Recovery & Loading

Updated: Jan 21

Once a year I seem to get injured and have to take some significant time off running. I am writing this during some time of enforced rest after suffering from Plantar Fasciosis for most of 2018. Why do I keep getting injured? Because I load too quickly and don’t rest enough.

So welcome to our guide to recovery and loading:

Sleep, (this is the part I get right); Sleep is where we do our best physical and mental recovery. The aim is seven to nine hours a night. If you’re increasing your training you need to increase your sleep so factor that into your training plan. Do not sacrifice sleep for training!

An integral part to many an athletes recovery plan is regular sports massages, as well as being an injury prevention tool, regular massages are a programmed time to relax.

Reduce stress factors; mental stress will impact recovery. When you are stressed your body turns on your sympathetic nervous system, in other words your fight or flight response. Here your body prepares for action, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and non-essential processes are put on hold.

For recovery we want you to be in your parasympathetic state, or your rest and digest state. Your heart rate slows and you intestinal and gland activities increase. The less time you spend in this state the less effective your body will be at recovery. So take steps to destress, try some deep breathing techniques, making sure your stomach raises during your inhalation, try a 30 minute guided meditation class - you can find some right in the CBD with Centered Meditation.

Nutrition; Check your nutrition, sometimes I see people with physical pain and the cause is not having the right nutrition (although we can’t diagnose this, but we’ll send you to someone who can). It’s a big one for people who have recently started training and have not adjusted their diet to cope with the additional load on their bodies. I have experienced this myself and once I got my diet right it made a huge difference to my training.

Load; Load up gradually (this is the part I haven't finessed my strategy on). I was at a seminar recently and we were showed these two charts:

Chart A

I identify with this chart (A), but Chart B is my goal!

Chart B

So how do you load up safely?

Take your time building up the number of days you train, the intensity of your training and the distance you cover. The 10% rule is quite commonly recommended, up your weekly distances by 10% - so if your first week you run three 3km runs, the next week you don’t want to run more than 10km in total. Though if you are a more seasoned runner you could listen to Running Guru Jack Daniels who suggests adding 1.6km to the previous weeks runs, so if you started with three 3km runs, you could run up to 14km the following week.

This can depend on who you are and where you are with your training, but the lesson in general is be conservative. So if you’re adding speed work in, don’t load distances on the weeks you’re adding speed.

Plan your recovery into your training, plan in a recovery week every few weeks by reducing your load. Don't forget to plan a recovery day (at least), this means one whole day without any exercise (sorry triathletes, this means no running, cycling or even swimming.