Mark Armstrong: I've discovered the ultimate recovery 'tool'

Mark Armstrong training run

Mark Armstrong on a training run in South Norfolk. - Credit: Alison Armstrong Photography

I’ve had more comebacks in the last two years than I care to remember. 

Hopefully, this will be it. Finally feeling back to something like my normal self after Covid I’m getting back to the kind of consistent running required to make any kind of progress. 

During my bout of Covid, running was off the agenda, clearly. It was a case of just doing all the essential daily tasks before crashing into bed, around five minutes after the kids had been settled down. 

Each night I went to bed just hoping that I would feel better and of course, thankfully, I did. 

Life has pretty much gone back to normal since... apart from one thing. I’m still going to bed a lot earlier than I was pre-Covid and I’ve got no plans to change it (this might prove a slight issue in the future around Norwich City evening matches in the future but we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it – there are quite a few midweek matches in the Championship after all...). 

We are constantly told the benefits of good, quality sleep but it’s only when you put this advice into practice that you realise the impact it can have. 

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I’ve come to realise that, for all the recovery tools that saturate the fitness and running markets, absolutely nothing is better than sleep. 

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You can keep your foam rollers, percussion massage guns, CBD oil... all of it. If you’ve just done a hard session earlier that day your body needs one thing more than anything... adequate sleep. 

Yet a lot of us don’t do it – I certainly haven’t. 

During a workout your muscles break down on a cellular level and sleep allows the body to repair those cells more efficient, enabling you to bounce back stronger and faster. 

I’m not suggesting you can sleep your way to a new personal best. I’ve been gradually rebuilding again with shortish, slow runs as I try and rebuild confidence that my body can actually cope with running how I want to. This won’t get me back to PB form but it will at least hopefully lay some decent foundations from which to work from. 

But if I can complement this training with better, quality sleep then surely this can only be beneficial? 

I had got used to getting around six-and-a-half hours per night – my body had adapted to this since Logan came along. Unwilling to compromise on ‘having an evening’ I tried to just get by sleep-wise. 

However, instead of falling asleep in front of the television, I’ve decided to just go to bed and get some proper rest... revolutionary idea, I know. 

Earlier bedtimes have also coincided with my son, Logan, 4, suddenly, deciding that 7am is a better wake-up time than 5am. 

His first two years are a blur sleep wise but over the last 18 months or so we had at least settled into a routine where he was sleeping all the way through the night. 

The caveat to this is that, without fail, every single morning, he would come and wake me at 5am. 

I really hope I’m not jinxing this but over the last 10 days he’s been getting up a couple of hours later... it’s glorious (I realise the clocks going forward has probably helped).  

If things continue like this then I might be able to even get an early morning run in! 

My fitness tracker doesn’t know what to make of it all. It probably thinks someone else has stolen it. 

But apart from the sleep situation, it has been a huge relief to run again. The calf is feeling good and the objective of becoming a more consistent, resilient runner is uppermost in my mind.  

The rest will follow! 

A heartfelt good luck to anyone running the Manchester Marathon this Sunday. 

It looks like it could be a cold one early on so make sure you wear something warm on the start line that you can ditch just before you start. 

Remember you’ve put the miles in – this is your victory lap – good luck... and don’t go off too fast!