Category Archives for Recovery

How Important are Rest Days?

Great question that I was asked about the importance of rest days for runners.

It really depends on how much you're running AND what you're doing while not running? Are you getting 8 hours of sleep nightly or 6?

Are you eating enough protein and calories or not?

How's your daily physical activity? Daily stress? Are you on your feet a lot or sitting?

All of this comes in to play when taking rest days into consideration. People running a lot but also who rest well can get away with fewer rest/off days, but people like the ER nurse I coach absolutely need a few days of no running because when she's on her feet for a 12 hour shift that's still physical activity!

"Rest days? What do you think I'm doing when I'm sleeping?!." - Click to Tweet!

How much is too much cross training?

I was emailed from a newsletter subscriber asking for my thoughts on cross training.

“How much should runners cross train?” Click to Tweet!

The primary consideration here is how much is the individual running? If the person is at their upper tolerable limit of weekly mileage, they should likely be running and resting. But if there is room for activity then cross training can be an excellent way to build your fitness but not fatigue the legs very much!

Should Your Legs Feel Like Jello?

I was asked on Twitter if it was normal for legs to feel like jello after a run.

My response was "yes", but there's a different between normal and good! It's normal for legs to feel like jello (very fatigued) after a long or hard run. However even in those cases it's often best to end the run before the legs get to this point of fatigue.

For long runs I think it's normal/ok for the legs to be quite tired at the end, but for most other runs they should never be so long or hard to make the legs feel like this. Reaching this level of fatigue too often will increase the amount of rest/recovery you need between hard workouts. If you go 95% instead of 99% during your tempo/track runs, you'll require less easy/recovery days between hard workouts and you'll feel better!

Are you thinking about Recovery Runs wrong? (probably)

"It is my opinion that recovery runs as most people think them do not exist" - Click to Tweet!

When it is the evening or day after a hard/long run and you're a bit tired, going out for an easy half hour on tired legs is not going to enhance your recovery.

That would be like doing more bench pressing after a hard chest workout, it's not speeding up recovery. However, that does not mean they are not useful!

Recovery runs, running easy on tired legs, is a further stimulation for adaptation just as a workout is. All running is a workout, some are just more difficult than others.

When you do recovery runs you're simply getting more fit! Your body is getting stronger and you're eventually over time able to run better. This is why I refer to what would often be called a recovery run as a "Tired Legs Run" for my athletes.

The other side of the 10% mileage guideline for running.

The 10% rule dictates that you should never increase your weekly running volume more than 10% week by week. This is a good guideline for runners who are upping their volume but it’s only half of the mileage equation.

The 10% rule of increasing mileage is only half of the story – Click to Tweet

It is crucial to take unloading weeks as well! Increasing and increasing volume (stress) does not make you stronger, the periods of unloading and rest are when this occurs. Not only are rest/easy days necessary but if you’re running towards the upper end of your abilities than rest/easy weeks are also key to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.

With my own athletes and myself what I’ll often do is leave the long runs the same but reduce or cut out the midweek volume and workouts. In essence, you’re only taking an unloading work-week, but for busy working adults this is a nice relief physically, mentally, and with their work/life schedule.

My Post Hard Run Routine

I do 2-3 hard or long runs each week and have a fairly consistent routine that takes place after each one.

First I hit the fridge and drink some water or milk. I’m a fan of post workout milk since it’s just easier than a protein powder. Fairlife milk is my favorite due to their farming and environmental practices. I’ll often blend some VEGA protein powder into chocolate soy milk, too.

Next, I’ll do a general strength & mobility routine, duration based on time availability and how hard the run was.

Then, I will usually take a shower. Once in a while, I’ll do a hot water immersion after a long run. I do try to keep these hot baths to after easy / shorter runs to limit hydration loss, but sometimes a warm bath after a hard run feels good!

“See what a running coach does as a post hard run routine” – Click to Tweet

Protein Hack to Gain Muscle

There have been some impressive studies coming out lately in regards to consuming protein before bed.

When you think about it, this makes sense. During sleep our body releases human growth hormone, it’s a key time for regeneration from the day’s training load.

Giving the body some protein to work with overnight makes sense.

Below are three studies that have looked at pre-bed protein:

Physical Activity Performed in the Evening Increases the Overnight Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Presleep Protein Ingestion in Older Men

This was a study on 23 men with an average age of 71, so older than we typically hear about. Participants engaged in evening physical activity then consumed 40g of casein a half hour before bed. This resulted in increased overnight myofibrillar protein synthesis.

Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men

Here we have younger men in their 20’s on a 12-week progressive strength training program. One group received a pre-bed protein+carb supplement while the other consumed a non-nutritive supplement.

