Using biohacking for sports recovery to reach peak performance

Katy Woodward (41) from Ware, Hertfordshire has been running marathons for 6 years but never before finished a marathon in the sub 2.50 bracket. That is until Sunday 23rd April when she completed the London Marathon in 2hrs 46 mins, shaving 8 mins off her personal best and finishing the race as the 27th female to cross the line.

In an effort to hit this milestone Katy overhauled her training regime and invested in an extensive recovery programme at Aqua-Tox alongside her running training to reduce her risk of injury in training and maximise her chances of hitting a new PB.

The trend for extended training programmes that include active recovery has been steadily growing over the past few years and is no longer reserved for the worlds sporting elite. Often referred to as ‘biohacking’ athletes use a combination of recovery techniques such as hot and cold therapy, compression therapy and oxygen therapy to alter the biological state of the body and stimulate muscle recovery and healing.

Alongside a structured running training plan Katy introduced a comprehensive active recovery plan using a combination of Cold Therapy in a Cryotherapy Chamber, Hyperbaric Hydrogen & Oxygen Therapy and Leg Compression Therapy at Aqua-Tox Wellness Clinic in Hertfordshire. Katy believes that this addition to her training plan made the difference allowing her to beat her PB by such a huge margin. She said ‘I honestly can’t think of anything else that I’ve changed that would make such a difference. I’ve run less and recovered more training for this marathon that any marathon I’ve run in the past.’

a female runner holds her london marathon medal up to the camera at the finish of the London marathon

During the marathon Katy ran with a friend from her running club Ware Joggers who helped her to keep pace and keep on track for a sub 2.50 time. Katy said this pushed her to her limits and she’s not sure that she could have physically kept pushing through at all points without having invested so heavily in active recovery to ensure she was in peak condition on race day. In the week running up to race day Katy had 2 whole body cryotherapy sessions, 3 NormaTec compression therapy sessions and 2 60 minute sessions in the Hyperbaric Hydroxy Chamber.

Cold therapy is probably the most widely talked about recovery treatment with many people, including celebrity Joe Wicks taking to ice baths for the health and recovery benefits. Reducing the core temperature of the body can reduce muscle soreness, stimulate healing and cell regeneration, increase circulation and increase cognitive function. For many people plunging into an icy bath for 10-15 mins is less than an ideal and this is where Whole Body Cryotherapy steps in. By stepping into the -86 degree chamber for just 3 minutes you drop your core body temperature to around 11-14 degrees getting all the benefits of cold therapy with no need to get wet. Katy says that she loved her sessions in the cryotherapy chamber because it is so quick and easy and that the 3 minutes of shivering was well worth it for the recovery benefits and instant buzz afterwards.

a female inside a whole body cryotherapy chamber surrounded by blue light

Hyperbaric Hydrogen and Oxygen Therapy is lesser known and often thought of as a treatment reserved for celebrities and the sporting elite, but this is no longer the case. Katy has been using the Airpod Hydroxy Chamber at Aqua-Tox which combines oxygen and molecular hydrogen in a pressurised chamber (greater than our normal atmosphere). In this environment, oxygen and hydrogen are dissolved into the blood plasma increasing oxygen saturation by up to 50%. This can lead to a myriad of health benefits including reducing inflammation, increasing energy & stamina and supporting peak performance. Katy said that she was strategic with her use of the chamber where sessions range from 60-90 minutes at a time and used it following big training runs and in the run up to race day. The effects of the therapy are cumulative so Katy spaced out her treatments and spent over 2 hours in the chamber in the week running up to race day.

A female laying down inside an Airpod Hydroxy Chamber

Working for a company that support fully flexible working allowed Katy to plan her training and recovery around her work and complete both training and recovery in daytime hours. She used both lunchbreaks and adjusted hours to fit in recovery, even working on her laptop inside the hyperbaric chamber.

Katy also had regular compression therapy treatments wearing NormaTec Compression boots and also popped in after race day to relieve her legs. The boots use sequential pulsing of compressed air to massage the legs, mobilise fluid and reduce lactic acid build up, inflammation, fat and other by products. The pulsing air creates a pressure gradient that moves these waste products up and out of the legs via the lymphatic drainage system. This is key for healing after an intense workout and can help prevent DOMs. Katy found this particularly useful during training, allowing her legs to recover quickly between intense training sessions. Whilst marathon training Katy also continued to run for her running club cross country team so would complete a 2hr+ marathon training session on a Saturday morning, complete her recovery sessions on a Saturday afternoon and then run cross country on a Sunday. Katy had not been able to continue to run cross country when training for marathons previously and attributes this change to the active recovery techniques which drastically reduced the pain in her legs after training runs.

If you’re training for an event or looking to reach new health and fitness goals then stepping up your recovery routine could be key. At Aqua-Tox we offer single treatments, courses and membership for those looking to step up their recovery game or improve their overall health and wellness. Contact us to find out more or to have a chat about your specific health and recovery goals.

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