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5 Recovery Secrets of Endurance Athletes


When it comes to recovery strategies, endurance athletes are a notoriously stubborn bunch, preferring to push forward with tough workouts day after day. While such a work ethic is admirable, it’s impossible to go all-out all the time. You won’t train as effectively and you’ll likely break down with injuries and ailments. On the other hand, if you can focus on having high-quality rest and regeneration, you’ll be able to get more return on investment from every minute of your workout.

Regeneration increases your energy, boosts your immune system, and helps you get the most out of each training session, which ultimately will improve your performance. Regeneration improves your hormone profile, decreases inflammation, and improves tissue quality, thus decreasing the number of overuse injuries you may experience. Here are five recovery secrets of endurance athletes:

1. Get More Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is the easiest way to boost endurance performance, says Scott Peltin, whose Tignum Institute for Sustainable High Performance works closely with Core Performance. It’s crucial to maximize deep, restorative sleep time, which happens in the first few hours of sleep each night. Though butterflies and adrenaline can contribute to an uneasy night of pre-race sleep—especially when you’ve set the alarm for 3:30—it’s important to make adequate sleep a regular part of your lifestyle. Need more incentive? Charlie Futrell, a Florida resident who still is doing triathlons at 91, attributes his race longevity in part to going to bed at 9:30 and waking at 7. That’s unrealistic for most working adults, but there’s no doubt most of us should make time for more sleep.

2. Recover with Nutrition

Nutrition is one of the four pillars of the Core Performance system, but it’s also a key part of recovery. Many athletes gather their gear or head for the beer tent immediately after a running event or triathlon. Be sure first to take advantage of that 30-minute post-race recovery period when your body is craving nutrients to replenish itself. “Give your body what it needs when it’s most open and able to absorb it,” says pro endurance guru Jessi Stensland. It’s ideal to consume a shake, energy bar, piece of fruit, and/or sports drink immediately following a workout or race. Do this before anything else. The food or supplement you choose should provide about 0.8 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight and 0.4 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. To learn more, read "The New Science of Recovery Nutrition."

3. Rehydrate

It’s impossible not to want water following a race or workout, and you should drink two cups for every pound lost during exercise, says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research for Athletes’ Performance. But you can jumpstart your recovery and optimize performance by staying hydrated throughout the day. Keep a water bottle with you all day. Drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day to stay hydrated. Keep an eye on your urine color. It should be clear. If not, drink more water.

4. Get a Massage

Ideally, we’d get professional massages immediately after every race or tough training session. Since that’s not usually practical or affordable, do some self-massage with a foam roll or tennis ball. Cold plunges also are an effective way to jumpstart recovery. Lynn Gray, a Tampa-based running coach, combines both using washcloths dunked in ice water. “Giving yourself a massage and using some ice water really accelerates recovery and keeps you from waking up tight and sore the next day,” Gray says.

5. Stretch it Out

Active isolated stretching, developed by Aaron Mattes, is a great way to recover post-workout. Take an 8- to 10-foot rope, about the thickness of jump rope, and wrap it around one foot at a time. You can perform a series of moves that will reprogram your muscles to contract and relax through new ranges of motion. Use the rope to gently assist the muscle’s range of motion about 10 to 20 percent farther than your body would ordinarily allow. To learn more, read the "Beginner’s Guide to Active Isolated Stretching."

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About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Swimming, Rest, Sleep, Energy System Development, Injury Prevention, Triathlon, Regeneration, Outdoor Recreation, Cycling, Running