A lot of athletes are under the impression that training makes them better. I mean, why wouldn’t they believe that? It sounds so logical.
You obviously need training to improve over time, but recovery is equally important.
While you are training, a number of things are happening that break your body down, effectively making you worse than when you started. You’re damaging your muscles, using up your glycogen and dehydrating to name just a few of these things.
The benefit from a training session actually takes place while you are resting, not while you are training.
To really benefit from your training and to build back stronger, you need to allow an adequate amount of time to recover so that you positively respond to the stress (training) you have just placed on your body.
Yet, despite busy work, family and social lives, most athletes are trying and cram as much training into their schedule as possible without thought to whether or not they’ll be able to effectively recover and benefit from it.
While determining the right training/recovery balance is a topic for another day, I thought I’d share 4 great strategies you can use to optimise your recovery so that you absorb and benefit from the training you are doing.
If you’re like most endurance athletes, it’s likely you subscribe to the adage – why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down.
While this can be a good idea some of the time, movement outside of training is important in the recovery process.
You should refrain from prolonged periods of stillness (sitting at your desk all day) and should move about slowly throughout the day.
Over time, efforts to move more can result in less muscle fatigue and that familiar morning stiffness that many athletes experience.
Replacing glycogen stores and rehydrating after training is crucial to increasing your recovery rate.
Studies have shown that the optimal time to take in nutrients is within about 30 minutes of training completion and again within two hours. A combination of protein and carbohydrates is best.
Lead with a heavier dose of good quality carbohydrate in the first round and a heavier dose of protein during the second.
On the hydration front, aim to drink 500 millilitres of water or an electrolyte drink (my preferred method) within 15 to 20 minutes of finishing your session.
3. Self-Myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release is a fantastic recovery technique.
Its immediate benefits include increased blood flow throughout the body, better movement and increased range of motion.
Foam rollers or balls apply deep pressure to trigger points that represent the origin of stiffness and mobility problems that often refer pain elsewhere in the body.
By rolling regularly you’ll be able to consistently release these points and speed recovery from training. Along with a heart rate monitor, I believe a foam roller is one of the best pieces of gear you can own.
Sleep is the endurance athlete’s fundamental recovery practice however it’s often the most neglected; giving way in favour of training, work, family and social time.
During sleep, the body goes to work repairing itself, calibrating and returning itself to its optimal state, preparing you for your next training session.
Sleep requirements vary based on a number of factors. Training volume and phase, overall life stress levels and genetic factors all play a part in determining the optimal amount of sleep you need at any given time.
Most studies show that to function optimally, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
As an athlete putting a great deal of stress on your body, I’d recommend aiming for the higher end of this range to maximise recovery and training effectiveness.
If you find that you’re constantly tired, falling sick, suffering niggly injuries or not improving at the rate you feel your training warrants, it may be time to consider placing a greater emphasis on your recovery.
The 4 methods outlined above provide a simple blueprint that will help you to significantly improve the quality of your recovery and will enable you to get more from the time you invest in training.
Remember: Performance = Training + Recovery!