Yesterday, I ran my third half marathon at the Towpath Half. It was COLD, but I still managed to have a great experience - I'll tell you all about it later this week. Today, though, was the day I was dreading, far more so than the actual run itself even in freezing temperatures. Today was the day I thought I would barely be able to move.
I've run two half marathons in the past. The afternoon and day after each was spent in agony, barely able to hobble around and often fighting tears from the screaming pain in my legs. Yes, I know what you're thinking: WHY would I do another if I'd had these experiences in the past?? The reason is simple: because I enjoyed the run and know with better preparation I can do (and feel) better in later races. Well today, I suppose I have proved myself correct: I have almost no soreness today, and yesterday I was in far better post-run shape than the last few times.
There are a few reasons why I feel so good today compared to past races. I've been training a little better, so I'm stronger and more accustomed to the stresses of running longer distances, that's for sure. But I can tell you with certainty that the reason I have minimal soreness today (and haven't called off my back-to-back group exercise classes tonight) is that I have spent so much time learning how to recover. Sure, training for and actually running a big event are the main focal points for runners, but as I've learned the hard way in the past, skipping recovery can turn a great race into a painful memory. I have been determined to not let that happen again in my longer races.
There are two parts to recovery, from what I have learned: an active part, including things like yoga and foam rolling that require you to perform an exercise, and a passive part that can kind of "run in the background" of your everyday life. I've geared up and learned how to foam roll and use a muscle stick when needed, and I still try to practice a little yoga every day, so I'm covered for active recovery. Proper nutrition is a big passive recovery hurdle that I have yet to jump, but there's a very easy bit of passive recovery that I added to my radar over a month ago, and it has been paying dividends after my races and long training runs. I have started wearing SLS3 compression sleeves on my calves after I run.
Disclaimer: I received my sleeves at no cost in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
Actually, I've tried compression socks in the past, which are essentially the same as the calf sleeves, but they have a full foot with arch compression as well. That experience wasn't ideal, as the foot compression actually cut off my circulation! It's been a long time, but I finally decided to give just-sleeves a chance. The beauty of compression gear is that you slide it on and leave it - the sleeves do all the recovery work for me! Sleeves are designed to have strategically placed pressure points along the legs that help increase blood circulation, especially while standing (like milling around the post-race after party), to enable more blood to reach your hardworking muscle tissue. It's like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube - the compression is tightest around the ankles, then gradually lessens up through the calf towards the knee, gently pushing blood flow from the lower extremity back up to the heart.
For me, this is more important than just any runner. Years ago I had problems with fainting from blood pooling up in my legs. My veins weren't pushing the blood back up to my heart properly! For a while, I had to wear prescription compression socks (thankfully without arch pressure) just to keep me from keeling over while standing around. I know how better to adjust my body to prevent fainting now, but I still experience the same blood-pooling effect, which can be detrimental to my legs' recovery after a long run. With the SLS3 compression sleeves I've been wearing, I have the perfect balance between comfort and compression. Basically it's like walking around all day getting a little mini-massage! I'm even wearing them at the office today, to maintain the positive blood flow that is helping my legs heal after yesterday's 13.1 mile beating.
I'm definitely adding "compression sleeves" to my regular recovery routine, especially after today's results. Being able to move almost normally just 24 hours after crossing the finish line was something I previously thought to be impossible. Of course the training helps too, but training alone can only get you so far. If you need a little extra help with recovery, considering compression gear! Especially since you can snag 40% ANYTHING in the store over at SLS3 Compression with promo code BLOG40! Check out more than just compression socks and sleeves, and gear up for your next big race!
How do you recover? Do you prefer the active recovery methods, or passive options? What's your next big race?