Here are strategies that are a must for recovery:
- Foam Roll/Stretch: You need to schedule flexibility sessions into your training week. After long weekends of training your muscle tissue becomes inflamed and tight, and adhesions form throughout the fascia. Rolling and soft tissue therapy will help get rid of the small knots and adhesions that build up over time. Plus it will help promote blood flow, which gives you better movement and range of motion. Endurance athletes should focus on the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, IT band and thoracic spine (mid-back). Stretching also needs to be implemented into the schedule. Stretching the muscle will help lengthen the fascia to allow for proper movement and range of motion. If your muscles are tight you may restrict movement, decrease your performance and eventually get hurt. Take time to roll and stretch.
- Ice: After long and/or hard training sessions icing the legs is a great way to get them to recover at a more rapid pace. Icing will decrease inflammation and swelling, and enhance healing. But more isn't necessarily better when it comes to icing. You should ice your legs for no longer than 15 minutes an hour. Any longer can cause damage to the surrounding muscle tissues. If you have a direct pain site (i.e. shin splints, plantar fasciitis, etc.), then ice massage is the way to go. Simply freeze a small water bottle, cut the bottom half of plastic off the bottle to expose the ice and then massage the affected area. Do this for only five minutes each hour.
- Light movement: After a race or a big weekend of training, the best thing for your legs is to flush them out the day after. Know the difference of a hard workout and easy moving. These lighter workouts can tremendously assist recovery as they will get your legs through a range of motion, help increase blood flow, decrease inflammation, and promote recovery. Just make sure to keep these workouts very light. Spinning on a bike or a light recovery swim on Monday, following a big training weekend or race, will assist the body to recover and allow for a better week ahead of training.
- Corrective Exercise: I wrote an article called 6 Exercises for a Balanced Body. Implement these six moves into your routine to create a balanced and more functional body.
- Consistent Sleep: When the body is at rest, it will be at its greatest state of recovery. If you are not getting consistent sleep throughout the week you will suffer, breakdown and be more prone to injury, fatigue and burnout. Endurance athletes are continually breaking down the body during training and it is a must to get adequate sleep. The key is consistency. So six hours of sleep every night is better than four hours one night, eight hours the next, and five hours another. Aim for six to eight hours each night. During the day, try to fit in short 15- to 30-minute naps to rejuvenate and recharge the body and mind.
Component #4: Flexibility and Mobility
When you lack functional movement and range of motion in your joints and muscles, you do not maximize performance. Swimming, biking and running are all repetitive sports that can create stress and imbalance, causing the body to compensation for lack of movement in other areas. It's important to have adequate flexibility in the muscles, and mobility in specific joints, to decrease overuse injury in multisport.