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Trail race recovery tips from Ellie Greenwood

April 26, 2017

Found in Activities, Skills and tips

In 2002, Ellie Greenwood joined a running clinic and trained for her first marathon. She’s not so different from the rest of us, except that since then she’s run 60 ultramarathons, is the course record-holder at the Western States 100-miler, and is considered one of the world’s top ultra runners. How does she do it?

Along with having a resume of race achievements a mile long (or 100 miles long), Ellie has mastered the art of pushing her body to the limit time and time again. She told us her greatest goal is to still be running when she’s 80 years old.

So what separates trail runner Ellie Greenwood from the rest of the pack? What recovery tricks does she have up her compression sleeves? We asked her to share her tips. After all, you know what they say: to be the best, you’ve got to recover with the best.

Ellie Greenwood racing with mountain backdrop
MEC: What’s the first thing you do after a race?

Ellie: Immediately post-race I try to rehydrate and refuel. If I can get a small snack of carbs/protein within 30 minutes of finishing a race, then that’s ideal but not always feasible. If the race has been a long one – marathon distance or more – I’ll also try to ensure that I get a filling meal within a few hours of the finish.

Right after the race, the temptation can be to sit down, but I try to keep on my feet – just walking around and stretching a little to keep the blood flowing and aid recovery. If there’s a finish line massage set up I’ll go for that, time permitting. For races that are shorter than marathon distance, I’ll also likely do a 15-minute or so cool-down jog at a super slow pace to help with recovery.

Do you have a favourite recovery food and drink?

Usually I just like to make sure I get plenty of water on board. After a long race with lots of gels and sweet drinks, plain water often tastes the best. If it’s a key race or a big effort, then I’ll usually enjoy a celebratory beer later in the evening! For food, I like something savoury and simple – maybe a healthy veggie burger, some pasta or sushi.

What’s your post-race exercise routine?

The exercises I do depend on where I’m feeling the most stiff and tight after a race. For sure I try to get on the foam roller and work on my quads, IT bands, calf muscles and hips, along with anything else that feels tight. Usually, my hips are tight so pigeon pose is great for that, and my hamstrings may feel overworked, so some forward folds can help ease tightness there.

What are your thoughts on using anti-inflammatories?

I avoid it. I might post-race if I have specific inflammation, but by and large I try to avoid this.

Your ideal way to spend a day after a big race?

If I’ve travelled to compete, then it’s nice to take advantage of sightseeing on foot. This walking is easy recovery time and I take lots of stops in cafés to make sure my legs don’t get overworked. If I have friends who also raced, then a nice brunch together is always fun to debrief and hear everyone’s race stories. Or if it’s a race at home, I’m usually back at my desk the day after a race and doing my main job: online coaching.

What’s your favourite running movie?

Unbreakable. It covers the 2010 running of Western States 100-miler, an event that I love. The film does a great job at recreating the atmosphere of the race and the excitement and competition up at the front of a very competitive 100-mile foot race. The music works really well to create a super atmosphere and the competition is a nail-biter until the finish line!

Ellie Greenwood climbing steep shale in a race

Training tips and tools

  • Make friends with a massage roller and roll it out – there are traditional foam rollers, spiky ones and ones to work out knots.
  • Cross-training is key to being a strong runner.
  • Ellie started with a running clinic – why not give one a try to get faster and learn from experts?
  • If you want to shift from road to trails, get tips on how to start trail running.

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