I am well into this segment of training, and that means recovery is so critical. If I am going to make it to the start (and finish) line healthy, I need to make recovery a priority, probably even more of a priority than the hard workouts themselves.
After all, it is better to go into a race slightly under peak fitness, but healthy, than go into a race at peak fitness, but unsure if you will finish if your injury takes a turn for the worse.
I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what that involves for me; What does “taking recovery seriously” mean for an elite runner?
I will make it into a little mini series, explaining each of the aspects in enough detail for you to know if it is something you want to incorporate into your training.
I am confident that you could, in theory, apply each of these to your training, but as my running is kind of like a career for me, I am prepared to pay for more expenses than most. You can use as few or as many of these as you like. However, I am not talking about resources that are thousands of dollars, or for elites only. Everything I talk about is realistic to everyone….well, I like to think so.
I am not guaranteeing this will keep you healthy. Running is a high risk sport, and no one is completely safe, but by taking these steps I am putting myself in the best position to get to that start line healthy, and hopefully you can too!
Today I am gonna focus on THE two most important aspects of training, what ensures my training is able to continue at all; fueling and sleep.
By now most of you know that eating right is incredibly important to successful running. That means that you are eating the right foods, and eating them at the right time.
Some new runners make the mistake of eating “healthy” before runs, but that will only make you feel bad; salad, most fruits and vegetables are bad decisions in the hours leading up to your run as they take too long to digest. I make sure to stick to carbohydrate heavy, plain, white foods.
If you want to read about my pre race/workout fueling, you can read about it here. I can get away with eating most foods before regular runs, but I do make sure I eat within 3 hours of running, and I always have breakfast.
The second most important aspect of fueling….actually, it is probably the most important during training, is to get fuel in within 40 minutes of finishing your training. I wrote a post on recovery refueling here if you would like to learn more.
I will break fueling down into the various food categories to help you better understand how I eat during a serious training segment.
First, I just want to say that this is not as intense year round; I definitely have quite a few more sweets during my off season, and my eating is based on what I want, rather than what I need. That does not mean that during the peak training segment I restrict myself to steamed vegetables and plain chicken. I still make sure I enjoy what I eat, but just try to add in the foods in that I know will assist with recovery.
One of my best suggestions for eating well is to keep adding in good, nutrient dense foods, and they will eventually will crowd out the bad.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know I love my cereal, but I have been trying to make better decisions in the mornings; chosing oatmeal or protein oatmeal smoothies. I love to have a small bowl of granola immediately upon waking up, but I try to make more nutritious choices for post run.
This is where the oatmeal or protein oatmeal smoothies come in. Here is my go to “recipe” (just blend it all together!)
1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup milk (I use soy or almond)
1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup frozen fruit (raspberries, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, peaches- whatever you like!)
optional: 1/2 scoop protein powder (I use this when I go right from my run to my workout with Drew, I have it after the workout)
When we have go out for breakfast, I have been choosing eggs with one pancake as a side, instead of a big stack of my beloved pancakes as I know eggs have more to offer for recovery.
Lunch and Snacks
As I run around 9am most days, I do not eat my bigger breakfast until around 11, so that means I don’t eat lunch at a typical time.
I am sorry to be boring, but my favorite lunch is simply my homemade bread with homemade almond butter and jelly. I will also often have a can of tuna with 1/2 an avocado for lunch. Steve and I love this combination, and its such a great runner meal! Especially as I definitely make sure I get enough carbs with my other meals!
As I work from home, I tend to graze a little more than I probably should, but as I have said many times, I would rather overeat, than under eat. Some of my favorite snacks during marathon training are:
- Nuts, dried fruit and seeds (we make our own trail mix with a variety)
- Daisy cottage cheese with pineapple/dried cherries (I am not endorsed by Daisy, but I am telling you, it is SO much better than other brands!)
- Greek yogurt
- Carrots/celery with homemade hummus (check out my avocado hummus recipe!)
