Recovery – Do You Take It Seriously?
Recovery. It’s for everyone! How seriously do you take your recovery? I just finished up a big training week so paying attention to recovery was especially important so that I could get the most out of the training. Going into a workout fatigued and hungry won’t do much good!
The first thing I prioritized in my daily schedule was sleep. I aimed for about 8 hours each night. (More would have been even better!) When we sleep, our bodies produce HGH (human growth hormone) the natural way, and it helps us recover. I went a little more in-depth on sleep in this Ask The Coach post.
Napping is another way to get some extra sleep, and if you have the opportunity to snooze for 30 minutes after a workout, by all means do it. Even if you can’t nap, getting those feet elevated and relaxing is a good idea.
Next up was eating. Taking in enough calories was important, and thankfully I like to eat. What I had to pay attention to was eating prior to my quality workouts. If the session was long and intense, getting in a good meal right afterwards was important.
While I didn’t count my calories, I made sure I wasn’t leaving myself hungry. Sometimes when our training load is high and our body is a bit fatigued, we may not get the growling stomach hunger cue. If I ever started to get to feeling grumpy or was losing focus, I went for a snack.
When eating for recovery, go for real, non-processed, whole foods as often as possible. Getting in extra fruits and veggies does a body good!
Along with eating comes hydration. The workouts with more intensity are essentially front-loaded in the week (Tuesday & Wednesday), and the higher volume stuff comes later in the week. Had I left myself dehydrated from Tuesday and Wednesday (and trust me, I sweated buckets), the volume sessions later in the week wouldn’t have been pretty.
Then I had to take care of my muscles. Foam rolling, stretching, and an epsom salt bath were all part of my recovery regimen. Some active stretching after runs really helps – try leg swings to help open up the hip flexors and hamstrings. After my swims I hop in the hot tub and get in some stretching.
Foam rolling is great for self massage to get those tight spots. I even bought a baseball (couldn’t find a lacrosse ball) to get into some tougher spots. Here is an article I wrote on foam rolling for USA Triathlon if you have one but aren’t quite sure how to use it.
At the end of the week after long rides and run, I go for compression tights or compression socks. While I don’t think the exact benefit of these things are quantified in the literature, they make my legs feel better so I use them!
There are many other recovery modalities out there. Find what works for you and what fits best into your routine. But you can’t go wrong with eating, sleeping, and stretching. A good reference to learn more about recovery is Sage Rountree’s ‘The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.’
The bottom line is if you want to see results from your training, especially if it is a hard week, take recovery seriously. Take care of your body and you will see it in your race results.