when i first started to train last year, i read all about the different runs that i would be doing on my plan. but there was also this thing called rest. at this point in my training i was VERY "gung-ho"(even more than i am now, if you can believe it) and i didn't understand the importance of rest/recovery.
as i read more and more about running...it talked more and more about how important rest days were. so i followed my training schedule and rested on those days.
i began to understand that when you train you are actually tearing down your muscles and providing a stimulus to improve a certain part of your fitness. but to improve, your body has to recover from your training and then adapt. you can't improve without recovery days. during my half marathon training, i understood that rest was important, but that was it.
it wasn't until i hurt my foot the beginning of december that i really started to learn about recovery.
it was about a month after my half marathon...and i was not sure what direction i was going. i didn't have a plan, but i was still really "gung-ho". i had thoughts/hopes of doing the san francisco marathon in july. so off i went to start doing my hillwork on the treadmill...4 days in a row. bad idea. really bad idea!!!
i wasn't stretching and by the fifth day i had a huge knot in my calf...which i believe, ultimately led to plantar fasciitis in both feet. my heels were killing me. and i had huge knots in my calves. i took some time off, tried to take it easy, but finally went to the dr's in february. he told me no running for 1 month.
i was devastated. i almost started to cry right there in his office. that one month seemed to last forever! but that one month was a turning point for me. i don't think i've ever learned so much or worked so hard as i did that month. i scoured the internet for anything that could help my heels/feet. anything that could help me speed up the process of getting well so i could run. i missed running like i missed my best friend. i had found a stress release and a time to think & pray & clear my head, and now it was gone. taken from me by this injury. i wasn't going to let it get me down. i tried everything. the dr. recommended that i get orthotics. so we shelled out the $300 for those. i bought new shoes that were stability shoes, because that is what the running store said i needed. i found a site online that said plantar fasciitis (PF) could be helped by doing these certain stretches and then start to do strengthening exercises. so i was stretching my calves/hamstrings like crazy, probably like 6 times a day. before i was injured i could not touch my toes, in fact, i could probably only reach down to about mid-calf. pretty sad. i had this whole routine that i would go through. it included hamstring stretches, calf stretches, gas pedals, toe circles, & rolling my foot on a golf ball/frozen water bottle.
then i started researching trigger points. the podiatrist that diagnosed my PF had mentioned them during the exam and i wanted to find out what they were. got a few books from the library and read all i could online. i figured out i had a few trigger points (knots) in my calves. i learned how to work the knots out with massage, using a tennis ball and "the stick". funny thing is...when the knots finally went away the pain in my heels started to go away too. i never got used to wearing the orthotics. they actually made the knots in my calves worse. i just continued to massage/stretch/strengthen my feet. and i went barefoot & wore sandals, which is the exact opposite thing the podiatrist told me to do. didn't really trust him a whole lot!! i also bought some compression socks to wear. i know that i have bad circulation, and after i would massage/stretch/strengthen my calves/feet i would put on the socks and they would keep the blood flowing better through my legs, aiding in recovery. i just wanted to run. i did tons of core exercises, anything i could do that didn't hurt my feet.
finally after the month i went back to the dr for a follow-up. he checked my heels, and gave me the green light to walk. WALK...are you kidding me??? i want to run. he said after a month of walking i could gradually add in some running. there was no way i could wait another month to run. i kept up with the stretching/strengthening/massage, and i started to walk. walked 2 miles the first day. i rested the next day. the next day i walk half mile and ran a mile. it was killing me not to run. gradually i started to run. i also learned about KT tape. learned how to tape my heel/arch. worked like a charm. i was back running...albeit VERY slowly...but i was running. i also did tons of research on midfoot striking, chi running and how to run more naturally.
it was a long road back to running, but one i don't regret having to take. i have really learned alot about my body and how to help it recover. i am also more in-tune with my body now. if i feel a twinge in my foot, i start massage and doing my strengthening exercises. i always stretch, before and after i run, and on my rest days.
there has to be a balance between training & recovery. when you train hard, your body needs to recover so that it is ready for the next hard workout. if you manage your recovery well then you can avoid injury and overtraining.
there are a few things i do to speed recovery after a run.
1. stretch. i always stretch before and after i run. before i run, its usually just a quick stretch of my calves, quads and hamstrings. but after i run, i take extra care to stretch my legs, calves, and hips. feels so good.
2. it's best to eat/drink something right after you run,within 2 hours, but the sooner the better. it's best to have something that has high protein/high carbs. this will aid in the recovery/repair of your muscles & replenish glycogen stores. also drink tons of water for rehydration. i love a big glass of chocolate milk, or a strawberry slimfast shake.
3.after every long run i always take an ice bath within 20 minutes of finishing my run. i have found these to be very beneficial. i am not nearly as sore the next day. i run a bath & add all the ice from our icemaker and sit in it for 15 minutes.
4. after a hard workout, i love to wear my compression socks. they make my legs feel great. keeps the blood moving and helps with soreness.
5. once the soreness sets in...i love to use "the stick". this little gizmo is the best thing since sliced bread. you can really massage your legs and work out those knots. i also use hand massage and a tennis ball too.
6. and sometimes the best thing to help recovery is a nice, easy run. gets the blood flowing and seems to work out the soreness. just make sure it's nice and easy!!