 2015). 

We are going to be exploring the role that strength training can play for runners, in particular single leg strength.

As you know, when we run every time we take a stride there is only one foot in contact with the ground at any time. This requires great strength from the foot all the way up the chain to your torso. When the body isn’t strong in this position, that is when injuries can occur and performance goes down as energy is ‘leaking’ from the body.
For example:

  • Weakness through hips – every time your foot strikes the ground your pelvis should remain relatively stable. But, when the hip complex isn’t strong enough that is when you will have a ‘hip drop’ and when not addressed can verge into a Trendelenburg gait.

  • Weakness through the knee – Once again on foot strike your knee should stay tracking in line with your toes and not collapse inwards. This lateral collapse of the knee ‘valgus’ can lead to knee pain as it is placing extra load on the joint and once again can also mean slower pace.

  • Weakness through the ankle and foot – Upon foot strike the foot complex should be strong and springy, absorbing the contact, transferring the force and then propelling you forwards. When it is weak there can be a collapse through the ankle and mid foot, placing extra load on the tibialis posterior and plantar fascia.

So, what can you do about reducing the risk of these injuries occurring?

Here are our top 5 strength exercises for runners that you can be completing at home to build up that single leg strength:

Single leg squat – 3 x 10 each leg – Aim to keep your knee tracking in line with your toes, slowly lower down move hips back first, just touch the box then return to the top. 

Single leg glute bridge – 3 x 10 each leg – Start with feet shoulder width apart finger tips touching heels, one leg lifts up and floats in the sky, then press your heel into the floor and lift tummy to the sky, squeeze bum at the top, focus on keeping hips level at the top.

Single leg RDL – 3 x 6 each leg – Slight bend in the stance leg, aim to stay straight from head to heel with the other leg, bending at the hips, aim to get out as long as possible. 

Side lay leg lift – 3 x 8 each leg – Starting in side plank position from the knees, keep straight line from head to heel with bottom leg, lift top leg up to the sky, should feel this exercise in the side of your bum.

Single leg calf raise – 3 x 15 each leg – Press through big toe, get nice and tall, keep the movement slow and controlled. 

We recommend completing these exercises 1-2 times per week, ideally in conjunction with some core strengthening work as well.  If you do have any injuries at the moment it would be best to get advice from an Allied Health Professional before giving these a go.

It is important to remember that strength training is there to assist your running – running is the main aim and the strength exercises are a tool to help keep you out on the track.

If you have got any questions in regards to this post or just general strength and conditioning please comment below or send us an email – info@radcentre.com.au.

Bonus resources:

Check out our E-books – strength programs for runners: 

References: 

BALSALOBRE-FERNA ́ NDEZ, C., & SANTOS-CONCEJERO, J. (2015). EFFECTS OF STRENGTH TRAINING ON RUNNING ECONOMY IN HIGHLY TRAINED RUNNERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW WITH META-ANALYSIS OF CONTROLLED TRIALS. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2361–2368.

Hoff, J, Gran, A, and Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves aerobic endurance performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports12: 288–295, 2002.

Jones, P and Bampouras, T. Resistance training for distance running: a brief update. Strength Cond J 29(1): 28–35, 2007

YAMAMOTO, L. M., LOPEZ, R. M., KLAU, J. F., & CASA, D. J. (2008). THE EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE TRAINING ON ENDURANCE DISTANCE RUNNING PERFORMANCE AMONG HIGHLY TRAINED RUNNERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2036–2044.