Recovering Faster: A Master’s Perspective
Recovering from structural damage takes longer for master’s runners than young runners; primarily
because androgen levels are lower with age. Androgen’s, such as human growth hormone and
testosterone are affected by overall health, age, and nutritional status. Although age can not be
controlled, speeding recovery is possible by focusing on specific nutritional practices, physiotherapy,
and mechanical reducing training methods.
Master’s runners want to recover from workouts fast; in order to return to vigorous training as quickly
as possible. Perhaps the fastest way of speeding recovery is consuming a combination of
carbohydrates and whey protein isolate in a ratio of 3 or 4 to 1. Simple sugars such as natural
fructose from fruits are ideal during 30 minutes post-exercise. However, after an hour, post-exercise,
consume complex carbohydrates from vegetables, rice, and Agave sugar. Even eating whole wheat or
multi-grain breads or pastas work well in the recovery period extending past 1-hour post-exercise.
Because my recommendations are based on my exercise science education, experience as a runner
and coach, I am not fully versed in advanced nutritional practice; as a specialists would be. Therefore,
I suggest that you consult a registered dietitian (preferably one who runs, bikes, or swims seriously)
or purchase a top-notch nutrition book. Regarding a book written by an expert, I recommend
Endurance Sports Nutrition by Suzanne Girard Eberle found at
A myriad of physiotherapy methods for runners exist; including massage, hydrotherapy, cryotherapy,
pulsed ultrasound, chiropractic care, acupuncture, acupressure, and ART (active release therapy). On
a basic level, simply rubbing analgesic and anti-inflammatory gels, such as Arnica or Eucalyptus, into
muscles before they become sore speeds return to serious training, I have found through trial and
Making regular use of homebound therapies such as taking cold baths and icing your legs can speed
recovery. In cases of chronic pain, professional help from qualified medical practitioners is
recommended. In my opinion, money spent on professional help is worth the cost; if your goal is to
return to serious training quickly. However, master’s runners could limit paying for outside help by
simply using cold therapy and Arnica gel regularly.
Regarding physiotherapy, you may want to read the following abstract from the British Journal of
Reducing mechanical stress
There are three basic methods of reducing mechanical stress, thereby speeding recovery from hard
workouts: running on soft surfaces, slowing the pace on “filler” runs, and cross-training.
Running on soft surfaces is exactly as it sounds. Running on smooth grass, dirt, sawdust or wood chip
trails, and even clay roads reduces shock to runner’s legs. Even running twice a week on soft trails can
speed recovery substantially compared to running on pavement every day. Jim Howe, a 62-year old
runner I coach and whom I call good friend, learned this valuable lesson a couple of years ago. Prior
to running on grass a few times per week, Jim suffered sore legs whenever raising mileage about 45
per week while running on pavement. After we discussed the strategy of running on grass or trails,
Jim searched and found a park with a loop just over a mile around. He moved several of his normal
runs onto the grass park-loop, and in no time Jim was able to raise his weekly mileage to the 60’s to
low 70’s. The difference in his racing results was fairly substantial. Last fall Jim ran in the 18’s for
5km, 38’s for 10km, and an 85-minute halfmarathon; placing him in the top 10 for his age group
Slowing the pace on “filler” runs is one I’ve been pushing for the last 20 years. As a collegiate runner,
I never ran slowly, and I paid a big price for youthful exuberance: compartment syndrome on both of
my lower legs. I was chronically injured from age 19 onward. My prime racing years became painful
and frustrating. In my late 20’s, after joining the US Air Force, I ran slower on my easy days. Also, I
used pool running regularly as a means of reducing mechanical stress on my lower legs. Instead of my
easy running days being 6:30 per mile as they had in college, I ran over 8:00 per mile (at first). Many
days I’d start my runs at nearly 10 minutes per mile, until I passed the 1 mile mark. My energy and
enthusiasm during key workouts reached an all-time high because I learned to run slower on my filler-
Running slower “filler” runs allowed me to perform better during key workouts and races. (I must say,
however, at first running slower made me feel guilty. I worried that I was not being a “serious”
runner. After all, elite runners consider 6 flat pace easy, I thought.) Over many weeks and months of
running slower, however, I noticed that my key workouts consistently felt better.
During my Air Force years – in the 1990’s – I wore a heart rate monitor to measure and control my
training efforts. When I started running slower during my “filler” runs; my pace at 70% of HR
maximum was about 8:30 per mile. After nearly a year of running slower on my easy (filler) days, I
decided to test my fitness level. I drove to the Spokane Community College track and ran 4800m at
70% of HR maximum: my new pace was 7:15 per mile. In one year, I improved 1:15 per mile at the
same HR percentage. What was the result in terms of racing? I ran nearly 2.5 minutes faster in the
5km than the previous year. I achieve personal best of 15:13 for the 5,000m (a track race) and
4:01.98 in the 1500m. Here’s the kicker: I never ran a single hard interval workout the whole year
and my maximum mileage was 35 per week, in addition to 2 hours per week of pool running, twice
weekly circuit training, and some occasional full court basketball with my coworkers from the hospital.
What’s most significant about this message? I raced faster than I did in college a few years earlier.
Cross-training is a secondary and useful training tool for many masters-runners. Exercising twice per
week on an elliptical machine, stationary bike, stationary rower, or water running can significantly
reduce mechanical on one’s legs, compared to running every day on land. As a rule of thumb, cycling
and elliptical are 40 to 50% as effective as running. That is, cycling for 60 minutes is equal to running
24 minutes; in terms of transfer to running performance on land. A better cross-training tool is water
In 1988, when I first used water running, I quickly disliked gliding down and back, down and back, in
a pool, because I had no restraining mechanism in place. Anyone who has water run a local pool
without a restraining device knows exactly what I mean! One day I biked over to K-Mart and bought a
rope; to stop the back and forth movement I experienced while water running. Later that day, I tied
one end of the rope to the pool’s handrail and secured a lasso slipknot around my waste at the other
end. What followed was amazing, it seemed!
Water running in one place, while tethered by a rope, made all the difference in the world. The rope
holding me stationary, as I water ran, quickly increased the stress on my cardiovascular system. No
longer was I limited in how hard I could push myself! As a result of that revolution, I’ve used tethered
water running as a main training tool for many of my runners since 1989. *Two of my masters
runners right now use regular water running, while tethered to a rail, and they really enjoy it.
Masters-runners wanting to recover faster from training should focus on three main areas: nutrition,
physiotherapy, and reducing total mechanical stress. Here is a call to action: don’t wait until your legs
are sore to apply recovery measures; be proactive now.
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