So, here we are with only a week to go to Run the Line 2018. A fantastic day is promised for all from what I've heard and the addition of those stunning medals this year will make it even more memorable for everyone crossing the finish line. With the finish line in mind, I thought it would be useful to have some information on recovery. Your greatest asset is a quick and effective recovery, it means you can get back training and competing again within a relatively short time frame. It is all too easy to reward yourself with a takeaway after a race but we all need to take a step back and assess what we are doing. Ask yourself “what's in it for me?”, in other words, what can your body gain from that particular food? Processed foods have been stripped of nutrients through the manufacturing process and are of no benefit to your recovering body. Preparation ensures success so have something pre prepared for yourself rather than have to cook something on the day when you are tired.
As mentioned previously, stretching and ensuring an adequate cooling down period as well as fluid intake after the run is essential for allowing lactic acid to clear from muscle fibres so you don't end up with muscle soreness (DOMS) or cramping later on. Magnesium is used to prevent and treat muscle cramp, having magnesium in the diet is always beneficial to athletes be they amateur or pro. The quickest and most effective way to get magnesium to your muscles after a challenging event is through the skin. You can do this via a magnesium spray straight onto your legs or my favourite way is by having an epsom salt bath. The heat of the water also encourages the muscles to relax allowing the magnesium from the salts work more effectively. Dietary sources of magnesium include cashew nuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, salmon, avocado and spinach. Magnesium is also important for heart health so you will be doing your heart a good turn by including these foods in your diet.
What else can you do? I have mentioned previously the two hour window of opportunity after an event or training to recover carbohydrate and protein. Recent studies have shown no benefit in eating a high sugar or quick releasing carb over a slow releasing carbohydrate for replacing muscle glycogen when not training again in the same day so choose brown pastas, rice and wholemeal breads. This is far more beneficial to blood sugar control also. If you do end up with white bread or pasta, eat it with a good quality portion of vegetables and protein to slow digestion thus slowing the sugar release. If you're using milk, use a protein milk. It has been shown recently that protein milk may be a more beneficial way to hydrate after training or competing than water. It does of course depend on the individual but worth keeping in mind.
Exercise naturally creates inflammation within the body. Inflammation is an immune response to the stress the body is under at the time and while it is a natural response, inflammation can cause a number of health issues such as heart disease and Alzheimer's disease if not kept in check. Modern day life is quite stressful anyway and the body does not differentiate between physical and emotional stress, it deals with it all in the same way and the modern diet generally does not include enough anti inflammatory foods. The bottom line is, whatever your circumstances are, everybody needs more anti inflammatory foods in their diet! What foods should you eat? Omega 3 oils are probably the best anti inflammatory and are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout. They are also found in flax and chia seeds and in walnuts. Nuts and seeds should be kept in the fridge once the packet is opened to ensure the oils remain stable and don't go rancid. Find seeds that have been cold milled if you are choosing a milled option as this ensures the oils have not been destroyed in the manufacturing process. Other foods such as ginger, turmeric, cherries, rosemary and basil are all excellent anti inflammatories.
Exercise also naturally creates free radical activity within the body. Free radicals are nasty little rogue cells that damage and destroy healthy cells when they come into contact. Free radical damage causes premature aging within the body, this can be physically seen on the skin but damage also causes illness and disease when not kept under control. I'm sure nobody wants to look any older than they are ( I know I don't!) so what can you do to counteract these little nasties? Anti oxidants neutralise free radicals so they are no longer damaging to the body and luckily they can be found in many delicious foods. Vitamins C, A and E are powerful antioxidants and sources of these vitamins should certainly be included in your diet when you leave Run the Line. Food sources include any red, orange or yellow skinned fruit or vegetable like peppers, pumpkin (if you can still get some then), strawberries, tomatoes and sweet potato. Dark skinned fruits should also be on the menu including blueberries, blackberries and cherries. Nuts and seeds are another great source of antioxidant power as they are high in vitamin E. This vitamin in particular is important for all body cells as it is used to protect the cell membrane. As I have been saying all along our journey, a balanced diet provides all the fuel your body needs so choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and you can't go wrong.
Finally, rest is a vital part of every training plan! No body can survive in “beast mode” all of the time. When you rest you allow your body the time to repair and rebuild what it needs. Protein synthesis occurs when we rest and our organs need a time out to recuperate also. Pushing the body too far and not factoring down time into your plans leads to burnout and illness. Believe me, I've been there and it is not pretty! Burn out leads to time off the road, fitness levels go out the window and frustration levels hit the roof! I am absolutely certain nobody reading this wants to be in that position. So you can now tell your other half that I have told you to put the feet up when you arrive home on November 10th.
I would just like to wish everyone all the very best of luck for Run the Line 2018. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs, I hope you have learned something from them but most of all I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Thank you also to the Dublin Wicklow mountain rescue team for everything they do on the hill and I look forward to seeing their new base with the proceeds from Run the Line.