The less travelled road to recovery

Try these simple, quick and affordable forms of recovery

December 10, 2020
A lot of work goes into being a runner. From fine-tuning technique; to building strength and better mobility; to increasing endurance by running for hours and hours. But ask most runners how much time they spend recovering and you’ll get a standard response – “not as much as I should”. Despite the best intentions, often the warm down, post-run stretch, foam roll or cold-water immersion session fails to materialise.

Recent research commissioned by Blackmores confirms that Australians continue to neglect one of the most important aspects of their training and overall wellness – recovery. 


The study of more than 1,000 people found that 94 percent of Australians say rest and recovery after physical activity is important to them, yet only 38 percent always include it after exercise as part of their regular routine. The survey also revealed that a third of Australians only focus on rest and recovery after exercise if they feel sore, and one in ten never do it.


Sports Physiotherapist and Director of PhysioTrain, Andy Hoare, says these results are not surprising. “With limited time available, recovery is often the easiest component to leave out of your fitness routine, as the benefits of a good recovery are not always felt right away. But the health benefits of exercise come about through consistency, and getting a good recovery is the best way to ensure you can keep training while reducing your risk of pain and injury,” says Andy.  


“Think of recovery as the process of making sure you lock in the benefits of the workout you’ve just performed, while also getting ready for the next one.”


Hoare says runners should pay more attention to recovery when the activity they’ve done is new or the body is not used to it, such as your first interval session.  


“Runners should focus on recovery when they have increased the distance, speed or intensity of their run, or on returning to activity after a break.”


Andy adds that recovery is very individual. “A type of recovery that works well for one runner, may not have the same effect for someone else. It’s a good idea to experiment with different recovery tactics to see which ones work best for you to include in your training routine.”  


While there are several expensive recovery therapies available such as Cryotherapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Andy recommends trying some of the following simple, quick and affordable forms of recovery to help encourage improved wellness and performance. 


Sleep: Your body does a lot of great work while you sleep, and you should get as much of it as you can. Sleep replenishes, repairs and regenerates tissue damaged from the day’s workout, and builds muscle and bone so that you can be ready for the next training session. 

Water plays a significant role in the recovery process – from helping digest vital nutrients, flushing out toxins and regulating body temperature, to repairing muscles damaged during exercise.  


Active recovery: When training hard, your body burns fuel and produces waste products such as lactic acid. Low intensity exercise or active recovery such as walking or a gentle bike ride helps to remove these products, minimising the damage that they can cause in the muscles. 


Compression shorts or tights: These garments have been shown to help improve recovery and reduce muscle fatigue and have the benefit of being easy to apply.  


Ice baths or cold-water immersion: Ice baths can reduce pain and may help reduce inflammation in the muscles, which can be present after hard training. This is particularly valuable if your sport involves not just running to exhaustion, but also soft tissue trauma from collisions such as in AFL footy. 


Sports massage: Research has found that massage is one of the most effective methods for reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and perceived fatigue.  


Foam rolling: If you can’t get a massage, foam rolling is a great option for relieving tightness and tension in your leg muscles.


Stretching: The benefits of stretching vary depending on the intensity and type of exercise. Many athletes swear by it, but there is not a lot of research to back it up. However, most runners would benefit from a few gentle stretches such as a hip-flexor, hamstring and calf stretch before hitting the shower after their run.