- Homemade granola/protein bars……although I have not yet perfected a recipe that does not crumble….you will just have to wait as right now it is just clumpy granola….another favorite snack
- Fruit (apples, bananas, pears, oranges, pineapple, or whatever is on sale that week)
I do not have a set amount, I just try to go by hunger…..although sometimes I question if I am actually hungry, or just enjoy eating so much that I want to. Either way, I do eat often and whenever I feel hungry.
Steve and I have 1-2 meatless days per week, where I make sure to pack them full of other nutritious ingredients.
Some people think that you cannot get as much protein, but that is just not the case if you are smart about it. I make sure each of my meatless meals are well balanced, and full of everything a runner needs to refuel.
Despite my love for meatless meals, am not a vegetarian. I do get beef from Brookview Farms, which we have 1-2 nights a week, free-range chicken, and we have Sizzlefish once per week.
Most people have too much meat, and that is why I encourage at least a few vegetarian meals (lunch or dinner) per week. Meatless recipes make it easier to add in extra nutrition as a lot of the ingredients are so low in calories, that you can add more of them in. You can see my recipes HERE.
Just to show you an example of a few dinners for Steve and I, this week we had:
Sunday- Loaded vegetable, bean and potato soup with crackers
Monday- Sweet chili rice stuffed peppers (check back on Monday for the recipe!)
Tuesday- Parmesan breadcrumb Haddock, with sweet potato and almond butter, beans, and spinach
Wednesday- Homemade BBQ sauce slow cooker chicken, with roasted rutabaga, and carrots
Thursday- Brookview Beef Gorgonzola Burgers in homemade pretzel buns, with black bean quinoa chips and pineapple salsa (Trader Joes)
Friday- not sure yet, but probably baked potato with either leftover chicken or beef
If you want to see more about what I eat in an average day, you can read my Day in the Life of post, or my What I Ate Wednesday post last year.
My Beloved Sweets
At the beginning of the segment, Steve and I committed to having just one sweet a day. Not that I cant get away with eating more with the miles I have been running, but more because those calories are not providing and nutrition to my body, and it would be better to fill my body with better choices.
When I say one sweet, I do not mean literlaly one starburst, we still have a good bowl of ice cream, or a large cookie. This is enough to where I do not feel like I am depriving myself, so I crave it more, but something I can look forward to each day. If you wanna see my sweets, head to my Instagram, I often show them there 🙂
Full disclosure- last weekend was definitely not a one sweet a day……the days of the cake testing I definitely had 3-4 of my “servings” of sweets, but thats a once in a lifetime thing right? 🙂
This is probably the second most important part of recovery. Some may argue it is THE most important.
As I have mentioned before, I am not very good at this. I do struggle to fall asleep at night, but I can honestly say I have been sleeping better in this segment than I have in previous. I think a lot of that is because I have stopped worrying about it as much; it is what it is!
When I anticipate not being able to sleep that night….if I have something I am worrying about, or doing the next day, I will take a benadryl or one of these Dream Waters to help me fall asleep. I find that benadryl works the best for me, but I do not take it every night as I do not want to rely on it.
Routine has also become a big part of this. I get up at 6:15 every day during the week, and make sure I am in bed by 10:15. On the weekends, I make sure I still get up by 6:45, and go to bed by 11. I never really believed in this before, but now I see just how much it can help.
This is enough of a post for now, but I will bring more insights into recovery in my next post.
Hopefully this post was not too much me, me, me, but I get a lot of requests for insights into my life, so I am trying to bring more of them in. I hope they can be applicable to you, and if it is too self absorbed, let me know 🙂
What fueling foods do you enjoy to fuel your recovery? Do you take supplements?
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I ROCK THE ROUTINE. I just need to expand my time in bed.
I don’t take supplements but do make sure to eat well and at the right time! Major difference in how I feel! If for some odd reason I don’t get a post run meal in within the 40 minutes, I absolutely feel it – headache, stiff and my muscles definitely don’t recover as well as normal. Very little interferes with my post run routine but it has happened and I try to never let it happen again!
