The science (and art) of Recovery

By February 9, 2012News

I thought I’d write a little about my post workout/long run recovery routine. This idea came to me as I was standing in the ice tub, wishing I wasn’t, and reviewing an article posted to twitter about how ice bath’s aren’t really useful for recovery! My first thought was, ‘well sorry the was in the shop today’. Second thought was, maybe some people out there would be interested in the measures I take to try to recover well after hard efforts.

This routine has come about a bit from the advice of other athletes, a bit from the advice of exercise physiologists, and a bit from my own trial and error. I try to keep up on the science of things somewhat by following people like Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience) and Steve Magness (@SteveMagness) on twitter. On his blog, Alex summarizes and critiques scientific literature and puts it all in laymen’s terms so we don’t have to read the actual articles ourselves! As I am a proud Master of epidemiology I do have the ability to read, comprehend, and judge the science for myself (to a certain degree). Most of the time I disregard the studies, what with tiny sample sizes and “well trained athletes” I often find myself thinking that the results aren’t really applicable to me, but that’s pretty cynical. Once in a while I’ll read something and try to put it into practice. I thought I should preclude things by stating that because at some point all of the methods I use for recovery have be debunked in scientific studies. But, at same time there has also been evidence to support the different modalities. So, in the end I just go with what feels good.

Disclaimer: In my current situation I have ample amounts of time on my hands to go through what I consider a some what exhaustive routine for recovery. It’s probably not realistic for everyone out there. Also, what I detail below is pretty much a typical routine following a hard workout/long run. (It’s not like those Training Day YouTube videos I’ve seen with some of their top triathletes…I find it hard to believe that those are just ‘typical’ training days for Dons and , the athletes must’ve selected the most extreme of training days to be documented. I like ‘day’ as it actually seems realistic)

Okay, so I ran 24miles (eek, maybe it was 25miles…sorry coach) today. It was a solid run, definitely something that is going to beat up the body and require a good amount of recovery. The first thing I do after a long run or workout is get some Vega Recovery Accelerator into me. I try to do this as soon after finishing the run as possible. I also try to get in some light stretching and leg swings straight away. Most of the time for workouts/long runs I drive to some where to start my run, so this might be done at the side of the road or in a parking lot, before driving home.

The Vega products I typically consume after a workout

On the drive home, if my stomach is feeling okay (sometimes it’s not) I have a Vega protein bar (chocolate coconut is amazing) and a Protein drink – Vega’s Performance Protein. This protein powder comes in convenient single serve pouches, so I just throw it in a water bottle (and often all over me or the interior of my car. Anyone that has been in my car can attest to it’s less than immaculate interior cleanliness) and mix it up. Then I usually leave the water bottle in my car to fester for a few days adding to the lack of cleanliness of the car!

the dreaded ice tub in the garage

The drive home from the run locale is usually not more than 20minutes. Once home I head straight for the ice tub. So, usually I’m in the ice tub within 45minutes of completing my run/workout. Ideally I’d be in there as soon after finishing the workout as possible, but it is what it is. For 10-12minutes I scour my emails, twitter, and facebook to try to take my mind off how cold the ice bath is and to prevent myself from jumping ship on it before at least 10 minutes is up. As you can see from the pic today it was below 50F. I don’t recall what the pro-ice bath scientific studies recommend as a temperature, but this feels cold enough to me.

burrrr

Today, after the ice tubing I ran a hot bath, poured a bunch of epsom salts in and sat in the tub defrosting for 10 minutes. Typically this is not part of my routine, I usually just jump in a hot shower. But currently I’m dealing with a toe that is severely blistered and was going to submerge my foot in a bucket of epsom salt water in an attempt to heal up the toe, so figure why not submerge my legs too. If I feel amazing tomorrow it’s epsom salt baths from here on in.

 

While the tub was filling I made myself a smoothie because at this point we’re looking at being about 45min-1hr since I finished running. Smoothie included: banana, chocolate coconut milk, peanut butter, more Vega protein powder, Vega whole food health optimizer, and some ice. Magic bullet that mess of ingredients and ….appetite satiated for at least another 15min til I can get into the kitchen to make a real good mess.

