[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I’m sitting in an oversized armchair in Mike’s cabin in Idyllwild, CA. We came up for a weekend to get away from the crowds and the traffic and the monotony. Today is Saturday and today feels so utterly different than Friday. Instead of obsessing over work, I’m free to let my mind wander, read (right now I’m reading Maid, and I highly recommend), and run for hours in the mountains. This morning, Mike dropped me off near a fire road on the edge of town and I ran nearly 22 miles through mud and streams, up a mountain, and back. The landscape up here is rugged and breathtaking; a perfect gem of a mountain town situated just above the fray of Los Angeles.
I’m sitting in an oversized armchair with a fire quietly burning behind me, watching a dense fog roll over the hillside and settle among the tall, towering pines. I’m sitting here, resting. We just ate a big dinner, and I’m nursing a large bottle of water. I recently increased my weekly mileage, and with the added load on my body, rest and recovery are more important than ever.
I’m not a professional runner, nor am I a physical therapist, and I am certainly not a doctor. The last time I saw both a physical therapist and a doctor I was abjectly underwhelmed, so I’m not mad that I am neither. But, I own no title that makes me qualified to tell you how to recover from a hard effort, but I do know how I recover best, so that’s what this is about.
Sleep: Seriously, go to sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours, and most athletes need even more. Getting sub-par sleep for a few nights consecutively can set back recovery, decrease performance, increase the risk of injury, and increase stress hormones like cortisol. Not only that, but a lack of sleep might also make you cranky and increase cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods. After a hard effort, I usually go to bed early. After a hard race, I prioritize sleep for an entire week. Our bodies repair at rest, after all.
Eat: I’ve written about protein before, but it’s difficult to underscore how important protein is for muscular repair and recovery. Consuming high-quality animal protein is also the best way to consume amino acids, which are the molecules that combine to form proteins. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left…