I like to be in bed by 9pm and usually wake up naturally around 5 so that schedule seems to work pretty well for me! I have found that eating well definitely helps with recovery. During my last training cycle I was in the habit of making a smoothie right after I got back from my morning run, which was the perfect way to refuel quickly. Then I would have a real breakfast a little later. I usually only crave something sweet after dinner, so typically I also stick to one “treat” a day. I have also enjoyed baking with some healthier ingredients so that I’m not consuming quite as much sugar:)
Always love reading every aspect of your training. Fueling and sleep are my very worst things. I have always run on an empty stomach and struggle to try and change that. And, sleep……I can’t even remember the last time I slept through the night – I spend hours awake every night.
Love that you include so many healing foods! Fruits and veggies are definitely packed with inflammation fighting properties. I do take supplements but having a good, mostly plant based, diet is really the foundation for wellness!
Love those little pretzel buns! My eating is usually ok although this week it’s crazy off. Sleep is probably the one place I’m really lacking on lately. I have every intention of an early night but then can’t actually fall alseep. I bought yogi goodnight tea hoping that would help. We will see so far all I have to do is pee now at 3 am! LOL!
I do my one run in the morning(ish) so I always have time to enjoy a nice fueling breakfast and digest before my run. When I come back I’ll take a shower and then hit up lunch! And yes I think sleep is SO important! The night before my long run I go to sleep “extra” early (7:30 😉 Haha!)
I love this post! Sleep is so important and so is diet. I’ve made the mistake before of not eating enough carbs before a workout and paid the price for sure. Eating too much fruit at breakfast upsets my stomach as well. I really like reading about your routine 🙂
Sounds like you’re being super smart about fuel and REST! I hear you on filling up on nutrient dense foods with a few treats mixed in. My body feels and functions so much better like this, too!
My husband loves Benadryl as a sleep aid haha! He rarely takes it except when we’re camping, etc. Great post Tina! Can’t believe you’re only 8 weeks away!
Ask any mother, runner or look at any child: sleep and food are EVERYTHING!
Loved reading this, Tina, and I was nodding my head about lunches–I’m pretty routine w/ mine, too, although I’ll often have leftovers from the night before. And as always, I love to see that you still indulge in your sweets. Sleep, oh wonderful sleep–seriously one of my favorite things in life. I love to get into bed by 9, although as my son gets older, it gets harder. He’s 14 and goes to bed around the same time, but next yr in high school he’ll definitely need to stay up later and that will make this mama feel guilty if I go to bed before him! Keep up your great work–wow, only 8 weeks!
I’m not training for any long races now, but when I was I had to get high protein food in my stomach within 30 minutes and a meal within a couple hours or I crashed. If I was running 5-10 miles I would eat some low fat cottage cheese… if I ran longer I would eat a high quality protein bar with as little process as possible.
Check out Chocolate Covered Katie for some super clean and so very tasty granola recipes! She is so good at making homemade taste better than the normal ones. Thanks for sharing your routine with us!
Thanks for the suggestion Hannah! I will check her out!
One of my favorite foods after I run is eggs. I eat a lot of the same things, but have started becoming more aware of it as I look at what my boys eat and I try to introduce them to new things. I’m also on a pretty regular routine with my sleep – I go to sleep early and wake up early 🙂
I applaud how you stick with a routine on weekends! Generally, I use the weekends to catchup on sleep and I prefer getting 9 hours per night. Granted – if I am worked up or anxious about something, I will wait until I am relaxed and give up a few hours of sleep. 🙂 I am going to start this weekend, though, attempting to stick with more of a general routine for mornings/evenings. Thanks for making me feel normal about loving to snack/graze throughout the day! I am working on getting the materials to make my own trail mix as a work snack. I found a store made one that is giving me ideas. Happy Friday!
I too love my cereal in the morning, mostly because it’s the easiest/quickest thing. I have oatmeal sometimes but it doesn’t seem to keep me as satiated. I really don’t like to drink my meals but smoothies are great recovery fuel. As for sleep, I have never had an issue with that one!! 🙂 Great tips as always Tina!
