8 things you should always do to recover faster

When you’re training for a marathon, there’s a lot to get done. When you’ve got a lot of miles to clock up before you stand on the start line, skipping over that rest day is all too easy. Yet according to UK elite running coach Tom Cragg, putting up your feet on rest day is equally as important as the miles you’re clocking up.

Here are Cragg’s top tips to help the body recover during training and avoiding the dreaded injuries that keep you from the start time:

1. Avoid back to back hard running days

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to go our hard on every run – that’s not the way endurance physiology works and will likely leave you struggling to recover from the collective load of all the miles.

Try mixing hard days with easy run or rest days to ensure you train your body with a mix of intensities, but also ensure you have adequate recovery to adapt to the harder sessions.

2. Go to bed

Sleep is your key recovery weapon. Whilst it’s great if you can get eight hours sleep a night, the quality of the sleep you get is just as important. During sleep, we move through several cycles and it’s when you are in deep sleep that the crucial growth hormones are released.

Try turning your phone off before bed, avoid eating or drinking caffeine or alcohol too late at night. Also make sure you make a consistent pattern of getting to bed at the same time most nights, in a cool, dark environment.

3. Include a cut back week every 3-4 weeks in your training

Of course, progressive training is a key element of getting fit for the marathon. That said, training as a block of 10-16 weeks where each week gets harder is both mentally and physically exhausting.

Aim to include a cut back every 3-4 weeks in your training, where you slightly reduce the overall volume in order to give your body that extra rest it needs to adapt and progress.

4. Get the right kit

There are plenty of products on the market designed to give you that little extra few % you need to feel great on your next run. Research suggests compression garments can improve bloody flow and speed recovery after hard training. We’ve rounded up the best compression products on the market here.

Related: 15 amazing UK marathons that aren’t in London 

5. Get the nutrients you need to fuel and recover

Your nutrition is a critical factor in your recovery between runs. As your training progresses, focus on getting the right nutrients to refuel and recover. Yet it’s not just what you eat before the run that counts, refuelling quickly after a session will speed up your recovery, and is particularly important if you are training most days.

Aim to get some fuel back into your body within 15-30 minutes of finishing a session. A mix of 3-4 parts carbohydrate, 1 part protein is a great mix – most people prefer it in a liquid form, such as a milkshake.

6. Get the ‘little things’ right  

For most athletes, the key to recovering well isn’t down to one thing alone. The best way to recover fast is to get the ‘little things’ right frequently.

Try and get into a good routine of stretching daily and add a simple core routine into your training plan 2-3 times a week. Snack well between meals and ensure you have a warm, dry set of clothes to change into if you’re training in cold, wet conditions.

7. Accept that things don’t always go to plan

Don’t be a slave to your training plan. As smooth as things might be going, life often gets in the way and sometimes, you just need to accept this and adapt your plan.

If you’re going through a stressful time at work or home, you might need to reduce the loading of your training plan. Stress has a big impact on your ability to recover and an extra rest day, or lighter week might make all the difference.

Related: 10 indicators that you may need to take a rest day 

8. Make sure you’re giving your mind a break too

The ability to relax mentally as well as physically should play a big part in all recovery plans. Make sure you set aside time to relax with family and friends, or take it a step further and practise regular meditation, which has been shown to significantly improve recovery.

Tom Craggs is an ambassador for OOFOS footwear – shoes designed to help fitness enthusiasts recover faster.