Back in Hull for a couple of days, just winding down, making sure I have last minute items checked and packed. Just a little about winding down before the big day.
There are controversial arguments building up about how long before the race you should finish training. The answer pretty much depends on the individual. (Sorry to go back to that old chestnut, it's just true for so many questions.
The seasoned athlete will be doing some form of training every day, this not only increases fitness, but also makes the body able to make up and recover a lot quicker than someone who trains once or twice a week. So, if you went on a ten mile walk once a week, a five miler this weekend will suffice, seeing as you will be well recovered from the weeks rest you got every week between training walks. Train every day and you'll need to wind it down before the kick off.
First, what are we recovering from?
Exercise and training have certain effects on the body. Using up muscle glycogen stores, build up of waste such as blood clots and lactic acid and muscle fibre tears. Immediately after training you should be stretching and re-hydrating. It's the next day you'll probably feel the effects of heavy training with sore muscles. (Ooh, I could hardly walk next day, etc. We've all said it.) This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. This is caused by tears in the muscles at almost microscopic level, a necessary pain because these micro tears heal stronger than before increasing not only strength and endurance, but also improving recovery time. Recovery time is usually up to 72 hours, although if you've just trained for the first time this could take a maximum of 7 days.
DOMS has an effect of losing bodily proteins and amino acids in the muscle tears which it needs to recover and heal. So, to assist muscle healing, large amounts of protein, a good protein shake immediately after your workout helps best.
The muscle tears have the unfortunate effect of snagging waste products such as lactic acid and blood clots from the muscle damage. This can be alleviated quite easily. Firstly, plenty of water to flush out the muscles. The hydrated muscle mass heals much quicker and transports the proteins to the affected parts. Secondly, plenty of stretches. Stretching the main muscle masses can straighten the damaged and repairing fibres by allowing easier blood flow allowing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
Cold baths are recommended by sports experts. Apparently an ice bath contracts the blood vessels and pushes out the blood which also takes out the waste in the muscles. After 10 minutes, the muscles are numb and waxy which means almost a complete absence of blood. On getting out the empty blood vessels fill up with fresh new clean oxygenated blood. Simples. Tomorrow morning I'll be at my local baths for a sauna and dip in the plunge pool, which has pretty much the same effect. Three minutes heat which opens the blood vessels then a dip in the icy cold plunge pool to contract, rinse then repeat. It does work.
Massage. Can help clean and stretch muscles and is one of the best things for recovery. Takes out kinks and knots in the muscles by stretching and elongating which allow easier blood flow.
Eat properly. Eating a good healthy balanced diet will aid recovery much quicker.
Rest. Very important, lots of rest, especially a good night sleep, and try and avoid stress.
And now the bad one. Avoid alcohol. It dehydrates and destroys body nutrients.
So, roughly, dependant on proper training all done, if you can, wind down 10 days or so before with shorter walks, plenty of water and protein. No speed work 7 days before, just gentle walks of a couple of miles to keeps the blood flowing yet not damaging muscles, and three to five days before, change from proteins to Carbs (pasta, chicken, bread and potatoes, nothing fried) To build up glycogen reserves for the big day.