There's nothing like having a senior moment influence your workout. Rather than run five-to-twelve one-kilometer pieces with rest cycles in between, I ended up doing a version of "ten the hard way" the other morning with my little run group. Actually, in front of them.
Pete and I got to chattering about his injuries, fitness, training, and racing with about three miles to go. He decided to run a five kilometer race in the morning, then turn around and race a second event in the afternoon. Not surprisingly, he marveled at how much more fatigued - and how much more slowly - he raced that evening.
All this, naturally, provided a teachable moment on the joys of recovery.
It seems all too simple: Exertion (stress) leads to decline in fitness (trough), then a return to homeostasis (baseline) and eventual supercompensation (peak), given enough time. Add more stress before the return to baseline and you've begun to dig a "deeper hole." Play your cards right with the level and timing of stress and rest, and over time the baseline is a little higher...that means the athlete is more fit than when they started.
If Pete had been running twice a day - or at the least the occasional run late in the afternoon, followed by a run early the following morning - I believe he would have known how a short recovery period would affect his second run. He could have learned from trial-and-error how much rest, how much fluid and nutrition, and what specific techniques would have worked. Or at least what would would not.
Research literature is loaded with many different recovery-enhancing modalities; some of which aren't as highly-touted or marketed as the more-questionable ones. Naturally, not everyone will benefit equally from the same routine; what works best for you works best for you.
Protein and simple sugars - The latest and most popular blend of protein and simple sugars appears to be chocolate milk. The moo-juice's advantages definitely lie in the ability to down serious grams of protein and carbohydrates in a matter of seconds almost immediately after the run ends. Try THAT with a sports nutrition bar! SlimFast shakes and the Gatorade post-workout shake have also been recommended by several coaches, too, but I started to wonder what the lactose-intolerant runner can do. A poster on a fitness bulletin board suggested three parts chocolate-flavored soy milk and one part regular soy milk, which they claim has the same ratio of sugars and protein.
Hydration - Water, naturally, is the best choice for hydration, but you only need to drink until your thirst is sated. A new book by one of my favorite 'smart people,' Dr. Timothy Noakes says the "hydration industry" is, well, 'all wet.' We didn't have hydration "issues," he says in a recent British Journal of Sports Medicine podcast interview, "until about two decades ago."
Shower - There's nothing like a really warm shower after a hard run; if you have a handheld shower head (especially one with a massage function!) you can focus the flow along the muscles of the lower extremities. Even though heat and cold treatments are questionable when it comes to muscle soreness, there are very few persons I know who have felt worse after a shower.
Rest - Besides, once you've finished a shower you're probably going to feel like laying down for a bit of a nap. Even a couple of extra hours of sleep are beneficial to the healing process; sleep deprivation, on the other hand, was found to increase insulin resistance and decrease glucose tolerance, leading to a decreased time-to-exhaustion during exercise.
So, hanging out with the friends and sucking down a couple of adult beverages of choice after a morning's race is perfectly fine, as long as you're not planning to go out and do another race in the afternoon.