Today’s lunch is pictured here. I was feeling creative. Typically I make a huge stack of pancakes and a few scrambled eggs. Recently I’ve been stopping at an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet that is on the way home. This is delicious, but I always, always eat way too much and feel a bit ill the rest of the day. When I do stop on the way home it just pushes the rest of the recovery routine 30min or so later. Today I made my take on huevos rancheros; had to substitute some standard multi-grain toast for the tortillas. T’was tasty if I do say so myself.

At this point I’m usually feeling pretty sleepy and will hit up a nap or just laze around. Eventually (sometimes immediately, sometimes not until later in the day or evening) I’ll make my way into what has apparently been named ‘Magic Legs’. I didn’t name it, and if you have a better name for it let me know and I’ll let the guys over at Altitude Technologies know. This device is a prototype so as you can see from the picture below it doesn’t look to glamorous…a metal box with some dials on it that makes lots of noise when turned on and a sleeping bag is a pretty accurate description!

How it works…basically you put your legs in the blue bag, tie a belt around your waste and turn the machine on. It sucks all the air out of the bag and compresses your legs. I don’t know the scientific term for it, maybe negative compression(?). I like to call it a poor mans Normatec MVP. But, I’ve been told by someone who tried out my device and the Normatec device that mine is for a really poor man 🙂 The idea behind it is to compress the muscles and veins thereby increasing venous flow and getting the “junk” out of the muscles more quickly (I think….could be wrong about all that though). If nothing else it’s an excuse for me to sit on my ass for another 30-45minutes after my run.

 

If I’m feeling really frisky after Magic legs I’ll get out the trigger point foam roller and go to town on any areas that are particularly sore. But, usually I don’t bother. That would be a part of my Specialized recovery day, i.e. the ultimate recovery routine. As would a massage with Garfield Crooks and some PT time with Marilou Lamy. But, you can’t have it all all the time!

Okay that’s that. As I said before I only do all of this after hard workouts or long runs, not everyday. Any questions or comments let me know. Thanks for reading!

9 Comments

  • Derrick says:

    Thanks for sharing Dylan. Very interesting.

  • […] I thought I’d write a little about my post workout/long run recovery routine. This idea came to me as I was standing in the ice tub, wishing I wasn’t, and reviewing an article posted to twitter about how ice bath’s aren’t really useful for recovery! My first thought was, ‘well sorry the Cryosauna was in the shop today’. Second thought was, maybe some people out there would be interested in the measures I take to try to recover well after hard efforts. Read The Full Blog Post. […]

  • Simon Whitfield shares your suspicions about those “typical” training days

  • […] Dylan Wykes has been known to try beet juice, too, but this post has more eggs and bacon. […]

  • Kurtis says:

    I am itching for you to try Dynamic Tape on super long, big effort sessions Dylan. The founder has said great things about its effect on recovery with super distance athletes. I am trying find someone in Van that works with it.

  • Greg Lehman says:

    Good luck in March Dylan,

    Hope the training is going well.

    Greg

  • Brenda Melling says:

    Have a great race on Sunday Dylan!!
    We are all cheering you on.

    The Mellings

  • Greg Broadworth says:

    Good luck in Japan Dylan. I hope you have a great race!

  • I have some bad news for you regarding the Magic Legs. Since the apparatus works by sucking out air from a non-constant volume, the pressure difference between the inside of the bag and your legs is always zero. That is, the bag shrinks due to the canceling out of atmospheric pressure. Without the magic bag, the pressure within your legs and the outside world is…zero. Hence all it does is immobilize your legs. It does nothing pressure-wise. Immobilization is a great way to trick oneself with resting, like you said.

    If you plotted pressure inside the bag versus time (where t=0 is when the ‘magic’ machine is turned on) you’d see a constant pressure of one atmosphere inside the bag until the volume reaches (nearly) zero, at which point your legs are in almost perfect contact with the outside world (pressure-wise), so the point is moot and you’re just wearing a second layer of expensive skin.

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