Many of us are amazed at the training that elite athletes undertake to perform their best. What many people don’t realize is these athletes also include recovery techniques into their programs.
A lot of runners can get caught up in the numbers. How many miles they’ve run, what their pace is, what their heart rate is, etc. What’s just as important as all the training is the recovery you take.
Training and exercise are a stress on the body. And like any stressor it takes appropriate actions for us to adapt to this stress. Training breaks down the body and our recovery techniques are what actually build the body back up.
Recovery techniques include getting adequate sleep, eating well, soft tissue rejuvenation with flexibility work, massages, trigger point therapy, steams, saunas, epsom salt baths, contrast showers and taking time off. If all you do is train and never recover your body WILL break down.
As a rule of thumb for every hour of training be sure to include 15 – 30 minutes of recovery using the methods mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to take 1 or 2 weeks off from running every 6 months or so (maybe even longer if needed). Stay active with other forms of exercise but give your running muscles a break. And sometimes take a complete break from any training.
Solution: Make sure to include recovery techniques into your program.
Muscles adapt fairly quickly to the stress but our connective tissues, joints and bones take longer to adapt. From a system-wide point of view, your cardiovascular system (heart, arteries,veins), pulmonary system (lungs and breathing), endocrine system (glands and hormones) and your nervous system also adapt at different rates.
If you don’t give your tissues and systems time to recover they will break down. In April 2010, one of Canada’s top national middle distance runners was forced to pull out of racing for the rest of the year as he was too burnt out. It can happen to anyone unless you take appropriate precautions.
Make your training cycle look like this - train, recover, train, race, recover, train again. Skip the injury part, it’s not fun and not necessary!
Run healthy, run strong!
Curb Ivanic, MS
By Irene Davis, PhD, PT, FACSM, FAPTA, FASB
It has been suggested that running is naturally innate in us as it was a means of survival. Natural running can be defined as running in the way we were designed for. This can be best observed when one is running without the interference of shoes or braces. Observing the gait of a child,who has not habituated into shoes, provides a window into the development of natural gait. When a child first walks in a pair of supportive shoes, after toddling around barefoot, it is very unnatural and awkward. This is not surprising, as their shoes have disrupted the natural inertial characteristics of their leg. In addition, shoes have added unnatural lever arms of the ground reaction force, increasing external moments thatchildren now need to control.
When children first learn to run, they naturally land on their forefoot with a relatively flat foot pattern (6). Bythe time they are four years old, and likely habitually shod, they have adopted a rearfoot strike pattern when they run. A habitually barefoot runner will also strike the ground with a fairly horizontal foot. They land on the lateral ball of the foot, with the heel slightly off the ground. The heel then lowers to the ground in a foot-flat position and the foot then plantarflexes for pushoff.
Habitual barefoot runners do not land on their heel for the very reason that it hurts. If running were essential to our survival, then it makes no evolutionary sense that we would run in a way that is painful. The pain associated with a barefoot heelstrike is related to the high impact transient that is associated with a rearfoot strike pattern. This very quick rise to peak in the vertical ground reaction force curve results in a high rate of loading experienced by the body.
The body is comprised of viscoelastic structures, which are sensitive to rates ofloading. If these loading rates are high, these structures may not have time to adapt to the load.This can result in pain and, with time, injury. Heelstriking in modern cushioned running shoes is not painful; in fact, it is comfortable. However,the impact transient is still very present. This impact transient has been associated with a varietyof running-related injuries both retrospectively and prospectively (18,11,12,3).
Running barefoot, or in shoes that do not make it comfortable to land on one’s heel, results in a more anterior strike pattern. This strike pattern is seldom associatedwith an impact transient (8,17) and thus is likely to reduce injury risk.
There are other reasons to consider running barefoot or in minimal footwear. No one would argue with the fact that a strong foot is more likely to be a healthy foot that is more resistant to injury. It has been shown that when individuals remove their shoes and go barefoot, or run with shoes without any arch or rearfoot support, their feet become stronger (13,2).
