Interview with Ultrarunner Ian Sharman: Sports Recovery and Training

Our May collection is all about inspiring you to hang out in the summer sun, and relax while recovering from the day's adventures.

The CLIF® Whey Protein Bar included in this month’s collection packs in 14g of protein with only 5g of sugar, giving you a delicious protein boost with no sugar alcohols. It’s perfect for helping you maintain lean muscle while you’re recovering or planning your next big adventure!

Recovery is something CLIF athlete and local Bend, OR, ultrarunner and coach Ian Sharman knows a lot about. We sat down with Ian to learn more about the importance of relaxation and proper recovery for outdoor activities (and the athlete in all of us).

The Importance of Recovery

Many people feel they’re doing less if they take time to recover, like they’re wimping out, but that’s really not the case. A tactic I use is a hard-easy combination: doing a hard workout one day and an easy one the next. I learned this tactic through practice. By slowing down my own recovery runs, or just by making my easy days easier, I found that it would allow my muscles to rebuild and recover. This method helped me run faster in the marathon over the course of a year or two.

Recovering properly is the single biggest thing that I train people to do. It’s not that you won’t get fitter putting in medium effort every day, but you won’t get as much bang for your buck. If you’re tired you won’t improve. But over-working yourself is not the only offender here--how much sleep you get, stress, travel, food and alcohol--are also part of the equation.

After a hard workout or other arduous outdoor activity, you need the right food--immediately. Your body has a 60-90 minute window when it is really craving a lot of nutrients, particularly the carbohydrates you’ve just burned off. If you’ve done something longer or harder, protein becomes even more important for rebuilding the muscles, to make them stronger for next time.

What and how much to eat mid-activity

If you’re training for a race of some kind, an especially tough hike or backpacking trip, you may be wondering how much to eat while active. I used to eat more of the ‘activity’ gels out there during my races. Now, I try to mix it up so I can get a variety of nutrients. Typically in a race, I mainly use CLIF bar products (you pick your own favorite here but CLIF make a variety of awesome race-supporting products). I also recommend taking advantage of aid stations during a race. I graze on things like pretzels, Coke, Sprite, Ginger Ale--things like Coke are actually very good because they make you burp and settle the stomach, and then it’s easier to eat for the rest of the race. And the texture is different from your typical sports drink beverage, which is sugary but isn’t carbonated. During a 100-mile day (dawn ‘till dusk) you might end up taking in 10,000 calories, which is a serious amount. I always have something in my hand.

These events are described (half-jokingly) as eating competitions, because if you can’t get enough calories, then you really bonk and it’s difficult to keep up a level of intensity. You could be in the best shape, but if you don’t know how to eat while running and how to recover after, it’s hard to be successful in events like the Ironman and the Leadville 100.

What it takes to be an ultrarunner

I think it takes a lot of stubbornness. You have to be very committed, and you have to enjoy it. If you’re not willing to work hard and grind it out, be tough on race day, and if you’re not motivated enough, it’s not for you. And that’s why it’s always going to be a niche sport because a lot of people aren’t willing to put in that amount of training.

Why run??

It’s just a lot of fun, from the adrenaline rush you get from competing and doing well, to the clear “put the work in, get the result.” There’s no cheat. You can’t just be naturally gifted and do well--you have to put in the hard work to get the long-term payoff. You work at it for months until you reach the big day where it all comes to fruition. I love being a coach, and I love seeing when someone finishes their first 100-miler. It’s amazing to watch someone realize what their body is capable of accomplishing. Running also gives me a lot of flexibility to travel and race all over the world. I couldn’t imagine a better job for me!

More about Ian and his life as an ultrarunner can be found below.

How do you recover from a hard day of activity? Tell us on our Facebook Page, Instagram or in the comments below! 


Meet Ultrarunner Ian Sharman

After living in London working as an economist for seven years, Ian realized that he wasn’t getting as much exercise as he used to. He grew up being very active--playing soccer, cricket, tennis, etc.--and was a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none,” as he puts it. Then, when he was 25, he saw a documentary on TV about a race in the Sahara Desert called the Marathon of the Sands and thought, that looks like an epic adventure:

“I wasn’t into running at all, I just always liked travel and liked the idea of going into the desert and seeing these massive sand dunes. So I entered. It involved running 150 miles over a week carrying a backpack with food and a sleeping bag--all you’re provided along the way is water and a tent. Because of that, I began training for running and found I really enjoyed it.”

In 2009, Ian moved to the US to be with his wife, then started doing 100-mile races in 2010. He set the record for the fastest trail 100-miler in the US ever in 2011, which was 12 hours and 44 minutes. At that point, he started getting sponsorships, so he quit his job and transitioned into running and coaching full time.

Thanks, Ian!