It's common with endurance sports to get so caught up in the training process, that often recovery takes a back seat. This isn't something new, but as coaches or athletes, not utilising recovery as an equally important aspect of the training schedule can be dangerous. Physiologically all the practice-based evidence supports adequate recovery for improved performance, but is often ignored when we have our 'training blinders' on. For positive adaptations to take place we first need to stress the body, which initially decreases our training capacity. Then through recovery is when our body makes adaptations and we can improve our training and racing capacity.
As I built to each of my Ironman races, since my first in May 2013, Bruce had me adapting my training and recovery each time, based upon feedback from my training and performances (physically and mentally). Now we have found a pretty good match, where we are not solely focused on making adaptations and progressions in training volumes and intensities, but also have a big focus on recovery and absorption of training loads to improve my performances. With the demands of a full time job, coaching and training twice a day, it’s important to be realistic about where your training and racing improvements will come from each week, and to plan and schedule recovery accordingly.
Here are some of my top tips for recovering well in 2015.
1. Plan and adapt recovery - schedule this into your week at an appropriate time, but be flexible and be ready to adapt this based upon how your body is feeling. A good triathlon recovery tip from Bruce and Chris is that if you are planning to exercise on a recovery day, stick to a discipline that is your strength, thus causing less fatigue from the activity.
2. Lots of little things equal big things - neglecting stretching, rolling, massage, ice-baths and active recovery can build up and equal big problems for the body. Spending a little time each day, just focusing on one of these things can keep you healthy and training more regularly. If you are strapped for time, my tip would be to cut your training duration by 10 mins and pay attention to this instead of reaching your Strava target for the day!
3. Consider changing the schedule – Swimming in the morning revolutionised my training for 2 reasons. Firstly I was able to wake my body up in the morning without the physical impact or stress of cycling or running, and this allowed me to get home earlier in the evening than if I did evening swim squads. I also found that this schedule allowed me to get better quality out of my more intense cycling or running sessions by doing them in the evenings, when I was more awake warmed up ans better fueled from the day’s activities. Could you change yours?
4. Get yourself a good recovery drink with adequate carbohydrate/protein ratio – when training twice a day recovery between sessions is probably less than 12 hours for most people, so the 30min-1 hour recovery window after your first session of the day is important. Also in the evening, unless your partner has dinner waiting on the table immediately after your training it is easier for us to use a suitable recovery product for these daily incidences. This gives leeway for you to stretch appropriately and make dinner after each training session without the tendency of snacking on poorly fueled foods in the meantime.
5. Train with purpose/ keep recovery active and varied – I've always been of the opinion that each session you do should have a specific focus, whether easy or hard. Don’t be of the opinion that extra recovery time in your week requires you to implement additional training. If a session is not contributing to your training week, then it probably shouldn't be there.
6. Make sure your recovery adapts with your training block – As training adapts so should your diet and recovery process. Make sure you increase calorie intake to match increases in training load, for energy and muscle recovery. This does not mean overeat or religiously take days off after a hard sessions, but listen to your body and recognise how you are feeling when you train and if you need to make changes to you schedule during heavier training blocks.
7. Monitor training data - often the most reliable indicator of fatigue is training data. If you use power, heart rate, or perceived exertion to regularly monitor your training, use this to give you an indication of when you need recovery. If you find yourself having successive days where you are struggling to meet training targets that you usually would, use this as a sign to recover, otherwise why monitor your training?
8. Functional strength – It’s clear that biomechanical inefficiencies and muscle fatigue are two of the prime causes of decreases in performance and training. Functional strength work in the off-season or as a supplemented session during the on-season can help develop the core strength base for more efficient movements to take place. This in turn will reduce your risk of injury and delay the point of muscle fatigue.
**make sure these sessions involve functional movement, driven by improving stability around the core of the body.
9. Don’t train when you’re sick – The biggest hindrance to any training routine is having time off through being unwell. It sounds silly, but athletes find it hard to distinguish when to train or not if they are feeling unwell. Again you have to learn to know your body, but if in doubt DON’T train and be back to fight another day. The risk with training when you are sick is putting yourself out of action for even longer.
HAPPY RECOVERY :)