Our feet are remarkable structures with 26 bones, 33 joints,and 30 muscles. They were designed for all of the locomotor demands of our ancestors, including running. The arch itself has four layers of muscles, which are critical to controlling the deformation of the arch as we load it. These muscles are the first line of defense for the plantar fascia, which lies directly below these muscles.If those muscles are unable to adequately control the lowering of the arch, the plantar fascia becomes excessively strained. With enough repeated loading, plantar fasciitis ensues. It is, therefore, not surprising that plantar fasciitis is the most common foot injury that clinicianstreat.
With increasingly supportive footwear, we have conditioned our feet to be lazy.We are often misled into believing that cushioned running shoes soften our landings. Theydo indeed make it more comfortable to land on our heels; however, there is evidence that demonstrates we adjust our leg spring to the surfaces we land on. For example, a study by Bishop et al (1) revealed that knee stiffness was significantly increased when landing in a highly cushionedrunning shoe, compared with a low cushioned shoe or in bare feet. Knee stiffness has been associated with greater rates of loading duringlanding (10).
While it may seem counterintuitive that you land harder in softer shoes, this relationship between landing behavior and surface hardness is well supported by other research, as well (9,4,5). We highly underappreciate that our feet areremarkable sensate organs. There is a wealth of sensory input from our feet that is critical tonormal function. These sensory signals provide important information that assists with balance and stability. It has been shown that even a thin pair of socks negatively influences static standing balance (15). Wearing socks on your feet while you perform functional activities is not much different than wearing gloves on your hands during daily activities. Our recent research on single leg landings has demonstrated that dynamic stability is also significantly decreased in standard running shoes compared with bare feet (14).
Modern running shoes with elevated cushioned heels, arch support, and stiff heel counters interfere with the natural movement of the foot. Shoes were originally designed to simply protect the bottom of our feet, not replace foot function(16). Seldom are we successful at improving on nature. Therefore, the move towards more minimal footwear that has no cushioning or support is very encouraging.
While there is much to learn from watching children develop, perhaps there is even more to gain from studying those who have grown up barefoot. If children grow up never wearing shoes, they mature into forefoot strikers when they run (8). However, if they grow up wearing modern running shoes, most (75%) mature into rearfoot strikers when they run (7).
We cannot disregard that one significant difference is the shoes. For those who have been habitually shod in modern cushioned and supportive running shoes, a slow transition to barefoot or minimal footwear is requisite. However, this patience will pay off with stronger feet and reduced impacts experienced by the body. For those runners with intact neuromuscular systems seeking a stronger, healthier foot and more natural running pattern,less will truly be more.
Most runners are bound to suffer from overtraining, at least once or in their lifetime. Overtraining is widespread among runners of all classes, from the beginner to the elite. No one is spared. This dreadful condition is usually defined as a result of working out harder and more frequently than the human body can withstand.
Runners with a high drive and motivation are more prone to suffer from overtraining. This usually meansrunning too far and/or too fast without giving the body the time it needs to recover to readjust itself between the workouts.
As a result, if you want to keep overtraining at bay and enjoy your workouts, here are a few guidelines that can help you prevent, spot and treat this awful condition.Signs Of Overtraining
Overtraining leaves clues. It’ll not creep up on you from nowhere. In fact, it gradually builds up until it reaches hazardous terms. Fortunately, you can prevent it by learning about its most common warning signs. Here is a short list:
- Extreme fatigue both during and after the workouts
- Decreased performance
- Unwanted weight loss
- Sore muscles, especially you lower body muscles
- Feelings of dizziness and disorientation
- Loss of appetite
- More prone to headaches, discomforts and injuries
- Insomnia or suffering from unusual lack of sleep
- Apathy and depression
- Lack of motivation for the training
- Lack of mental focus
- Spiky heart rate
This is just a short list, but it’s enough to spot overtraining. If you’ve any of the above symptoms, then the chances of overtraining are high or imminent. Don’t panic. Treatment is easy.How To Treat Overtraining
The length of recovery from overtraining varies from one runner to the next, but it largely depends on how overtrained you are and for how long. For instance, if you experience a mild case of overtraining, you may just need to take a couple days off to fully recover. On the other hand, if you’re suffering from prolonged overtraining, full recovery will require more time. The rule of thumb is the longer you’ve been overtraining, the more recovery you will need.
Here are 3 steps to help you speed up your recovery:
- Rest your muscles. Depending on how overtrained you’re, you need to take the tension off your muscle and provide them with the rest they crave for. Once you do that, your muscles will adapt to the training load, thus grow stronger.
