By Woody Green

Every serious runner would like to run a few more miles each week,

or do an extra interval workout, or get in some extra cross training.

The human body imposes it's limit on our training, though. It must

recover between workouts, and if it doesn't, your body has ways of

letting you know.

There are ways to help your body recover more quickly and / or

more completely, though. Aiding your body in it's recovery might

allow you to make the breakthrough you are looking for in your


So, what can you do to improve recovery between workouts?

Snorting elephant tusk powder while taking a bath in mud from the

Nile River, perhaps? Well, maybe, but there are some more basic and

practical methods.

1. STRETCH. "Nothing new here," you say. "Everyone knows to

stretch." Yes, everyone knows, but does everyone do it? Tell the

truth, do you ALWAYS stretch after EVERY workout? Do you do

several stretches for all your leg muscles, or do you just fly through


couple of hamstring stretches and call it quits?

At a very minimum you should stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps,

groin, calves and outside hip. Better yet, take 10 - 15 minutes and do

a wide variety of leg stretches, and add an upper body stretch or two

as well.

If you have been neglecting flexibility, a few minutes of stretching a

day can give a huge boost to your running.

2. SLEEP. Your body needs down time to rejuvenate itself daily. You

can't expect to "catch up" on sleep on the weekends while catching

only a few Z's during the week.

Eight hours a night has been suggested as the right amount of sleep

by folklore and scientific studies alike. Frank Shorter used to say he

got ten hours or more a night when he was in marathon training.

3. POST WORKOUT CARBS. Studies have shown that the muscle


absorb glucose more readily in the half hour or so after a training

effort. Further, one of the leading causes of chronic muscle fatigue

during periods of high training is depleted glucose stores in the


Take advantage of the muscles "thirst" for glucose right after a

workout by having a high carbohydrate snack or drink shortly after

your workout. This will aid your recovery time!

4. WATER. My massage therapist tells me that drinking more water

is a great help in recovery between workouts. She says this is

especially true in athletes who are nearing or into the masters age

groups. I guess she's telling me that I am starting to get old and dry


Good hydration is very important to the body is a wide variety of

ways. This just has to be good advice.

5. MASSAGE. Speaking of my massage therapist, massage is a great

way to help muscles rebuild and stay flexible. If you can find a good

sports minded massage therapist, it can make a world of difference.

Don't wait until you are injured or tight as a drum, go see a massage

therapist now!

6. RUN ON SOFT SURFACES. Swimmers, cyclists and other athletes

who do not pound the ground thousands of times a week can recover

much quicker from workouts than runners. Scientific evidence

suggests that running causes all kinds of micro-trauma to the

muscles and connective tissue. Swimming and cycling are much

easier on the muscles and joints because there is much less jarring

and pounding.

Short of doing all your workouts in the deep end of the pool, the next

best thing is to run on grass or dirt trails. If you live in Eugene,

you've got miles of wood chip trails to explore. Lucky you! The rest

of us can surely find grassy parks, dirt roads and trails or an old

fashioned cinder track.

By running on softer surfaces, you can help to cut the trauma to your

soft tissues. (It's kind of like hitting yourself with a rubber mallet

instead of a sledge hammer.) Your muscles should be able to heal and

build back faster as a result.

7. DO A WARM-DOWN. After a hard workout it is best to jog easy or

walk to warm-dowm. There is a controversy among coaches as to

why this helps. Some say that easy running helps remove lactic acid

from the legs, and thus cuts soreness and irritation.

Others say lactic acid has nothing to do with it, but by moving


you flush the blood and fluids that would pool in your legs. This

prevents swelling and aids muscle recovery.

Whatever the reason, anecdotal evidence is strong. Warm-down

running helps recovery. But, don't do it just to add miles or get in an

additional workout. Warm-downs need to be easy to be effective.

8. HYDROTHERAPY. Oh, yes. The good old hot tub, you are thinking.

Well, hot water therapy can help to loosen muscles, and it does

promote circulation. But, some exercise physiologists think it can

promotes muscle swelling and may actually promote bleeding from

the tiny tears in muscle fibers.

Cool water, on the other hand, will help reduce swelling, stop

bleeding, and it feels pretty good once you get used to it. Some

runners find a couple of easy swimming laps in a cool pool does

wonders. Others like to wade in a creek or lake.

Dave Welch, husband and coach of Priscilla Welch, once told me that

she used to fill the bath tub up with cold water and sit in it after


workouts. He found that too uncomfortable for himself, but believed

it helped her a great deal.

9. NUTRITION. There are thousands of books on nutrition, many of

them about nutrition for athletes. Find a good one and read it. If your

diet is poor, your body will not rebuild as quickly or completely as it


I hope this list of suggestions helps you to get more out of your

training. Maybe a little extra work on these items will help bring the

PR you are looking for.