Today, the Longevity Exercise Physiology teams at Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleBalmainNeutral Bay, Coburg – Melbourne, and Barrie, Ontario – Canada  discuss the most effective recovery methods for endurance events!

 

I’m sure you’ve all heard that Sydney’s biggest fun run is coming up soon (August 14th)! For those who don’t know, the City2Surf is an iconic 14km course that runs through Australia’s largest city and ends at Bondi Beach. This annual event has hosted hundreds and thousands of walkers, joggers, and runners over the last 51 years, and the best thing of all is that it caters to people of all levels of experience – novices, casual runners, and serious athletes.

While people put a lot of emphasis on race performance, ensuring that your body recovers well is just as important as it benefits your immune system, helps you get back into your regular training routine, and optimise your health after a potentially physiologically stress-inducing event.

 

So what kind of recovery strategies work for an endurance event like City2Surf, and what might not be so effective? Let’s explore 4 of some of the most common options after an endurance event.

Deep tissue (sports) massage

A massage that targets the deeper layers of connective tissue. This commonly involves applying sustained pressure on the inner layers of muscle and connective tissue to reduce tension or break up scar tissue following an injury. Here is what the evidence says:

  • There may be a small benefit for reducing or preventing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – this is that tender muscle pain you might feel after a strenuous gym session
  • Can improve flexibility
  • For an unaccustomed bout of exercise (e.g. for those who haven’t trained for the City2Surf), muscle stiffness after a deep tissue massage may still remain for up to 4 days
  • Massage is unlikely to significantly affect subsequent performance in sprinting, jumping, strength, or endurance
Foam rolling

A method of self-myofascial release that is frequently encouraged by physical therapists, coaches and physicians which can easily be implemented at home. Whilst there isn’t a consensus about the optimal duration and intensity, here is what the evidence suggests:

  • Foam rolling can provide an increase in range of motion at the hip, knee, and ankle joints
  • Changes in tissue stiffness depends on how often you foam roll – more experienced athletes are likely to experience a short term decrease in stiffness than those who don’t regularly foam roll
  • Foam rolling doesn’t benefit or inhibit muscular strength or power
Cold water immersion (CWI)

Cold water immersion (or ice baths) commonly involves dunking the exercised limbs or your whole body in cold water (5-20°C) for 5-30 minutes. Although it’s not the most pleasant option, here is what the evidence suggests:

  • CWI can accelerate the recovery process by reducing muscle damage, swelling, inflammation, and muscle spasms
  • Provides a “pain relieving” effect that can improve our perception of recovery
  • May enable you to return back to strength/power training faster than other recovery methods
  • Most benefits of cold water immersion can be seen less than 1 hour post exercise

 

“Most benefits of cold water immersion can be seen less than 1 hour post exercise”

Sauna

Saunas typically use dry heat produced by a stove or hot rocks which aim to increase the temperature to up to 90°C with low humidity. This typically causes your skin temperature to rise, blood vessels to dilate, and increases your heart rate. Here is what the evidence says:

  • Saunas can relieve muscle or joint pain, especially for those with arthritis or chronic pain
  • After an endurance event, sauna use can increase the risk of severe dehydration – ensure enough water is drunk before, during, and after sauna time
  • When it comes to recovery, there isn’t a significant benefit in one-off sauna use (running endurance may improve after regular post-exercise sauna use of up to 3 weeks)

 

“After an endurance event, sauna use can increase the risk of severe dehydration – ensure enough water is drunk before, during, and after sauna time”

 

In summary, of these 4 recovery techniques, each have their own pros and cons. Some are more easily accessible than others, some are more or less enjoyable to participate in, and some may be more suitable for your goals than others. Consider how each of the pros and cons work for you, as optimal recovery after an endurance event is not a one size fits all solution!

 

If you or someone you know would need help with individualised exercise programming for an upcoming event or an effective recovery plan, call Longevity Exercise Physiology on 1300 964 002 to book in for a free 15-minute consult today!

 

Written by Suze, student