- Ice pack your sore muscles. Use ice therapy to help you ease the pain by alleviating the swelling and speeding the recovery time. Apply ice for 10-15 minutes, two to three times a day.
- Refuel your body. A healthy diet can help you speed the recovery. Make sure to eat healthy mix of carbs, lean protein and fats—especially after a hard training session.
When you’re sure that you’ve fully recovered, you need to get back on the training wagon as soon as possible. Nonetheless, that’s no reason to rush. Make sure to resume the training gradually—as if you’re beginning from scratch. Restart with 2 to 3 days a week and incrementally add more speed, distance and days to your workout program.
The biggest mistake most runners make is trying to run too much too soon, while ignoring their bodies’ response to the training load. This what usually leads to overtraining and burnouts. Therefore, when exercising, you should always stay within your fitness zone, and train according to you own needs and skill level.
By: David Dack
Kevin: What does eating right mean to you?
Danny: I am mostly on organic diet. We cook everything from scratch. We don’t eat out of boxes or cans. I only eat meat about once a month. I mean, I will have – - that’s like red meat. I don’t drink coffee. I do drink tea but not an over abundance of it. And –
Kevin: What about for training?
Danny: Oh, the training is really fun, you know on our break, we break part nutrition and diet as related to training so you know, what I do is that when I am going out for a really long run I want to have a lot of good carbohydrates in my system before I do that. It’s just like [pumping] for a race and not a run. And so usually I have beans and rice and peas –
Danny: the night before I run because it just burns really clean and even though it’s a complete protein and also a very good cover meal. And because I don’t eat pasta as a carbohydrate meal in fact I rarely eat pasta anyway. We have a law here. We don’t eat anything white.
Kevin: OK. [laughter]
Danny: Unless it’s yogurt.
Kevin: Got you.
Danny: So you want to eat a good carbohydrate before a long workout and you want to eat a really good protein meal afterwards along with the carbohydrate and sometimes during the week you always want to eat a really healthy salad like really leafy green lots of colors.
Danny: And other than that we eat a lot of green vegetable meals. I also eat most of my meals out of a bowl, and my bowl only holds two and a half cups and when it’s full it’s full, when I sit down and that’s what I eat.
Kevin: That’s interesting.
Danny: Yeah that way I don’t ever overeat and it doesn’t matter what’s in that bowl I just don’t eat more than that.
Kevin: So how big is it?
Danny: Two and a half cups might be two and three quarters.
Kevin: OK. When you pile it up?
Danny: Pile it up, OK salads a little lighter I might pile a little higher but you know for most meals I level to the top. And then I eat two meals a day, I don’t eat three. You know I learnt something for the Europeans. They just eat the right amount. A lot of people there have taken on some of our bad habits but a lot of people in Asia especially and also in Europe are just the right body size. Because they just eat, when they are done they’re done.
Danny: And a lot, the other thing that I do is, it’s a hotsy question what do I do to stay in shape? One is I run about every other day or walk and I am not afraid to stop my running and start walking at any point.
Kevin: I think that’s a fantastic point right there.
Danny: Yeah, I am not a fanatic. Yeah, I wrote the books on running or walking but I am not a fanatic of either one. Here’s one thing I do when I get across to people and what we’re trying to do is this whole thing about having to being mindful about when you’re walking and running,
Danny: Like always doing the right thing, is that we really are on a campaign to change running and walking from a fitness regiment to a practice and if you think of what you do as a practice, you know, there is Tai-chi is a practice, Yoga is a practice, Polaris is like a practice, Meditation is a practice. All those things are practice and nobody really thinks about approaching their running or walking as a practice. Because if you did then every time you went out to do it there would be something you’re working on to get just a little better, just a little looser, just a little most grounded or centered or relaxed or there is always something to work on to get just a little bit better. And you end up becoming a better person through your practice of walking and not just get stronger muscles and a great heart.
Danny: It’s more about a holistic approach to whatever fitness thing you are doing.
Kevin: It’s actually the value of it.
Danny: That’s the value of it. That’s why it’s so cool because it’s not just a fitness thing. So people go “how do you stay fit”, well I don’t just use my body. I use my mind.
