by Daniel Lucas

Here is an overview of some keys to success when it comes to the art of recovery. At its core, recovery is part of the discipline, patience and commitment it takes to perform at your highest level.

Whether you’re training for the New York City marathon, as I am, or just want to get stronger, all the magic happens in adaptation. We stress our bodies to new levels of fatigue, and our bodies repay us by becoming stronger, faster and more powerful. Muscle fibers shift and grow from these stresses over time. An effective, progressive program will include disciplined recovery periods, with the ultimate goal of being prepared and healthy on race day.

Here’s some tips for effective recovery:

1. Study! A little research goes a long way! Run with this list of tips and use the information you find to make needed changes in your program. If you find some more information that gives you a big YES in your mind, you can probably use it to your advantage.

2. Awareness. All the study in the world will not take care of you better than you. Be aware of everything when it comes to your recovery. Here’s a quick list to get you started: overall energy, mood, joint range of motion, muscle symmetry, aches and pains, bowel movements, sleep quality, caffeine and alcohol consumption.

3. Hydration. Pre, during, and post. We have all heard this song and dance before, but why do so many people compete dehydrated? Habits, addiction, and lack of consistency are the biggest culprits. My quick take on it is this: know your body, pee clear for a couple days before big events, use sea-salt in your water before a race, drink water between meals, limit beverages that dehydrate you.  On the other hand, over hydrating can be a problem too.  Hydrating prior (several days before) an event and using salt tablets for long runs is also something to consider.  Maintaining proper electrolyte balance can make or break your performance.

4. Nutrition. All of the above are important keys to success, but the food you put in your body is what your cells use to regenerate. So, give every training session the fuel you need to perform, and the nutrition you need to recover. This equation will be different for all of us—so be very aware of how your nutrition is serving you.

5. Anti-Oxidants. The waste created in our bodies from intense prolonged exercise creates free radicals, so consuming some high quality anti-oxidants can help balance that equation. Examples would be fruits like pomegranates or berries, and other vegetables rich in anti-oxidants.

6. Sleep. Getting high quality sleep allows your body to heal most of all! The important work of repairing tissue happens when you’re in deep sleep. The basic secrets to great sleep are: a consistent early bedtime, knowing what time you need to eat to sleep well, cutting caffeine later in the day, making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.

7. Symmetry and Tissue Hydration. Flexibility is a big key to performing at your best. It’s a big part of maintaining symmetry from limb to limb, and being able to re-set tight, tired muscles. Also, hydrating muscles and connective tissue with myo-fascial release tools or massage is important. So you have a choice: Force another tight, challenging run or take care of yourself on a higher level?

8. Functional Exercises. Exercises that target postural muscles that are prone to weakness are an important part of any successful program.  Study up on corrective strategies, and include compound exercises that really improve your balance and integrated power.