Recovery is one of the most important elements of training—it may, in fact, be even more important than the hard workouts you do. Without recovery, training is just wasted time with no opportunity to improve.
Unfortunately, many runners unintentionally hamper their recovery because of advice they've heard or read that's based on outdated science. If you can avoid the five most common ways runners get recovery wrong, you just might notice performance improvements without running more workouts or miles.
You Pop Ibuprofen or Advil
Like many runners before you, when faced with a slight twinge, inflamed tendons or delayed muscle soreness from training, you may have popped a few non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and Advil.
As our understanding of inflammation has evolved, we now know that anti-inflammatory drugs can actually limit or cancel out the very training benefits we're so desperate to achieve.
Our outdated view of inflammation suggested that inflammation delayed healing, and preventing or removing it as quickly as possible would aid in the recovery process. But, we now understand that inflammation is a crucial first step in the body's natural healing process.
Inflammation is the body's way of activating specific cells (mainly leukocytes, monocytes and macrophages), which help to repair the muscles. You can still recover without inflammation, but it will likely take longer without the help of these cells.
We also know that anti-inflammatory drugs can actually limit training adaptations. One study on the effects of Ibuprofen on skeletal muscle showed that mice given ibuprofen during endurance training canceled running-distance-dependent adaptations in skeletal muscle. Another study confirmed in the laboratory that the use of NSAIDs after exercise slowed the healing of muscles, tissues, ligaments and bones.
The research is clear. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil and ibuprofen after a workout will result in slower recovery times.