Danny: You know, you just have to use both. Otherwise it’s not complete. You are imbalanced. So there’s a lot of jokes out there that really, you know, that’s why people get to mind over body. They don’t really listen to their body as well as they could. We have a principle called ‘body sensing’, its one of the Chi skills.
Danny: ‘Body sensing’ is just learning how to listen to your body, how to direct it with your mind but how to really sense when it needs something, when it doesn’t need something. When something is right, when it’s not right, when you’re imbalanced when you are balanced, and if people were much more in their bodies we wouldn’t be near the disease rate, cancer rate, obesity rate anything that’s going on in the society today if people just learned to listen what the body is trying to tell them.
Kevin: So how does somebody when they’re walking or running, how do they start to feel their body? Obviously sometimes they feel it, you know, but the body does not give them an option well – -
Danny: Yeah, you know if you are feeling, I will tell you this, it’s really simple. If you feel any discomfort in your body. Well, it starts with tension. If you feel tension then your body that’s not discomfortness there, it’s just tense.
Danny: So if you feel tension in your body, what I do is when you’re walking or running just do what I call a body sweep. When you start at the top of your head and just scan all the way down to your body top to bottom and if you feel just looking for any tension like you’re your own MRI, you just looking for tension anywhere head to toe, if you find any try to see if you can how to let go of that, how to just relax that part, how to breathe into it, give it a little more range of emotion to stretch it out or something, but listen to your body and just start the practice of just listening, just scanning. And then once you get good at scanning and listening then you want to know what you are listening for. And so first you are listening to tension, that’s the first, the lowest level.
Danny: And then listen for discomfort. If the tension goes on long enough your body is going to start talking a little louder if you don’t start doing something.
Danny: Right. And then discomfort turns to pain. Because if you don’t listen to discomfort it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. And your body will start screaming, “Hey wake up, we’re hurting down here. What you going to do about it?” And then if you don’t listen to pain it’s usually either illness or injury. And it’s the people that you know just keep going no matter what the body is telling them; they end up with in the last two categories. So it’s really training to have a mindful practice that you’re always listening to your body and trying to co-operate with it and work with it, and say how can we do this better, you know how can we feel better, how can we eat better, how can we stop when we are supposed to. It’s a fabulous way to go through life listening to your body and instead of listening to what everybody else is trying to tell you what to do with your body.
Kevin: Absolutely. And you had a statistic that you told me once about runners and the average length that they run. Is that, do you recall what that was?
Danny: There’s a statistic that you know out of all runners, at least there’s a study done in the United States and that was couple of years ago when there was 22 million people that called themselves regular runners. There’s a 65 percent injury rate.
Danny: Every year 65 percent of 22 million people get injured long enough to disrupt their training program. That’s like you’re sure of two out of three chances of getting injured if you start running unless you are doing it right. So what we tell people, it is not running that hurts your body, it’s the way you run. Its not walking that hurts your body, its the way you walk. And so if you are constantly mindful of studying how you move your body, then you are much much less likely, completely reduce your chances of injury or even discomfort, and so you get to a point where you can do your fitness program and feel great the whole way, the whole day, the next time you do it. It always feels great. And there’s no downtime.
Kevin: Now is there one thing you recommend someone do, what is it?
Danny: Move your body.
Danny: Yeah. It’s got to be it. My Tai-chi says that when you stop moving your spine you start dying, that’s it. Period! You sitting on your couch watching TV, you are not moving your body you’re going to start dying. And so that’s why you got to get your Chi moving through your body. That means every time you move your body you’re activating your Chi moving through your body. The more relaxed you are, the easier it flows through your body. When you get outdoors there’s tons of Chi outdoors that your body can absorb through your eyes, through your skin, you know, and you’re gaining energy and you want to really be working at always gaining energy and it’s really your movement. And you know, unfortunately there is a large emphasis nowadays on the intellectual center. Anybody who wants to get ahead, you know, work hard and go to college and do all that and not forgetting that they have a body that also it’s the reason why you are in the planet. If you didn’t have it you wouldn’t be here. You got to take care of that as well as your mind. The mind isn’t everything. No. It tends to feed the brain too much I pod, the MP3 players, Videos, Computers, name it , it’s all brain stuff. So for as much as I am in front of the computer writing everyday whatever, I get outside move around, you know. You got to move your body. If I could say one thing, you know, and eat right.