Recovery for Runners: Why it’s Essential
Once we begin training for a race it can become incredibly easy to get hooked on the ‘buzz’ of physical activity and develop an addiction to physical activity.
For many of us, this addiction is perfectly healthy – well, we can all afford to get some more movement in our lives, right? These people recognise that exercise in moderation is the very best policy and thrive on a regular exercise routine.
But others, who perhaps aren’t so familiar with the pitfalls of excessive exercise, feel the need to train hard for hours on end and leave no time whatsoever for any recovery for runners at all.
That’s when the “addiction” becomes unhealthy.
A lack of recovery for runners in training can lead to a whole host of dangers and potential medical issues, both physical and mental.
The Running Bee Foundation promotes active, healthy lifestyles by offering grants to health-conscious causes in the local community, generated by the profits from our popular running events in a bid to combat childhood obesity. Part of this healthy lifestyle message also includes the importance of recovery for runners in training.
So if you’re hearing about this for the first time, or you’d simply like to know more, here are just a few reasons why recovery for runners is absolutely essential:
Prevent repeat injury
As runners, we can all have a stumble and suffer an unfortunate injury totally out of the blue. It happens to us all!
But statistically injuries are far more likely to happen when our bodies haven’t been given the right time or treatment to recover properly.
Why? Muscles, tendons and even bones are far more vulnerable when they’ve been pushed to their limit.
Yes, pushing yourself in training is important, but it’s just as important not to tip your body over the edge.
Giving yourself time to recover will let these parts of your body naturally repair themselves. Depending on just how hard you’ve pushed yourself (or your personal body biology) this could be a matter of days or just hours.
Not only this, but injuries sustained when your body is in this vulnerable condition are also far more likely to rear their ugly head in the future.
Recovery for runners goes beyond the simple need to allow the body to heal – it’s also an imperative practice that is to be taken seriously to avoid suffering ailments outside of training.
This is called ‘Overtraining Syndrome.’
In simple terms, it describes the body’s inability to return to a normal, rested state due to overtraining.
For example, many athletes who suffer from the condition struggle to get their heart rate back to an acceptable level, even on days with no training.
This is most likely a result of unknowingly reconditioning your body to operate in a certain state (in this case a raised heart rate) through repetitive and unnecessarily strenuous training sessions with no recovery.
On a similar note, overtraining has also been shown as a leading factor of cardiovascular issues in professional athletes. It’s not an exact science, but this is one of the reasons some high-profile athletes have suffered serious or fatal heart conditions.
If you didn’t think recovery was important away from training, think again.
One of the main goals of anyone entering training for a race is to improve their overall physical condition.
Running offers a whole host of health benefits, as you well know. But it can be difficult to fully experience these benefits if there’s no time for recovery thrown into the mix.
Good training regimens will no-doubt lead to an improved state of being and an increase in strength and flexibility, amongst other benefits.
But a poor, overdone regimen with no allotted time for the body to recover will essentially block any potential improvements you may see and might even cause damage, as we’ve discussed.
Solution? If you want to reach your fitness goals, always recover!
Increased training time
In some ways it’s crazy to think that spending more time resting actually offers you more time to train. But… it’s true!
If you exercise on a day-on-day-off schedule, you’ll be training around 3-4 days a week, with the remaining days reserved for rest and recovery time.
That sounds like a lot of lost hours that could be spent putting in some serious effort.
But consider the amount of training time you’d lose if you were to suffer an injury because of your lack of rest?
Muscle tears, broken bones and tendon snaps all take months, potentially years to fully heal.
And if one of these injuries happens to occur in a part of your body essential to the running process, you’re in a lot of trouble!
Bet you wish you took those rest days now, don’t you?
Encourages a healthy routine
As we discussed at the start, it’s far too easy for new runners to fall into the grasp of the “running bug” and develop unhealthy training habits.
But if you start to set aside specific times or days that are dedicated solely to your recovery, and you begin to follow this schedule like clockwork, it will encourage you to follow a similar routine in all aspects of training too.
Worried you’re spending too much time dedicated to sprinting? Figure out just how long you can last on the track comfortably, and then limit yourself accordingly.
Remember, you can always build on this as your technique and stamina improves. But in limiting yourself to start with, you’ll be preventing your body from taking any unnecessary training damage.
You might even find this encourages you to adopt a healthier routine in other areas of your life as well! Speaking of which…
Avoids mental burn out
Recovery days don’t just have to focus on recovering your body; they can help recover your mind too.
Exercise can be a great way to improve our mood, but pushing yourself too hard can have the exact opposite effect and can leave you physically and mentally drained.
That’s why, on recovery days, try to spend as much time relaxing as you can. This could mean reading a book, watching a film, visiting friends, or even going out for a meal and a drink.
Don’t dwell too much on thinking about training on days when you’re supposed to be resting. This is a good way to make yourself feel guilty for not exercising, and you don’t need that!
Allow yourself this down-time so that when you do return to training, your head is 100% fully rested and back in the game.
The Running Bee Foundation performs with health and wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do. If you or someone you know could benefit from one of our grants…
Or if you’d like to donate and help us make your communities healthier, happier and more active…