The science of recovery

RW puts seven recovery techniques under the microscope.

by Sam Murphy

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Boost your performance: Give your body the rest it deserves

One aspect of recovery you probably don't have too much of an issue with is the importance of rest. While running places stress on the body, triggering physiological adaptations, it's during rest that these adaptations actually take place. So if you don't get enough rest, you won't reap the benefits of all your hard training. But what does rest entail? Sitting on the sofa with your feet up? Sleeping?

Well, growth hormone - a substance that stimulates muscle growth and repair - is released while we sleep, aiding recovery and adaptation. Research at Bangor University in Wales found that even one night's sleep deprivation had a detrimental effect on running performance. But rest isn't all about getting your ZZZs in.
Researchers also found that the rate of recovery from a tough treadmill run was significantly faster after practising the yoga pose savasana (meaning 'corpse pose') - the prostrate, upturned-palms position - compared with simply lying down.

Yoga teacher and runner Laura Denham-Jones also recommends viparita karani, a pose in which you lie down and raise your legs - find out how to do this pose.

"Elevation helps relieve cramps and aids blood circulation to the upper body and head," she says. "The posture also provides a gentle stretch for the hamstrings and calves, and releases tension in the back."

Even running itself can be a form of recovery: "An easy run, bike ride or swim can be described as 'active' recovery," explains Sarah Connors, a physiotherapist and member of the Asics Pro Team. "The movement can help to flush toxins out of the working muscles, stimulate circulation and dissipate muscle tension and tightness."

If you do opt for recovery running or cross-training, keep the duration below 45 minutes and consider using a heart rate monitor to ensure you are working at an easy pace. Also stick to soft, even, surfaces such as dirt trails.

Your recovery strategy

Build sufficient rest into your schedule - and that's not just taking rest days but also allowing recovery time after runs, before rushing on with your day. As an important race approaches, try to increase the amount of sleep you get to maximise the chances of a good performance.

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Discuss this article

My name is Paul Allsop

Two years ago I had an accident and was in intensive care for three days.

On my discharge I was very breathless whan I ran - I was used to running marathons every two or three weeks.

The problem was eventually diagnosed to be Pulmonary Embolisms - blood clots in both lungs.

 I am now on Warfarin for life and am still breathless when I run and have to stop and walk after about 10 mins gentle jogging.

 I am told by the Respiritory Specialist at the Wittington hospital in London that this breathlessness may gradually get better.

I wonder if any other runners have experience of this problem.

I continue to run and walk and also cycle.

My email address is: /forum/smilies/]

Posted: 15/02/2011 at 10:38

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