The 5 Recovery Items I don't Understand How Any Runner Lives Without
December 8, 2014
Recovery time is something that I never really understood before I started kicking up my weekly mileage for running. I wasn't running enough to make it much of an issue and I also just didn't know any good techniques to help prevent and treat injuries. My lack of knowledge on these extremely important facets of training and my decision to up my mileage has put me on a crash course to learning about just how important rest days are and ways to maximize that rest and recovery. I have created a similar list to this before when I listed out the things I need for running now, but this list is focused on the things I need to recover from running and to keep myself from getting beaten up too badly. Some things I'll link through Amazon so if you decide to purchase through one of my links, I'll get of the sale from the Amazon affiliates program!
Frankly, I don't understand how anyone gets on without some good, strong coffee, especially after coming in from a long run on a cold, rainy morning. I do have it on good authority that people do it every day, as perplexing as that is though.
2. Foam Roller
Seriously though, I cannot overstate how much foam rolling has helped me. I could have written this entire post about foam rolling and how awesome it is. In case you're like me a few months ago and have no idea what I'm talking about, this is a foam roller:
The great thing is that self myofascial release is like giving yourself a deep tissue massage and you can foam roll just about any part of your body, especially the parts that get beat up and sore from working out. I first learned about foam rolling from a friend who had injured his IT band and from there I learning about rolling hamstrings, quads, my back, glutes, etc. but the game changer was when I learned how to roll out my calves. My calves, especially the upper outside part of them near the knee, get really tight from playing drums and constantly tapping my feet whenever I'm sitting down so finding a way to alleviate that tension and loosen my legs back up was a legitimately transformative event in terms of my physical well being. I could prattle on and on about how great foam rollers are, but I'll try to restrain myself. To me, full round is the way to go; I like the ones with a bit of texture to work into specific points more, but the regular round ones are definitely a mainstay.
3. Professional Massage
This is maybe the least practical item on the list as it can be a bit pricey, but it can also make a HUGE difference in the way your body feels and is a necessary component for me whenever I can afford it. This is another one of those things that I used to almost scoff at, but it's a great way to get your body - and mind - relaxed and loosened up. Some massage therapists are certainly going to be better than others, so if you're in the general Burlington, NC area, I can give you a great recommendation for someone I've been going to for over 5 years now.
4. Tennis Ball/Golf Ball
Tennis and golf balls are great for getting into small areas and breaking up some tension, like the foam roller, but much more targeted. I like using golf balls to roll into the bottom of my feet especially, but are also good for rolling your chest and shoulders. If you do much with your hands; like drumming, playing guitar, typing, anything like that I guess; golf balls are also really good to roll your forearms with so you don't end up tightening up one arm while you're massaging the other. Tennis balls are good for pretty much anywhere: your back, quads, hamstrings, what have you. I have also heard that lacrosse balls are the best to use since they are a little bigger than tennis balls, I think, and about the consistency of a golf ball. I figure golf and tennis balls are a bit more commonplace though.
5. Big Old Ice Packs
This thing is seriously the size of my head.
I'm really bad about icing, but it's something I am trying to be increasingly cognizant of after running, particularly with the hamstring issues I've been having. Icing is so crucial for injury prevention and treatment, potentially more so than anything else on this list. There are different schools of thought, I gather, in terms of when to ice and how long to use it, but I've yet to see anyone dispute its benefits. My understanding and experience is that its good to do it shortly after a run or workout and do roughly 10-15 minutes on and 10-15 minutes off for 3 or 4 repetitions. I aim to do that a few times per day, especially when I'm trying to rehab a leg or something. You can probably get away from plastic bags full of ice, in general, but I've found that a large ice pack - from mailed medicine packing - is great when I'm icing something like my hamstring that isn't exactly in a convenient place for icing. You can also take this a step further and do an ice bath. This is something I've looked into, but never gotten around to doing even though it is a very effective way to ice large portions of your body and help with things like temperature regulation. I have just done cold showers post workout and those are good as well.
Running is tough on your body, especially when you start kicking your distance up, so taking care of yourself is something you have to be careful about. My stubbornness to keep pushing myself resulted in having to take days and sometimes weeks off at a time because I wanted to get back out running when I should have giving my legs a break. It's a tough balance to strike between taking an appropriate amount of time to let your body recover and pushing yourself to make your body more resilient and raise your endurance, but sometimes it's better to listen to your body and take that extra rest day so that you don't lay yourself up for weeks at a time trying to recover from an overuse injury.
Thanks for checking out the Run and Drum blog! Keep an eye out for more updates this week. I'm also excited to announce that this weekend I connected my domain to jscottdonnell.com so you no longer have to remember a super long address!