Allie, I dont like to drink mine either, but if you put them in the freezer, its like ice cream! I love it!
Dying to know which protein powder you use!!! And yes yes YES I loved this post.
Thanks Suzy, I use mostly Twin Lab Clean Series, its on my support network tab 🙂
Love this! So interesting 🙂
Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day and I have the same thing every single day. I realise this is quite boring but I absolutely love it. Porridge with almond milk. No toppings, no sweetness, just plain. I’m a porridge purist 😉 It just works for me.
I’m such a granny with my sleep. I go to bed at 9-9.30 and fall asleep so quickly and then I get up at 5am. It used to be hard but now I’m used to it and don’t mind it – I just don’t have time otherwise annoyingly.
Awesome post. Proper recovery is also especially important for master’s runners–I say this as I approach my 50th birthday (OMG, how did this happen?!? I feel about 30. Really). Thanks for the reminder. It’s hard for me to refuel right after a long or hard workout – I’m just not that hungry. But this post makes me realize that even a few swallows of nut butter or soy yogurt are better than nothing.
Love this post! Fueling and recovery (especially sleep) are almost as important as the training itself! I’m the same way about sleep, I go to bed and wake up around the same time, whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
I also really appreciate what you say about preferring to overeat, especially on healthy foods, than undereat. I read an article by Matt Fitzgerald recently that said many runners are prone to injury because they don’t eat enough overall. There’s such a diet mentality in our culture still, especially for women, that really needs to be broken, especially as more women get into endurance sports.
This is such good advice, and honestly, I love simple menu plans like this! I’m limited on my fitness intensity right now, but my husband is rocking the workouts and struggling with the “fuel” aspect due to some dietary restrictions. Love some of your ideas!
Tina, after spending three days at Disneyland eating a lot of junk food and then doing a difficult tempo on Thursday, I see a huge difference in my performance when I eat the right way versus eating junk. It is a huge motivator, to be organized, prepare the right foods, and eat well all of the time. Your posts are always so helpful. The way we fuel makes a big difference in the way we run.
Sleep is so important! I can really tell the difference when I haven’t slept well- although at this point, there isn’t much I can do about when there is a teething baby in the house. 🙂 Just trying to get to bed as early as I can!
Oh sleep, you also get away from me so easily! Wonderful post, I think this is helpful to so many athletes, runners or not. Being healthy before a competition is so much more important!!
I’ve been taking the supplements from Enduropacks for almost a month now and I also take fish oil pills 3xday. I don’t know if it’s because of these supplements, but I’ve been feeling great lately. Hitting all my paces and bouncing back pretty quickly… hopefully this will last until marathon day (8 weeks!) 😉
Mon-Fri I usually have the same exact things for breakfast (oatmeal) and snacks (Greek yogurt in the am, banana in the pm). Lunch and dinner vary according to the workout I’m having in the evening. Friday I tend to eat a dinner which is heavy on carbs to fuel for my long run on Sat. Sat & Sun I make sure to refuel properly after my runs but then, I tend to let myself go a little bit and just enjoy the weekend!
This is awesome Tina and love how your break everything down! So excited to start eating more oats as my mileage starts to increase…And that pretzel bun??? I am drooling over here. I absolutely LOVE pretzel buns! Sleep is so so important and it is amazing what happens when those hours start to decrease. I also love that you love a good PB&J. HAHA…so good!
Hi Tina! Thanks for the thorough post. I’m not a runner, but I do work in fitness and certainly try to spend time fueling and recovering properly for the group fitness classes I teach and workouts that I do. It sounds like we eat many of the same snacks throughout the day. I’m pretty consistent with my sleep too, which is helpful. I LOVE what you said about it being better to go into a race slightly less than peak but healthy. I honestly think that could be a statement for many other things in life too! Happy Friday! 🙂
These are GREAT tips! I am a sweet/sugar lover too…but I just try to be careful and make sure i am also getting the stuff that is good and that I need. My only question for you is one I have had for a long time and have never really found an answer to…why almond milk over regular milk? Is it just to save the calories. I know a lot of people do this and I am not sure why. I feel like milk has the protein in it that will really benefit me. I am just curious to know what others view as the benefit of almond over regular milk. Thanks 🙂
Thanks lady 🙂 you should have asked silly 🙂 I am not scary I promise….or maybe you just tried to figure it out? Either way, I love almond and soy because it’s more creamy, and it has 50% more calcium than cows milk….which is why I was drinking milk in the first place, so thought I had better go with the better source 🙂 it’s not calories wise though. Actually the soy milk has more than cows milk. Also, I have some moral issues with cows milk with all the hormones, so try to stay away 🙂 glad you enjoyed the post!
