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7 tips for recovering from a workout
Kim Cowart stops by a local donut shop after the Boston Marathon for a recovery donut. - photo by Kim Cowart
I was a diligent pregnant woman, researching every aspect of the experience to make sure I was taking care of myself and my unborn daughter. I meticulously studied every birthing method to ensure I made the right choice for me. I went to classes and read almost every book Barnes and Noble had in stock.

It was in the hospital elevator on our way to labor and delivery that I realized I had no idea what to do once I got home. Reality dawned on me that we were arriving at the hospital a family of two, but would be leaving a family of three. Tears and panic. And I hadnt even seen the epidural needle yet.

What I needed in those hazy days with a newborn was real advice. Not textbook advice but tips from the mouths of the mothers whod lived the life. What did they actually do to get their babies to sleep? How did they really handle breastfeeding? What were they secretly thinking during those middle of the night feedings? How, oh how, did they fit in a shower?

Those days are in the past for me now, but Ive found that every new endeavor turns me into a true-life detective. Give it to me straight. I can handle the truth.

Im often asked by gym members about how I manage my workouts and training while still teaching throughout the week. One word recovery.

Its taken me years to figure out whats right for me, and it will likely take you years to do the same. Heres what Ive learned.

1. Listen to your body. You are unique. No magazine, book or online article knows you better than you. If your training plan calls for a tempo run and you feel like youve actually been run over by a truck, adjust accordingly. Feel a little niggle in your knee? Move todays long run to next week and cross-train. Train smarter, not harder. Remember, were in this for the long-haul, not the short-term.

2. Be proactive. Waiting to address an issue until it becomes an emergency may save money today but cost me for many tomorrows. These days I make sure to get a medical massage every month. Its worth giving up a few lunches out to make sure my muscles are aligned and smooth. I know its kept me running stronger these past few months, which makes everyone else at home happy, too.

3. Make friends with your foam roller. Every night I spend 15 minutes rolling out my legs and back. Every single night. Fifteen minutes can be hard to find, but I find it nonetheless. Im really good at rolling and reading with my kids. Expert, even. Im as busy as the next mom, but Ive come to realize that my needs are as pressing as my familys. Taking 15 minutes for myself isnt neglectful, its necessary.

4. Take a bath. Some love ice baths. I used to be one of them. Ive shifted to epsom salt baths. I cant say for sure if they help with my recovery, but they feel great. I like to do a few stretches after the water has warmed up my muscles, especially my calves. Sometimes that bath is the carrot on the stick to get me out the door and running, too.

5. Cross-train. Good runners run. Great runners run, bike, swim, box, do yoga and lift weights. There are so many benefits to cross-training that it deserves an article all its own. It strengthens muscles, prevents boredom and makes for a well-rounded athlete. Low-impact cross-training encourages blood flow to the muscles which, in turn, enables better recovery. My favorite cross-training is spin class. I get my groove on while getting a good sweat session without any of the pounding.

6. Take it easy. Not every day has to be a gut-wrenching vomit-inducing workout. Frankly, Ive only been sick after one workout, and it turns out I had the flu. Tough workouts are key to getting stronger, but too many make the mistake of thinking progress is only made if you puke. Not true. Recovery runs should be recovery runs. They shouldnt turn into tempo runs no matter how tempting it is to speed up when another runner passes you on the trail. Recovery runs wont set your training back. Theyll enable you to tackle the harder workouts with more strength, making you better in the end.

7. Sleep. If Im crazy about cross-training, Im fanatical about sleep. My early bedtimes are the butt of many jokes, but feeling good after eight hours of sleep is worth the ridicule. Sleep is when the body repairs the days damages. A good nights sleep makes it easier to make good choices, nutritional and otherwise. Ill sacrifice watching television before Ill sacrifice my beauty rest.

I made it through the early days of motherhood, and thankfully so did my daughters, but not without a few scrapes and bruises. The same could be said of my running. Ive run through every injury from strains to fractures, my vision clouded by short-term stubborness. Im done feeling bad. It feels good to feel good. Realizing recovery is as integral to training as a long run is an essential step to becoming the runner you want to be.
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