Spring is finally here and for majority of UK based age group athletes race season is almost upon us. Some of you may have already raced a duathlon or two over the last couple of months. Whatever your race discipline, whether in a usual training week or after a race, how you manage your recovery should form an important part of your overall training programme. It is paramount to understand that the quality of the recovery after your session and the time allowed will have a direct affect on how you perform on your next session. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can enjoy another quality work out.
More consideration is needed for the quality of recovery especially in this phase of your training, intensity starts to increase in all 3 disciplines as you begin more specific preparation for the triathlon races. We start to enter club cycling time trials, we introduce more speed sessions and brick sessions. Whilst these sessions are exactly what are required to enhance your performance, this is when niggles, injuries and forced rest days may occur if the quality of recovery is not considered and adaptation is hindered.
This time of year brings longer days and an improvement in weather, whilst this brings positive changes thus enabling you to train earlier in the mornings and later into the evening and remove those winter clothes, this potentially invites the temptation to clock more miles lost from those shorter days of winter.
With the above in mind I thought it would be appropriate to reinforce the importance of recovery and highlight the techniques that shouldn’t be overlooked…
Sleep is the most effective recovery technique and the cheapest supplement an athlete can take. Establishing a proper routine and getting adequate amounts of sleep, consistently going to bed, and getting up at the same time should be on the top of all athletes training programme.
Ideally 8 hours sleep is needed to establish healthy and balanced hormonal patterns involved in lowering stress, improving mood and ensuring that the metabolism functions effectively. The lack of sleep increases stress hormone levels, interferes with the body’s normal appetite mechanisms and decreases glucose tolerance – linked to weight gain and other health issues. Increased stress hormones can also prevent muscle and tissue regeneration.
Chances are you won’t sleep well the night before a race, especially your ‘A’ race, which may involve travelling and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, so plan ahead and schedule an early night 2-3 days before the race. If your race is an early start then getting up 10-15 min earlier each day 3-4 days before will help you prepare for that early start.
If you are fortunate enough to have some time between sessions then including a 20 minute power nap into your routine will help your body recover from the stresses placed upon it, will have restorative benefits and won’t cause drowsiness upon wakening.
A good mattress & pillows, cool room temperature and reducing daylight coming into your bedroom should all be addressed to minimize the chances of a disruptive sleep pattern. How many age groupers swim late at night and find it hard to sleep and are tired for the next day? Is a 9-10pm midweek club /group swim session the best idea…?
Eating the right foods soon after exercise provides the body with the correct nutrients to fully recover, regenerate and re adapt, ready for the next training session. Muscles are at their most receptive (like sponges) within 30 – 45min post exercise. Fruit, yoghurt, milk, smoothies are simple snacks and light enough to consume directly after exercise to tide you over before your next meal.
Omega – 3’s fatty acids found in fish oils like salmon has strong anti-inflammatory effects and also support the immune system.
Foods to aid sleep:-
Milk is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, helping to increase the levels of serotonin that slows down the nerve traffic to the brain, calming brain activity and allowing for more restful sleep.
Bananas contain both carbohydrate and tryptophan, which also calms the brain and aids sleep. So maybe a good snack for that post exercises evening workout.
Keep external stressors to a minimum if possible – no rushing around, be organized, ask family or friends to help, delegate household chores, anything to make your life easier and enable you to recover.
Remain sociable – this will remind you there is more to life than training. Your friends and family’s encouragement and company will keep your mind relaxed and keep you laughing.
Be assertive – training and racing is important to you, so a degree of assertiveness and discipline is sometimes required so that appropriate training and adequate recovery is carried out. Your family/friends may have a fun afternoon planned for you but after a long or hard session what state of body and mind will you be in? Manage their expectations and don’t be afraid to say ‘I need an early night’.
Surround yourself with positive people, having the support of your family and loved ones around you will make a big difference to how you are feeling. The more hours you train, logically the more fatigued you may be, this can have an effect on your mood therefore being around positive people can keep you level and balanced.
Strength & Conditioning
None of us have time to spend hours in the gym working through a complicated gym routine and in my opinion none of us need to.
There are simple effective key movements that can be done in the comfort of the home, office or hotel room. 2-3 x 15 min sessions of key exercises a week will significantly increase your capacity to absorb training and avoid injury.
Pre movement routine (pre activation)
Preparing your body and mind for the exercise to come is vital and often overlooked with busy age groupers rushing around squeezing sessions in between lunch breaks and family time. Including pre activation/pre movement routine as a key component of your session will improve your efficiency, enhance performance and also help reduce muscle soreness and the likelihood of injury. This doesn’t have to be an A4 menu of exercises; even 3-5 key exercises can help prepare you physically and mentally for the exercise to come.
How many of you include mobilisation before a swim session? How many of you rush home and out the door for a run before dinner or work?
Foam Roller & Trigger Point Ball
Regular massage can be expensive and as an age grouper with a full time job and other commitments, it can be a challenge to book in at a time that suits your lifestyle. The foam roller and trigger point ball, if used correctly, can mimic the recovery technique known as myofascia release. This is highly effective in maintaining flexible and healthy tissues.
Everyone has 10 minutes a day they can spare for this, why not try in front of the TV when you are around the family or get the loved one, the kids and dogs involved too!
Hours on the bike in the car and at the desk can lead to imbalances, if not addressed this can lead to poor muscle function, pain and injury. Find time at the end of your day for a 10 minute routine on key areas – glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, back, pecs etc holding each stretch for 2 x 30secs.
20 min spin on the rollers after a race, 20 min walk with the family and the dog or 20 min swim with the kids.
Experiment with those that work for you but all of the above will speed recovery, increasing blood flow to the muscles, accelerate the inflow of nutrients, reducing soreness and relaxing the nervous system.
Passive Recovery – reading & meditation, we all should do more of these…
Training & Race Reflections
Reflect on each session in a training log and at the end of each week & month?
Record all your sessions, how you felt what went well, why?
Get a coach from www.trilife.com to advise you on your training schedule and appropriate volume & intensity?
If your bike is not set up correctly you may not be able to reach your potential on the bike, reduce power output and encourage the likelihood of muscle imbalances and injuries.
If the above areas of your training are adhered to consistently, maybe your performance will improve this season and the next and the next…
‘Anyone can work hard; the best have the discipline to recover…’
(Lauren Fleshman – US track & Field athlete)