“What do you do?”
“I’m a runner. I train full time.”
“Oh awesome, but what do you when you are not running?”
Even though most people know that my job description is being an athlete, the question will still come up, “Well, how do you spend the rest of your day when you’re done training”. Describing what I do as a full time job can be difficult as the most consuming work is behind the scenes and sometimes fruition is few and far between. Another difficult part of this question is that often the people who ask it are probably not going to really understand what my answers mean, despite having the best intentions.
With that said, I thought I’d write a post on a huge part of my job that often gets interpreted as relaxing massages and naps: recovery. And just to set the record straight, my massages are never relaxing and a midday snooze is not a talent of mine (although I desperately wish it was!). What may seem like the easiest part of athlete life has often been a struggle for me. I’ve always had a hard time with getting enough sleep; no matter how tired I am, my mind and body naturally try to resist a rest.
In the last two years alone, I’ve had 2 bone stress injuries and 4 other lower leg related injuries, so it was very important for me this year to give even more time and effort dedicated to my recovery routine. It’s amazing that even being an experienced athlete I am still learning new things about my body and sport.
I’ve organized my recovery processes into five groups to make it easier to understand the purpose of each tool and therapy.
Getting creative and finding alternatives to running will give your legs a little break between sessions.
I use this every Monday morning (and sometimes on Fridays too). If you haven’t tried the alter-g, or even heard of it before, its basically like hovering in a bubble while locked in to a treadmill. The “bubble” allows you to set the impact to whatever percentage feels comfortable for you – I generally set mine to 85-90% of my body weight, depending on how sore I am or whether I have any niggles. the alter-g is a great training tool as I can still get in the same fitness benefit while giving my legs more of a break than usual.
If in Sydney, you can access the Alter-G at 4D Health and Performance on Clarence Street in the city.
If you didn’t see my latest IGTV post answering all your EllitiGo questions, heres a quick recap. The ElliptiGo is the closest outdoor moving cross training tool that mimics a running motion. Think about the normal stationary elliptical in the gym, but then imagine a wider and more fluid leg stride. I use the ElliptiGo as a substitute for my double runs, to get my body moving the same way but with less stress on my legs.
If in Australia and after more information head to @elliptigoaustnz on Facebook or @elliptigoexpereinces on Instagram.
So important not just for recovery purposes but for overall performance. My problem areas are glute activation and ankle mobility, which is a pretty popular weakness in elite runners. I head to the gym 3 times a week, Monday/Fridays are bigger sessions with a trainer, and Wednesdays are on my own and a little lighter.
If in Sydney, 4D health and performance have many different programs and group sessions on offer. Their classes cover all levels of experience and are designed by forward thinking exercise physiologists and trainers. Can’t recommend them enough!
Looking at treatment as preventative rather than as damage control means consistent sessions. Its the best way to aid in recovery and maintain good overall health.
Without fail, I will receive some form of treatment at least once a week. On weeks when I race or am feeling a little beat up, I will schedule an extra appointment to make sure I’m even more on top of it.
My treatment sessions will usually consist of an hour long massage followed by dry needling. Dry needling in my feet and hip area have been very helpful to increase blood flow and release those tough muscles that can get locked up so easily with excessive training.
If in Sydney, I 100% vouch for Damian Benson at Spectrum Healthcare, based in North Ryde. A great mix of physiotherapy, sports chiropractic and massage therapists results in a passionate team who specialize in injury management.
Eating healthy is not always enough. Staying on top of hydration and replenishing your muscles before they break down will stop you from being vulnerable to injury.
If you follow me on instagram you will no doubt see my commitment to SOS Rehydrate. Before I came across this stuff a couple of years ago, I was a sucker for the sugary hydration drinks. SOS is far more nutritional and offers you that sweet/salty taste you crave when working out hard. The best thing about SOS is that it’s great for pre, during, and post workout, as well to help with hydration during long flights or sickness.
Follow @sosrehyrdrate and @sosrehydrateau on instagram to learn more about it and try for yourself.
Magnesium + Iron
These two supplements are very important in my recovery. Iron of course is important as I have three factors working against me: I’m female, I’m a distance athlete, and I don’t eat meat.
Magnesium is also helpful to maintain proper muscle function and help with relaxation. And this is where my not being able to nap that I mentioned earlier comes into play. I have struggled with sleeping for years and I feel that taking my magnesium before bedtime has been a huge help.
Protein post workout is crucial to muscle recovery. It is said that after a hard session endurance athletes require approx. 10-15% of your weight (in pounds) in grams of protein. Eg – if you weigh 120 pounds, within the first 20min post workout you should consume approx. 12-18grams of protein to repair damaged muscle tissue (strength athletes should consume a little bit more). But this should not substitute your post workout meal! Every time you see me heading out to brunch an hour or so post workout, I have already consumed my protein prior.
Whats a girl without her accessories?!
- Resistance band
- Foam roller
- Mini foot roller
- Stretch rope
- Night splint
- Yoga toes
Yes, I guess I am high maintenance because these are just a few of the recovery accessories that I use on a day to day basis. At the moment my insertion point on my plantar has been giving me some grief, so sleeping with a night splint is an every night type of thing for me right now. Rolling out my feet and legs daily and strength exercises for my feet with a resistance band are essential as well.
Therapy tools for me are a luxury, but when used consistently I have seen a big change in how quick my body can recover and ultimately feel much fresher going into each workout.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good my body felt right after jumping in the cryo chamber. The difference between cryo and an ice tub is that it is over a lot quicker, (only 3min), and shortly after your body feels invigorated instead of stiff. I found that a cryo session the day before my hardest workout of the week was most effective in my training performance.
Float therapy is a fancier version of my usual epsom salt bath. If you struggle with sleep/anxiety, hopping in the pod was not just great for muscle recovery, but allowing the mind to take a break as well. The suggested session time is 1hr, however I found that 30min was more effective for me personally. Being a distance athlete I am constantly trying to maintain hydration so a shorter float was enough time for me.
I have been a fan of Norms for years, and am a true believer in them. Popping these boots on post workout/race is when I find these to be most effective. They are great to get for blood circulation and to flush out any lactic acid build up. Normatecs are also very helpful after long travel days.
For the past ten weeks I have been attending a sports wellness centre called Koa Recovery in Sydney. I highly recommend them if you are looking to expand on your recovery routine. Not just for athletes, Koa offers all three recovery tools: cryotherapy, float therapy, and normatec boots to aid in injury management and overall well-being.
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone responds to the same type of treatment or gains benefits with the same tools. This is purely based on my personal experiences, which I hope will be helpful to those looking to improve their recovery routine and prevent injury.