Be sure to recover properly after a hard race or workout

Boost the effect of your hard workouts with proper recovery  Credit: Darren England/Allsport
Quick and total recovery after a race or tough training session is important to allow your muscles to rebuild and refuel for your next workout.

Here are six tips for speedy recovery:

1. Drink plenty of water or other fluids before, during, and after a workout. "A 3 percent loss of water affects strength," says John Ivy, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas. "A 6 percent loss of water may cause damage to muscles and may also slow recovery."

2. Stretch before, during, and after a workout. As you run, your leg muscles repeatedly lengthen and contract. This action causes lactic acid to build up in your tissues, and after you finish the workout, you muscles continue to contract slightly, creating a feeling of stiffness. Stretching lengthens your muscles and increases blood flow, helping flush waste products from the tissue.

3. Cool down until your heart rate returns to normal. After a run, jog easily for five to 10 minutes, or do 10x100 yards, alternating easy jogs with moderate pickups. Unwind from a swim with an easy 200 yards. End your bike ride with an easy 10-minute spin.

4. Take rest as seriously as you take your training. Strength is developed not during the training phase but instead during the rest phase when muscle tissue grows stronger. Follow each hard day (especially a race) with at least one recovery day.

5. Get a massage. A passive way of increasing blood supply to overworked muscles, massage removes waste products and speeds the healing process.

6. Eat enough carbohydrates to replenish your depleted glycogen supplies. "Eating carbohydrate-rich foods immediately after a workout helps restore glycogen supplies," Ivy says. "But the rate of replenishing these stores is slow; it can take as long as 24 hours. That's one reason why a person should not do back-to-back hard workouts."

As a rule, each additional mile run requires about 100 calories ? that's an extra banana or baked potato.

Search the Active Sports Mecca for books on massage and stretching, recovery drinks and more.

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