One of the things I miss most about college running is having the access to the training room. I took it for granted back then. I could finish a hard workout and then just walk over to the training room and step into the ice bath. Not only was this facility easily accessible to me, it came with a whole team that was also going to the ice bath or rolling or stretching, which further motivated me to do the same. It is one thing when the ice bath is a social event with good friends and an entirely different thing when you have to buy the ice, fill up your own bath tub and painfully enter the cold water all by yourself. I much prefer an ice bath that is already set up for me and comes with friends to chat with. Needless to say, I have done zero ice bathing in this training block. I have done a fair amount of ocean dips. And sure, not the same benefits, but a dip in the relatively cold and salty ocean is better recovery for my legs than not. When you no longer are running in college and are not a professional runner, it can be logistically more challenging to get in proper recovery. Recovery is essential and it matters, but for the non-elite runner, it can feel like too much. For me personally, it feels like enough just to get my runs in. It can feel overwhelming to also figure out a way to spend time recovering post-run. Recovery for the non-elite will look different, it may even involve some ocean dips, but there are small and easy things you can do to help ensure you are still allowing for proper recovery.
1. Bring a Bar
They say the ideal window for allowing your body to recover post-workout is within 30 minutes after completion. If I don’t plan ahead, I will often miss this window and not even eat anything for an hour or so after. This is not good. Bringing a bar with you is a really easy way to allow for recovery. I try to always leave the house with a bar packed in my bag, so I can have easy access to it. If I am home right after a workout, I will typically try to make a smoothie and blend in protein powder. This is the ideal recovery drink, but a bar is definitely always the better option than an empty stomach.
2. Sleep in Compression Socks
When time is the limiting factor, this hack of sleeping in compression socks, allows for increased blood flow to your tired muscles as you do what you need to do every night: sleep! If you’re anything like me, even this act of putting the socks on before you go to bed can be difficult to remember. Set out your compression socks on your bed to help remind you.
3. Incorporate Rolling into Evening Routine
The hardest part of recovery is finding time for it. We find time to brush our teeth every night, so why can’t we prioritize our muscles? Remember, routines do not need to take a large chunk of time. I know I easily have 5-minutes in the evening that I waste on social media that I could put to rolling out before I go to sleep. Make this a routine. Make it something as routine as brushing your teeth. Leave out your roller by your bedside to help make this actually happens. If you don’t have a roller and are serious about recovery, I highly recommend that you get one. Here is the one we have and love.
4. Ask a Friend or Spouse
When you no longer have access to trainers to massage out your tried legs, you ask your husband. At least that’s what I do. Most of us average, everyday runners will not have access to trainers, nor do we want to spend the money on weekly massages or adjustments. The things is, you don’t need to be a professional trainer to help muscles recover. Use the people in your life to help you out.
5. Ocean Dip
As I alluded to in my introduction, oceans can be your ice bath. I can sense the eye rolls, but in all seriousness, spending sometime swimming around in the ocean post-workout, especially if it’s in the winter and extra cold, is a perfect, easy and fun way to allow for recovery. I live near the beach and I understand that this is not possible for everyone, but if you don’t want to go through the hassle of buying ice and making an ice bath, get creative. Take a really cold shower. Put ice packs on your calves. Freeze water bottles and roll out those tired feet. Is this always going to be as effective as those ice baths in training facilities? No, but it is so much better than nothing.
Recovery is just as important for the pro runner as it is for you! It is just going to look a little different and might involve more trips to the ocean. Recovery does not need to be overwhelming or expensive. Make a few small choices that gives your body the recovery it deserves.