How to recover and mistakes in interpreting research

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

This week, I read several interesting things but I think two topics works well for these posts. If you disagree with me, feel free to say so in the comments or contact me via the contact form or any other place you can find me.

For this week, I’d like to focus on two things: recovery and interpreting research. I think recovery is especially an important topic right now as many of us are finishing up our racing seasons and looking toward 2015. As for interpreting research, it’s always difficult. Conflicting studies, our own personal biases, confusing technical language. There are many barriers. Personally, I’m always trying to guard against these mistakes but I’m not perfect. We all fall into these traps from time to time, no matter how careful we are, and it’s always good to get a reminder to be on guard.

How to recover

The people I’m coaching are finding out or soon will find out how seriously I’m taking recovery this year. It’s going to be a bigger focus than I’ve made it in prior years because I think that post-season recovery is the first key to success going into the next season. I’ve been a little lax in the past about it but not this year. I’m going to be as serious about this as I am about peak training. You need to recover completely or you’re not going to be successful next year.

What does this mean, though? A lot of people can’t imagine taking time off of running completely. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the poster boy of this. To me, what it means is don’t run if you don’t want to. If you do want to, purposely limit your volume and intensity for a while and treat it as recreation, not training. Enjoy yourself and don’t worry about your next race or season.

Most important, even if you’re going to do absolutely no running, don’t do nothing. Remain active. This also goes for when you need some extra recovery during a training season. Whether via running or some form of cross training, you’ll recover more rapidly and completely if you keep active.

Here’s a discussion of this point. It also has some good points about icing and anti-inflammatories. There are always cases where any or all of these things are warranted but, for general recovery or in many cases for recovery even from specific injuries, it’s very possible you’ll recover more quickly and completely without the ice and anti-inflammatories and with some level of activity.

Interpreting research

I read a lot of research. Every week, I’m reading several papers, articles and various other pieces on research. Sometimes straight from the source, sometimes someone else’s analysis, often both straight from the source and an outsider’s analysis.

I have to say, it’s not easy reading research. Studies seem to contradict each other often. Especially if reading straight from the source, the language is often tough to get through. Most importantly in my opinion, we always bring in our preconceived notions and biases. It’s hard for me to read an article on HIIT training without looking for where the study that says it’s the next great thing had flaws or a research paper on a study that found aerobic exercise improves our cognitive abilities without wanting to gloss over any flaws in the study.

However, if we want to get the most out of what we’re reading, we must guard against these things. We’re humans and we’re not perfect but, the more we can watch for these things and guard against them, the better we can do in making the most of what we’re reading.

On that note, here are some things you can watch for in your own reading and in the analysis of others. If you ever see me falling into these traps, please let me know. Again, I’m not perfect and I will never claim to be. I try to guard against these pitfalls and I hope that’s clear in my writing but I suffer from these shortcomings just like everyone else.

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