Arguably the most important aspect of any training program is how you “optimise recovery”.
First though, it is important to understand why it is necessary. Recovery is crucial because it allows your body to adapt and get stronger from the training you are putting it through. To little recovery you won’t adapt and improve, and you will more than likely get ill and worse still over fatigued. This can mean considerable time away from the pool, bike and trainers, and doing what you enjoy.
Two key facts:
Training causes physiological stress and muscle damage through repetitive micro trauma. The body’s response is to try to repair itself, this is normal and you want this to occur. The point is you can either facilitate this process or impair it or worse still halt it completely.
Training reduces your immune system and tolerance to deal with viruses and bacteria. This is especially true in the first 30 minutes after training when you are most susceptible to getting ill.
Key priorities to aid recovery and remain injury free:
1) Sleep (aim for 7-8 hours per night). When you sleep your body repairs itself and can start to adapt to the training. It restores your hormonal levels, specifically dealing with cortisol (stress hormone) which can be damaging in high quantities. Too little sleep and your body will not repair itself and cortisol will cause havoc.
2) Nutrition – Your body can only use what you put in it. Staying hydrated and eating fresh, unrefined foods (non-processed) is crucial to building stronger, leaner muscles. Remember to eat something within the first 30 minutes of exercise. It will boost your immune system.
3) Prehab is all about working to prevent injuries occurring in the first place. Such as improving your running technique. Working on your movement dysfunctions and areas of weakness is so important and often overlooked until you get injured. Don’t ignore niggles, this is your body telling you something. Work on your areas of weakness, your silent strength and improve how you move. There are people at thetrilife that specialise in this very area. Take advantage of this.
4) The rest day is the most important training session of the week. The more you are doing the more important this becomes. So plan one rest day per week, it is ok to move it about depending on when you need it.
5) Be confident enough to reduce the intensity of any planned workout if you are tired or finding it harder than normal.
6) Monitoring your resting heart rate (RHR) will help you here. Insufficient recovery and fatigue will manifest in a resting heart rate higher than normal. Take your RHR at the same time every day and note if is 5 or more beats per minute higher than normal. Your body is telling you something, go easy today or have another rest day.
7) Ice baths do work. If you can last 8-10 minute you will encourage blood flow to the submerged areas aiding the natural recovery process.
8) Anecdotally massage helps albeit if the evidence is questionable. Provided you are not injured then it is ok to do as regularly you feel you need. It can cause delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMs) for 1-2 days after and the legs can feel flat. So best to schedule an easy session the day after a massage.