Rest & recover well to perform better

Sleep properly, get a muscle rub, consume nutritious food and lead a balanced lifestyle

Mok Ying Ren using a foam roller to reduce muscle tightness and increase blood circulation. He stresses that the body needs sufficient time to recover or one will only get more tired.
Mok Ying Ren using a foam roller to reduce muscle tightness and increase blood circulation. He stresses that the body needs sufficient time to recover or one will only get more tired. PHOTO: ONEATHLETE

Hi Kendrick, Terence and Chad, thank you for your questions.

The topic of routines for optimised recovery is a popular one among runners. The purpose of a recovery period is to allow the body some time to repair and strengthen itself after a training session.

Contrary to popular belief, your body gets stronger during the recovery period, rather than during the training session. The recovery period gives your body an opportunity to replenish energy stores lost during exercise, and to build and repair muscles. If you deny your body sufficient time to recover, you will only become increasingly fatigued.


The best recovery tool, but also the least talked about, is sleep. Sleep plays a key role in the regulation of many types of hormones in our bodies such as cortisol, growth hormones and thyroid hormones. These hormones are crucial in the post-workout recovery process.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation results in increased insulin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance. This then translates to low energy levels and a decrease in the time to exhaustion (you will experience exhaustion during exercise much quicker).

During sleep, our bodies release growth hormones to repair and strengthen muscles and bones. Without sufficient sleep, you may be limiting your body's ability to recover from an intense workout or make your muscles and bones stronger. Getting regular, sufficient sleep is therefore paramount to achieving optimal recovery.

  • #AskMok


    Your fave recovery regime? One that you would do if you have time to spare and one when time is not on your side.


    How do I find out what nutrition/food & meals I need for training and rest day?


    Where can I get the roller which you use to roll/massage your leg? How much is it?

    •For more details on the training programme #RunwithMok or to #AskMok, go to


In theory, sports massages increase local blood circulation and reduce muscle tightness. The increased circulation to muscles also helps to eliminate waste products such as lactic-acid build-up in muscles after exercise.

Despite little scientific evidence about the efficacy of sports massage in enhancing recovery in sports medicine literature, there are individuals who feel that they reap tremendous benefits from sports massages and many elite runners go for regular sports massages to enhance their recovery following intense workouts.

A downside of sports massages is that they are often quite pricey. An alternative would be to self-massage by employing various tools which can be bought easily. Such tools include foam rollers, massage sticks and trigger balls (from any sports retailer or online stores). In order to utilise these tools effectively, it is best to learn the techniques for using such tools from a trained physiotherapist or trainer.


Most sports scientists recommend consuming your recovery food within 30 minutes of your workout.

Another aspect of nutrition is the content of what you eat. Generally, you should choose foods which contain protein, carbohydrates and (good) fat. Easily-digestible foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. In a recent meta-analysis of 12 studies in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that the consumption of chocolate milk post-workout lowered blood lactate and led to an improved time to exhaustion at the next session.

Thus, an easy way to improve your nutrition is to bring along a packet of chocolate milk to your workouts and consume it immediately after the session. This replenishes the electrolytes and carbohydrates lost during your workout and provides a dose of protein to kick-start your recovery process.


Your mental and emotional well-being are also an important aspect of recovery. I used to find that many of my other personal commitments, such as study, work and family, were a hindrance to my recovery - perhaps that time could have been better used for precious sleep.

However, I have come to realise that even work and studying can be a form of recovery.

To me, spending time with my loved ones (especially my wife), seeing patients and operating in the surgical theatre give me a break from running. These activities pose a different challenge to the mind and heart, which I relish.

Investing your time and effort in other aspects of life (other than running) can be a great form of "recovery", in the physical, mental and emotional sense. After all, we all need some balance in life.

Now, as you #RunWithMok, do remember to prioritise your recovery days to maximise your training!

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline Rest & recover well to perform better. Subscribe