Oh…I didn’t answer your questions :). I just take a multi and I usually have a piece of oatmeal bread with peanut butter after a run. Sometimes I have chocolate milk too :). Bagels are and have pretty much always been my pre race breakfast.
I can’t believe that London Marathon is only 8 weeks away!! I love hearing about your routine, fuel and sleep. Sleep is definitely the one that I need to work on the most. I don’t have trouble falling asleep – I just go to sleep way too late! Thanks for sharing all of this Tina!
I love oatmeal, fruit and an egg in the morning, but if I have a long run scheduled – then I’ll have a bagel and banana. Only oatmeal if I have 3+ hours to digest. Avocados and whole wheat toast after a run or a protein smoothie!
Love this post Tina. You always give us info that we can use to be better runners – thanks!!!
For so long I didn’t give sleep the credit it’s due. I probably need fewer hours sleep than most but it’s sound restorative sleep. Supplements daily!
I don’t take any supplements… but I notice a big difference when I drink a protein shake (1 scoop of Vega recovery + 24 ounces of a mix of almond milk and water) after my long runs and when I don’t… aka I’m not sore the next day!
I LOVE oatmeal with almond butter for breakfast. My favorite combination by far! Your smoothie sounds delicious though 🙂 I’m obsessed with trail mix too – the perfect blend of salty & sweet.
I struggle with sleep too. I used to be great about making sure I got a solid 8 hrs each night, but lately I’ve been letting my social life interfere. This is a good reminder to really focus on it again though. Benadryl is a good idea – it knocks me out. I sometimes use melatonin if I’m having trouble falling asleep.
My issue is the sleep. I haven’t slept through the night in 3 1/2 years unfortunately….kids….
Um I want those pretzel buns in my life!!!
Sleep is SO important. I don’t sleep enough I think… I don’t know, my body only needs 6-7 hours but I feel guilty not getting 8. I’m up at 5:30 most days… sometimes weekends, too! I just love mornings.
First of all, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who just grazes all the time when working at home! Thanks for these great tips! I do have a random question about running though. I was training for a half-marathon last year, and I noticed that by mile 5, I had a huge cramp on my side. This happened in subsequent long runs and during the actual event. I’ve asked other people and they either tell me that I should drink less water right before and during my run. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Hi Lisa! Was it like a stitch? A lot of it comes down to new runners just getting side stitches more, so as you keep running your body should get used to it, but yes, having water or food in your stomach can definitely play a part. Here is an article that may be helpful for you 🙂 http://runnersconnect.net/running-tips/5-beginner-questions/ There is a part at the bottom of how to get rid of it once you have it 🙂 Hope this helps! Thanks for your comment 🙂
Yes, it was a stitch! Thanks for sending over the link! I’ll need to check it out!
So great to get inside your head, and so refreshing to know you have a treat every day. : ) lol. Is that weird? haha. Your weekly menu was so inspiring, we’re kind of stuck in a rut with certain things, but just that inspiration will help us bust outta our box. THANKS. And, we are trying to dial in our night routine. GREAT WORK. The hardest part is being strict about bed time, we just want to chill out and chat too long about randomness. But, to bed to bed! Great work, Tina. So excited for your race. And, your smoothie looks awesome. : )
Very insightful! I need to think more about my fueling…I’m really happy with how my training is going but I’ve noticed I”ve been hitting the sweets a little too hard lately!