This study may be more interesting than the above since the control group from above did not exercise or take the supplement while this control group did still exercise.

Of course, both groups experienced muscle strength increases and muscle size increases. The men taking the pre-bed protein supplement did experience greater gains in both cases. I would have preferred the control group to have still taken the same supplement, but perhaps gradually throughout the day. This study suggests that the extra protein+carbs assisted with greater adaptations, but did the pre-bed timing of it matter? Probably, but I’m not sure.

Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery.

Here again, we have some young men performing resistance training in the PM. Both groups received a casein pr0+carb supplement immediately after exercise, however, only one group received further supplementation immediately before bed. Mixed muscle protein synthesis was 22% higher in the protein group.

Why Casein?!?

Casein works well in these studies because it is a slow release protein. Whey protein results in a rapid increase in plasma amino acids and a quick increase in protein synthesis. The influence of whey is short lived. While both whey and casein protein are in milk, casein is more abundant. Casein results in prolonged and more gradual increases in blood amino acids and the net protein balance remained more positive with casein over a 7 hour period. This characteristic of casein is attributed to its slower gastric (stomach) emptying and slower absorption rate from the intestine to the blood. Obviously, casein is the better choice to consume before a 6-8 hour overnight fast! If you want a protein supplement to consume during the day immediately post-workout, a mixture of whey and casein is optimal.

So, How Do YOU Use This Information?

Cow milk is 82% casein and 18% whey protein. I’m much more inclined to simply recommend milk after a strenuous workout and before bed. It’s more simple to take since you only need to pour a glass, no scooping and mixing necessary. Depending on the quality of protein supplements you purchase the milk may higher grade. I’m usually one to select local milk and egg choices.

Plant-Based Protein Options?

I’m going on a decade as a plant-based athlete. Most of this time has been as a vegetarian with stints as vegan, raw vegan, and pescatarian. Currently, I eat local or free-range eggs  a few times weekly.

I grew up on a dairy farm and choose to not support that type of industry. However, recently I did come across a milk brand that may be a superb choice for those looking for a more ethically sourced milk, and that choice is The extra-interesting thing about their milk is that it’s filtered to remove some of the sugar+liquid, which means it has more protein and less sugar in each cup than typical milk. You can read about their more humane and environmentally conscious farming practices here. I’ll drink their chocolate milk after hard workout or drink a few cups of it before going to bed.

For a fully plant-based option that is a slow release protein (the whole point of taking it before bed) you are best to look at a pea+rice protein supplement, I take Vega Sport, which does not contain rice protein. The pea protein is still slow release so can still do the trick or you can simply find some rice protein to mix into some pea protein.

What to do between events close together

When you have events 1 day to 3 weeks apart, they are close enough that the damage done during the first race can potentially negatively influence the second event.

To run your best on both days there are a few considerations you must be mindful of.

1) Properly Pacing
If the first event is longer than a half hour and you run it at best effort, you’ll probably have some sort of fatigue the week after. When the event is 5 miles to 26.2 miles it could take a week to a month to actually be regenerated from the race if done at best effort.

This means you may have to take the first event at a less than best effort if you do not desire it to hinder your running ability at the second race. A half three weeks before a half is cutting it close, but a 5k a week before a half should be no problem for most people. In the former example doing the first half at a 9/10 effort and the second half at a 10/10 effort will likely result in the best average time between the two. Yet for the latter example you can probably do the 5k at best effort and it should not hinder the half.

2) Regeneration After the 1st Event
If you give your body the opportunity to adapt after the first race, if you’re lucky you can even benefit from it for the second run. This mainly comes down to following a reverse taper to rest and ease back into running gradually and eating well before, during, and after the first race.

"Here are some great tips on how to handle the time between two races that are close together!"Click to Tweet!

3) Tools to Speed Recovery
There are a number of “tools” you can take advantage of after a race to speed up your recovery. What you should be aware of is that these may decrease the adaptation (benefit) you get from the first workout, but in most cases when you’re under a time crunch for a second event you’re not looking to benefit from a race.

First is curcumin, the powerful anti-inflammatory in tumeric or ginger, can possibly decrease muscle damage when taken after a hard training session. This is not something to use too often, as this decrease in muscle damage and inflammation likely results in less benefit from the workout. But like I said, you’re not racing to get better (that’s what workouts are for).

Second is the ice bath. Much like curcumin, this may decrease fitness adaptations from a workout but after a race it may speed up how quickly you are able to return to full strength.

Update: I had someone reply back to my newsletter about this subject asking about two ultra marathons twelve weeks apart. My answer was to follow a three week running reverse-taper then go back into week nine of the schedule this person followed for the first ultra.