For those of us addicted to running a long way, it’s important to have the ability to fully and quickly recover after a long, tough endurance event – ready to resume training, or to take on the next big race. One of the things that vegan ultra runners often find is that they have a good rate of recovery from the exertion of running events that could be 50 to 100 miles or more. When asked what differences adopting a vegan diet had made to his running, vegan ultra running hero Scott Jurek noted, among other things, that his recovery times had shortened.
Endurance events are, notoriously, largely about the mental game; but it’s undeniable that they take a lot out of every runner physically too. In order to recover well, it’s a good idea not to allow the race to leave you depleted. This means going into the start well hydrated and well nourished, then taking on board plenty of fuel throughout the run. This can take practice: many people new to the sport will initially find it surprisingly difficult to consume enough calories while on the move, without overdoing it to the point of feeling unwell. Some signs that the balance is right will be not getting to the stage of feeling nauseous or ‘spacey’, and not hallucinating!
Delicious Vegan Food!
Recovery begins as soon as you cross the finish line. It is essential to keep drinking and to eat more food as soon as possible. Ideally, you should aim to consume a proper meal within a couple of hours. This should include a good portion of protein as well as carbohydrates. Some runners will find themselves ready for this, but for others it will seem a chore to eat a whole meal. It doesn’t have to be swallowed in one sitting of course, but could be spread as smaller snacks over the couple of hours after finishing. Almost any vegan dish with a good mix of protein and carbs will do here (and there are lots of recipes to choose from on the OneGreenPlanet website of course!). It’s likely that something salty will be craved after losing a lot of sodium through sweating. What you choose to eat is all down to personal preference. Similar balanced meals should be eaten over the next few days, as the body continues its recovery. It’s likely that you’ll feel extra hungry anyway so it shouldn’t be too difficult to eat the right amount. Some options that I enjoy in the days following a long event include vegetable and tofu stir-fry with cashew nuts, pasta or rice with spicy vegetable and bean sauces, peanut butter and jam sandwiches and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to snack on.
Icing and a Massage
Even if you finish with no injuries, icing the legs (or taking an ice bath if you’re brave enough) is found by many to be beneficial. When I took part in a very hilly “10 marathons in 10 days” challenge, there was an ice bath, set at around 2 degrees Celsius, which we were encouraged to stand in for ten minutes. This did feel kind of painful, but in a refreshing and replenishing sort of way. It’s hard to know how much it helped, but it certainly was an important part in making me repeatedly feel ready to take on the next day’s tough marathon course. Massage is also thought by many to help. It’s usually considered best to opt for a light massage post-event, not one of the deep intense muscle-kneadings that may be the preference for many athletes at other times.
Less Exercise and More Sleep
Starting to exercise gently the day after the run is a good idea. Getting the blood flowing really helps the muscles feel better. For some, this may be a slow swim, where the water takes some of your weight and there is little impact. Others prefer walking, or even jogging, to refresh the muscles and joints.
Sleep is important too. Having been up for potentially 24 or 48 hours, sleeping for a day after the event, which might seem like what you’d want to do, isn’t usually possible, or indeed wise. On arriving home (or on the transport en route) you may well grab a prolonged nap, but twitchy legs and over-tiredness may mean that this doesn’t last for nearly as long as expected. For most people, it will be taking a couple of extra hours of sleep each night over the next week that works, usually achieved by several early nights.
As I write this, I am in the fortnight between a 145-mile race and a 100-miler. At the sedate pace I’m jogging in both these events, it’s perfectly possible to feel fully recovered from the first event and ready to take on the next challenge. Recovery from a long run involves nothing very different to the normal healthy approach to life that a lot of t ultra runners tend to have – just more of some things (food, sleep) and swapping potentially hard training runs for some gentler recovery exercise.
Image Source: katinalynn