Don't forget: It's what you do after the run that counts (too)
When I ran in college, I was a (shockingly) a little less regimented with my recovery than I am now. Maybe it was because I was young and spry. Maybe it had more to do with my love of dancing and party-natured roommates (and my love of college-type beverages). Or, perhaps, it had more to do with the fact that I raced 5Ks, not marathons. Whatever the case may be, I have changed my post-workout and post-race mentality quite a bit since I was 20. I guess when your body starts to protest, you kinda have to listen.
This week was the biggest mileage week I’ve had for running since … I’m not sure when. Might have been last summer, when I was training for Ironman Wisconsin, or it might have even happened before that. I honestly can’t recall (mostly because I trained by hours for IMWI). Anyway, I threw in close to 70miles this week (68, actually), without any two-a-days for running and with two days sans-run (because I didn’t run every day this week, that may have actually helped my recovery).
I am feeling pretty darn good. Today’s 21mile run pushed 30sec/mile negative splits even before the halfway point. The route we picked included a 550ft climb in two of the first three miles (up Quincy hill). The drastic up-and-down’s of the Keweenaw will keep a runner honest, and even though I caught my Garmin reading 7:15s in some instances for longer stretches, our fastest mile was just around 8minutes.
Midway through the week, after taking a rest day form the Hills from Hell (which we have done two weeks in a row, now… I’ll be sure to tell ya’ll about those at a later date), I was having a weird tightness in my adductor. So I spent some quality time with my massage baller this week, as well as pampering my legs with some Chomper Body’s muscle butter. It’s got a similar feel of like IcyHot, only not nearly as stinky and not as intense. Perhaps the key to good muscle butters is their ability to promote circulation, and getting the blood in there to get the lactic acid out. Chomper’s are also all-natural, which gives their products an extra bonus in my book. The muscle butter feels like cool breaths of someone blowing ice on your legs. A little goes a long way (I usually dip my fingertip in the jar and it’s enough to cover both my inner thighs). I’ve also tried the Warming Up Cream by Sportique, which is quite nice, although I do not recommend it to be used after shaving!
As far as real good recovery goes, nothing beats the real thing: 1hour sessions with my trigger point massage therapist, Mel. Probably because she doesn’t relent even when I am “eeeking” and “ouching”, and even crying. But when I can’t get in to see her, and for general maintenance, I’ve picked up a good habit in using Trigger Point Therapy’s products.
What exactly do I do with the massage baller? Well, usually I use it on my shoulder when it gets sore from swimming to relieve some of the tightness near my supraspinatus (the muscle on the top part of my shoulder blade, for you non-anatomy driven folk). I became a believe in their product after it allowed me to regain full range of motion at the IMWI expo (two days before the race, I could barely raise my arm above my head). But as of late, though, I’ve been using it to relieve some pains-in-the-rear. I sit on the ball, close to where the tightness is (and with clean clothes on, of course), and rotate my leg in small circles with my knee either bent or straight, depending on how much pain I can handle. I “search” for the hot-spot, the location that is really tight on my glutes that needs some relieving. Sometimes, I will just lift myself up with my hands and roll the ball on the lateral side of my butt muscles. Hurts so good. I don’t show it as well, but the goal of this is to tilt my hips toward the ball to target my piriformis.
I use the footballer to alleviate any tightness in my calves. Funny thing about biomechanics: pains in the feet and calves can be translated upward, into the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It’s best to nip any tightness before it gets out of control. My favorite trick is to put the footballer slightly superior to my ankle. Then, I rest my non-massage-foot on the top of my massage-foot’s shin, and press juuuust a little. I rotate my massage-foot in circles, sometimes lifting my butt and moving myself a little forward to move the footballer up my calf. This has helped keep me from getting super sore later in the day after an intense run (I use TPTherapy either right after a run or after I have a snack and shower). I sometimes give it a go right before bed, too.
Practically everyone talks about what they eat while they are training, and what they put in their bodies before a big workout or race. Race day breakfast? Meal the night before? We know that we need to have these things dialed because otherwise our race/big-workout-day GI system will be all out of whack. But nutrition is really important and often overlooked part of proper recovery after training. Getting in easily-absorbed nutrients to replenish the system and help your body recover from the stresses you just put it through is key if you want to get stronger. I make sure to get in two-scoops of Ultragen after each big/hard run (today’s 21 miler was one of those). I also try to get some food in my system within the first hour, too. Today, I enjoyed a peanut butter and chocolate scone from the SillyYak Bakery (out of Madison, Wisconsin). Baberaham’s mom sent us a box heaping full of delicious- and gluten free!- treats to stock our freezer with. What better timing?! I am really excited. We got a pumpkin pecan coffee cake, and Baberaham doesn’t like coffee cake… so I am one lucky girl (here’s hoping I don’t try to eat the entire thing before the weekend’s over). Additionally, for the rest of the day, and tomorrow (a recovery, easy-training day) I will make a strong effort to stay hydrated, replenish lost electrolytes, and not eat crappy foods. Oddly enough, minus the coffee cake, I don’t really crave ‘crappy’ foods (french fries, candy bars, etc) after a hard workout or race. Usually, I would just kill for a Keweenaw Co-Op salad with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese…
It’s important to keep moving after a hard workout or race, too. Just because you crossed the finish line doesn’t mean your done. Walk around a bit, flush out the legs. If you are going to sit, prop up your feet (and take a nap!). Although not proven in clinical studies, runners can experience deep-vein thrombosis, which is why it’s not a great idea to do a race and hop right into the car for a long drive (or get on a plane right away). Compression socks help circulation, and might give your legs a happy-feeling after a hard workout anyway. I am not too geeked on spending $60 on a pair of socks, though, so I go with the ol’ geriatric-style socks from Walmart (yes, they are beige, but who really cares? $20 beats $60 any day).
Speaking of which, time to go walk around downtown on this absolutely sunny, beautiful day. Happy training!