5 tips to recover from a long distance or adventure race

As many of you know a group from the gym will be taking part in the adventure race Man Vs Mountain at the beginning of September. A key area that is often overlooked is recovery. After all you want to be back to normal as soon as possible, rather than feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck!

An adventure race will push you to your limits. It is most likely you may feel beaten up after a race, therefore, RECOVERY, RECOVERY and more RECOVERY IS THE KEY. If you avoid recovery this could impair future performance and increase your risk of injury.

Effects of exercise:

  • Prolonged elevation of muscle tone (muscle tightness) may affect delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells and slow removal of waste products
  • Body’s energy stores are slowly depleted
  • Increased body temperature and metabolic rate
  • Increased co2 production and hydrogen ions
  • Fatigue due to muscle glycogen depletion
    (Borsheim and Bahr 2003)

What is recovery?

  • Normalisation of physiological functions (blood pressure)
  • Return to homeostasis
  • Restoration of energy stores
  • Replenishment of cellular energy systems
    (Jefferys 2005)

Recovery is always spoken about, however it is a very new area of scientific research. It is important as an athlete to maximise your recovery. Everyone is different so to get the best recovery for you as an athlete you will have a play around with some methods to see which ones suits you best.

Ideas believed to aid recovery:

  • Foam rolling- scary looking piece of foam, used to perform self- myofascial release
  • Sports massage- nice ‘torture’ performed by a Sports Therapist
  • Stretching- calf stretching
  • Compression- leggings, tops
  • Active recovery- low intensity exercise

If we do not recover well enough, then impaired performance, fatigue and lethargy are likely to occur. Continuous poor recovery will most likely lead to an injury or overtraining syndrome.

Foam Rolling
After finishing an adventure race the thought of jumping onto the foam roller will probably not excite you. This is an easy method for recovery and a foam roller can be carried everywhere with you so you can crack straight on with this to help speed up your recovery of your hamstrings, quads.

How can this help you recover?
Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release believed to decrease pain and increase blood flow to the area. A neural response is believed to occur when pressure is applied by the foam roller, receptors send signals to the brain which allows the muscle to reduce its contracted state, promoting range of motion and therefore, decreasing pain.

Sports Massage
Sports massage is a great way for you to not personally inflict pain on yourself. This method of recovery is believed to allow a therapist to decrease the following:

  • excessive fascial thickening
  • muscle spasm secondary to pain
  • pain by decreasing excessive tissue tension
  • neural excitability
    (Brukner and Khan)

A change in tissue tone, which is more than likely to occur after a race, will give you the feeling of soreness in your muscles. This change in tissue tone is thought to affect the rate we deliver nutrients and oxygen to our cells and therefore, may impede the removal of waste products from our muscles post-race. Sports massage is believed to prevent this and increase rate of recovery by increasing circulation and nutrients to muscles, decreasing excessive post exercise muscle tone and therefore, increasing our range of motion.

“The ability to move a joint smoothly throughout full range of motion” Brukner and Khan.

Stretching focuses on lengthening the musculotendinous unit (increasing distance from muscle origin to insertion) as increased muscular tension is related to decreased muscle length.

When it comes to stretching we need to ensure we are not stretching into pain, no discomfort should be felt in the stretch. The position post exercise should be held 30 to 60 seconds to allow the stretch to initiate a myotatic stretch reflex (muscle relaxation). Once relaxation has occurred, you are able to increase the stretch with no pain. Stretching into pain puts you at risk of producing microscopic muscle tears leading to scar tissue formation, which decreases muscle elasticity causing the opposite affect to what you want to occur (Brukner and Khan).

Benefits of stretching post exercise:

  • Increased blood circulation and removal of waste products in the stretched muscle
  • Prevention of delayed onset of muscle soreness
  • Reduction in stiffness and possible tension, promoting muscle relaxation
    (Gremion 2005).

An example of a stretch that would be effective post-race would be calf stretching. Hold this for 30-60 seconds on each leg.

Compression garments come in tops, leggings, socks and calf sleeves and aim to mould to different parts of the body to try to enhance our performance and increase recovery rates. The moulding is believed to cause compression proximal to distal similar to compression used in hospitals etc. to aid venous return (Bochman et al 2005).

Compression garments are believed to enhance recovery of muscular function and decrease muscle soreness (Hill et al 2013). This is believed to be due to increased removal of blood lactate levels, therefore increasing recovery (Chatard et al 2004). Compression is also believed to offer mechanical support to the muscles covered, allowing faster recovery by promoting stable alignment of muscle fibres and decreasing the inflammatory response post exercise (Kraemer et al 2001).

There is very little research to say when is best to wear them, however there is no research to say anything negative occurs by wearing them so give them ago and see what is best for you.

Active recovery
This is a form of low intensity exercise, but high enough to increase blood flow when performed post exercise. It has been shown that active recovery reduces lactate levels in muscles faster than complete rest (Micklewright et al 2003). This is believed to be due to actively moving, thus increasing blood flow around the body which in theory should increase removal of blood lactate compared to complete rest, therefore enhancing muscle recovery (Donne 2000).

An example of active recovery can be anything that is performed at low intensity. For example air squats could be performed post exercise to allow recovery to occur, ensuring they are performed with low reps and intensity. Remember this is to AID recovery and should not cause you any discomfort. These could be performed for the next couple of days post exercise as it can take 15 minutes to 48 hours for the body to recovery fully to its resting state (Borsheim and Bahr 2003).

Remember we are all different, some athletes may prefer foam rolling, some may prefer sports massage, some may love them all! It’s down to you to decide what you prefer and LETS RECOVER quickly and efficiently.

By Injury Active Clinic

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