“As a more mature athlete and now with a few more aches and pains, I love products that help my body recover and make things feel a little easier. I live in my OOFOS slides in between training and I’ve noticed a big difference in how my achilles and feet recover post training, those aches and pains have become a lot less noticeable!” – Ross Murray
Discussion around recovery for sportspeople is one that’s been evolving since sport was in its infancy and is still evolving now.
You can look back as far as the Gladiator days (the Roman Empire ones, not the TV show. Although I have no doubt that Jet & The Wolf had good recovery routines themselves) and you’ll find they had the best diets and physios because their Dominus knew they needed to be fit, strong and recovering well in between training/battles.
I believe running in particular is a sport where recovery plays an even more important role than most other sports. Everyday you’re pounding your feet, your hips, your back (let’s just say the whole body) and the amount of calories you burn means you’re constantly at risk of illness or fatigue. Other endurance sports, like swimming and cycling, don’t have to subject the body to that repetitive impact day in, day out.
There are always new strategies, new products and new studies for runners to think about and it’s hard to know which ones are actually going to be effective and improve performance.
There are so many that, unless you’re a 9-5 professional athlete with nothing else to do apart from train and rest, you simply wouldn’t have the time or mental energy to think about them all.
I’m going to outline the most important things that helped me when I was a professional athlete and the ones you should pay most attention to. These are the recovery strategies that will help you stay injury free and build consistency in the run up to your races, two of the most important components of a successful training block.
Top Tips for Recovery
Sleep is literally the most important and effective time where you can maximize recovery. Yes, there is an element of recovery in the evening when you’re binge-watching Lupin or Below Deck on Netflix (or whatever floats your boat…), but the best time where your muscles will make those adaptations and recharge for the next day, is when you sleep.
A famous sleep expert, Matthew Walker, said that you can’t catch up on sleep – it doesn’t work like that. If you had five hours sleep one night, it doesn’t mean that the next night 10 hours will bring you back to where you need to be. For sleep to be at its most effective, you need regular, solid sleep routines.
If you are someone who struggles getting to sleep, I couldn’t recommend highly enough ditching your phone after dinner and 20 minutes of reading before bed; it’s is a great way to allow the mind to unwind.
There is so much nutritional advice out there it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. The biggest mistakes I see runners make is not eating enough. If you’re eating good food and running every day, you can quit the calorie counting.
I kept it as simple as this:
- A carbohydrate fueled breakfast before training (porridge and a banana)
- A recovery shake (Myprotien is a good brand) straight after I finish training
- Lunch consisting of some meat, veg (2-3 pieces) and rice
- Dinner has the same principles that would apply for lunch but I’d generally eat a little more
Think of your body as a car – a car can’t run on fuel and if you’re not giving your body enough, and it doesn’t have the energy to train or make those adaptations in between sessions.
A great app to use is the Hexis app as it builds great custom meal plans tailored specifically to your training plan and has some fantastic, easy to cook recipes in there too.
I’ve always been someone who struggled with sore lower legs/feet, mainly due to my running style. Having good footwear that give my feet the break they need, take the load off and that help aches and pains subside is essential.
I’ve been working with OOFOS for six months now and when they initially reached out to me, I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. Like I said earlier, there are so many products out there and a lot of them are gimmicks, however I’m always open to trying new things.
When my OOFOS OOahh Sport Slides arrived however, I was sold on them straight away. Not just in terms of how comfortable they are, but how much better my feet and Achilles feel throughout the day. When it comes to my next training session I feel the OOFOS slides really take the load off and I am able to get more out of my next run. I don’t tend to quite have that initial first groggy runners mile where my feet need to wake up, which is a huge bonus for me!
There’s one element of recovery that I don’t think people talk about enough, and that’s the psychological element.
It’s so important to be able to switch off in between training and racing, otherwise there will be total mental burnout. It’s very easy to get too engrossed in your training, worrying about every split, every mile and every session. I believe the best approach is that if you’re not at training or out running, try not to think about it.
Don’t be afraid to let your hair down once a week, either. It’s totally fine to have one night a week where you go to the pub or out for dinner and enjoy a few beers or glasses of wine. It’s important to reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve done in the week.
I’ve been using the Headspace app for around five years now and is something I’d recommend everybody does, runner or not.
So, there you have it, they’re my ‘top tips’ for recovery. Whilst I’m not as rigid as I once was as a professional athlete, I still practice all of these things in my training today.
Even if I wasn’t running, who can argue that good sleep, food, footwear and headspace aren’t a good practice for life! We get one body, look after it!
Ross has been a competitive runner since he was 10 years old and was a professional athlete for 11 years. Most notably, he ran for Team GB at London 2012 Olympics in the 1500m. Ross also boasts a highly impressive mile PB of 3:52, ranking him 20th on the British all-time list. In addition to his track credentials, he also represented Great Britain at the World and European Cross Country championships, with his highest finish being 14th.
In 2018 he was forced to retire prematurely due to chronic Achilles injuries. Nevertheless his love for running is as strong as ever and he still runs most days, is a running coach…and competes when he thinks he’s fit enough!