Better Recovery!

Optimal Recovery   The big races are drawing near, the training is getting intense and you might even be a bit tired.  How you recover from your workouts during this crucial time in your season is as important as the training itself.  Neglecting recovery now could sabotage your big race and the rest of your season.   Common setback scenarios I often witness during this time of the season are athletes doing too much without the proper preparation.  For instance, jumping into an intense track workout without appropriate speed and strength preparation can place a lot stress on the body.  One track workout will not likely cause a long term problem but when you couple it with long and strong group rides and runs on the weekends, some ‘training’ races, intense masters’ swims, plus intervals on the bike, you can develop a pretty large training stress.  Amazingly, many of us can handle this type of training as long as we are optimizing our recovery!   I am sure we all have stories of recovery gone badly yet still we repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  A proper recovery has many different components: cool down, post workout nutrition, post workout activity, daily nutrition, sleep, body work, following workouts and overall life stress.  Delicately balancing all these components of recovery will make a huge difference in how the body responds to training.   In truth, a successful endurance athlete is only a couple days away from a serious overtraining burn out. To stay on the right side of this fine line, an athlete must take a constant inventory of all stresses and have a detailed strategy for recovery.   Recovering right:   Cool down:  recovery begins the moment you finish an intense stressful effort.  Some athletes insist on a long spin or easy jog to shake their legs out after a hard effort.  All this does is prolong the time until post recovery nutrition can be initiated.  Instead, plan intense workouts to end at a location that recovery nutrition can be consumed with-in fifteen minutes of finishing your intense efforts.  If you must, an easy spin or jog can be completed after nutrition is consumed.   Post recovery nutrition:  Carbohydrates first and protein second.  Carbohydrates in the form of a juice or smoothie are the best way to replenish the energy stores depleted during a hard workout and prevent your body from breaking down its own proteins.   Consume 20-30 grams of protein in powder form mixed into a smoothie, juice or milk shake ten minutes after you had your liquid carbohydrate beverage.  When following a strenuous workout with thoughtful recovery nutrition, you will perform so much better during your next intense training session or race.   Post workout activity:  This is an area that is not always easily controlled.  Like most athletes who work during the weeks and train more on the weekends, I often find myself following up an intense four hour bike ride with jumping on the trampoline with my kids or a hike with the whole family.  Because we don’t always have the opportunity to put our legs up after a hard workout, we need to put a special focus on a nutrition strategy while focusing on keeping work and play a little mellower.  In a perfect world; after a hard workout, you would get all of your post workout nutrition in, lie on a coach, and put your legs up.   Daily nutrition:  I could write an entire book on this topic but I won’t …yet!  Covering the basics; good daily nutrition provides: fuel for workouts (carbohydrates), building blocks to re-build muscles (protein) and support for vitamin transport (fats). The most common mistakes in daily sports nutrition is timing.  For instance, eating sweet or light breakfasts like cereals or toast will set up for energy lows later.  This is a real problem for athletes who workout at lunch time.  Instead, try a bowl of oatmeal with protein and flax seed mixed in and notice how the energy levels stay high all morning.  If you think this sounds like a bunch of breakfast mush, add some cereal or crunchy granola plus a little extra milk to help it go done. The big difference in this type of breakfast is the focus on low glycemic carbohydrates and protein. Supplements that I find to support recovery are a basic multi-vitamin, epa/dha (fish oils), vitamin e, vitamin c and iron, if anemic tendencies need to be considered.  I have also found glutamine (an amino acid) taken alone in a powder form with water immediately after a hard workout helps me hydrate and recover faster after a really long stressful workout – but maybe it’s the extra glass of water helping more than anything.   Sleep:  Although a few nights of bad sleep won’t hurt you; consistent loss of sleep will really start to hinder your recovery and your training.  Sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of growth hormones and impaired glycogen synthesis.  So basically we have more stress, less hormone assistance in rebuilding our muscles, and a decreased capacity to store energy.  So aim for your 7-8 hours of sleep and let your body work it’s magic!   Body Work:  Body work including massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture can really help relieve tension in muscles, improve energy, and function of nervous system and aid in recovery.  Over stressed muscles are often damaged and left with scar tissue and adhesions that impair muscle function.  Deep soft tissue care can really help improve the recovery process in these muscles.  You can schedule a massage and or use foam rollers, massage sticks, tennis balls, and rolling pins as self massaging tools.   Your next workout(s):  During an intense training period you should follow up a stressful workout day with an easier day of training.  Sometimes it is necessary to do hard two hard days in row to fit all the training in during a week but definitely follow these hard days with one or two lighter training days or a day off.  Muscles that are continually broken down day after day will eventually break or leave you feeling lousy in an over-trained state.  An example of a good stress rest training pattern could involve a easy swim the day after a hard run. You could call this a no legs day.   Overall life stress:  At many levels our bodies do not recognize the differences between physical or mental stresses.  Mental stressors from a hectic life can raise cortisol levels and inhibit building hormones like testosterone and growth hormone just as much as a hard workout or lack of sleep.  All these stresses combined can really impact your recovery and your training.  When life is getting really hectic, acknowledge that it is OK to relax, rest more, train less and focus your attention where it is needed.   Recovery is so important for every endurance athlete.  If you prioritize your recovery, I am certain you will enjoy better performance, increased energy, happier muscles, less sick time and an enhanced passion for endurance.   Thanks for reading,   Coach Jared

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Head Coach of TriEndurance. CSCS Strength and Conditioning Coach, Former Pro-Triathlete and current Endurance Enthusiast competing in short and long distance (on or off-road) cycling events.

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