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Rest and recovery: 7 reasons why Mo Farah stays injury-free and how you can too (part 3)
Farah recognises that one of his weaknesses in the past was a failure to recover adequately from hard workouts. So it’s not surprising that this is another area of the middle-distance runner’s regime that Alberto Salazar has transformed. Our countdown of the reasons behind Mo Farah’s success continues.
Earlier this week we started our review of the top 7 factors behind Mo Farah’s consistent, injury-free success. You’ll find the start of the article here; your countdown continues below.
5 Rest and recovery
Mo Farah has himself openly admitted that rest and recovery has been one of his weaknesses in the past. And this is an area that coach Salazar has sought to transform, building on Farah’s experience training in Kenya.
…I’d go too hard on my runs and not recover properly. One thing the Kenyans taught me was to train hard, but to rest between sessions. It’s not about doing your 10 miles, then going out for a few drinks and coming home late. It’s eat, sleep, train…
While some of the recovery strategies that the athlete now employs are fairly common place, others are more cutting-edge.
- Farah wears compression socks, which some evidence has linked to reduced delayed onset muscle soreness. The athlete argues that compression socks are particularly useful given his calves can get tight when his running mileage is high.
- He makes use of ice baths – 10-minute sessions that are immediately followed by a hot bath. As Farah puts it, “ice baths work, it just depends whether you can put up with them!”
- More radically, he also uses a cryogenic chamber, cooled to -140C, to aid muscle recovery. Note that this treatment is not for the faint-hearted – it’s the very same recovery tool that is reported to have given US sprinter Justin Gatlin frostbite. Check out the footage of cryotherapy in action, this time with another one of Salazar’s athlete’s, Dathan Ritzenhein.
Rest and recovery during the daytime has also received significant attention from coach Salazar. His approach to rest was detailed by Caitlan Chock – former holder of the US high school 5000m record and formerly part of the Nike Oregon Project with Salazar – in a Runner’s World article earlier this year.
A daily nap was considered part of training. I liked to get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, then an hour or so nap during the day. At first it was tough for me to take a nap because I’m naturally a go-go person. But the more I trained, the more I understood how important naps are for recovery. Eventually I turned into a person who loved sleep…
Farah, under the guidance of Salazar, has even taken his night-time routine to the next level.
By sleeping in an altitude tent, he is managing to gain an advantage over his competitors, fine-tuning his cardiovascular system in his sleep.
Interestingly, though, Salazar takes a very different view to many coaches when it comes to active recovery and, in particular, how hard he pushes Mo Farah on easy days.
While many coaches are keen to slow the pace of their runners’ easy runs, Salazar has gone in the opposite direction with Farah. Take a look at the video below to check out the coach’s view on this issue.