When was the last time you had a horrible workout...followed by several more horrible workouts?
Do your legs feel fresh or do they feel heavy and tired?
Is your head in the game or are you feeling directionless and without reason to continue training?
Do you feel as if you can never fully give 100% to your workout, as well as giving 100% to the rest of your daily responsibilities?
Do you feel as if you can never gain control over your appetite or perhaps, you don't really have the appetite that you are use to?
Do you feel as if your training is something you "have to do" because you signed up for the event or something that you "want to do"?
Do you have a lingering injury that just never seems to heal itself?
Over the last 4 weeks, how many times have you given yourself a day to sleep in and wake up without an alarm clock in order to ensure a restful night of rest?
And most importantly...when was the last day you had a PLANNED day off from ALL activity in your training plan? And no, taking an 'unplanned/last minute' day off because you were overly tired and extremely sore...doesn't count.
Based on your answers to these questions, it may be time to think about your training plan (or lack of one) and to consider giving your body more rest in an effort to improve performance.
Hopefully you have digested the information in my last post and you are excited to learn how to integrate recovery in your training plan.
In reference to Matt Dixon's article in LAVA magazine, implementing recovery into your training plan does not mean setting aside a day each week and assuming you are good to go.
Here are a few ways to add "recovery" into your training:
1) Recovery day - a day when you aren't aiming to achieve any cardiovascular fitness gains through hard training. Either a complete day off from exercise or low intensity/short duration activity. To be truly effective, it is optimal to keep daily life stressors low on this day so work travel doesn't really count as recovery!
2) Recovery workout - A single workout that you perform to facilitate recovery from a previous workout, or prep for an upcoming hard workout. The intensity is very low and the duration is short, although you may include some very short (7-10 sec) surges to stimulate the central nervous system and stay sharp.
3) Recovery blocks - These are multiple days in a row of lower volume and intensity workouts to allow healing and full adaptation. They last 3-7 days and are normally needed every 10-16 days of training. The traditional approach of 3 weeks of hard training followed by 1 full week of recovery does not provide enough recovery and often leads to the last week of hard training begin lower quality and filled with risk of accumulated fatigue and injury.
4) Recovery phases - At least 2-3 times per year you need an extended respite from hard training, consisting of 10-23 days to allow the body to heal, rejuvenate and recover. The typical off-season is an important part, but it is worth building 1-2 phases into the mid-part of your season as well.
TYPES OF DAILY RECOVERY
Outside of building in specific training recovery workouts and blocks, there are daily habits that will maximize your chances of bouncing back from tough workouts and staying healthy.
1) SLEEP - This is the single most important component of staying health and injury free, in terms of quantity, quality and consistency. There is simply nothing more productive that consistently good sleep.
2) REST FROM ACTIVITY - Limited or no activity is pure recovery and promotes healing. Plain and simple.
3) NUTRITION - Proper amount, quality and timing of nutrition are imperative. Most triathletes under-consume relative to the energy demands of training and many lack sufficient nutrients (veggies and fruit), fat and protein for proper recovery and health maintenance.
4) FUELING - While it is obviously related to your nutrition, fueling has a different goal. Fueling refers to the calories that you take in during and immediately following training. The primary focus during this time is carb intake with some protein and it is critical to replenish glycogen stores, limit additional metabolic stress and facilitate muscle rejuvenation.
5) MISCELLANEOUS - There are several other factors that help in the recovery process but are secondary to the top four. They include compression gear, massage, and warm/cold treatment. While they can certainly aid recovery, they are nearly meaningless without the support of the primary four.
It takes a bold athlete to truly make recovery a priority in training. Within the triathlon community, we are held in the highest regard for our ability to suffer and train harder than anyone else but seldom do we pay the same respect to the smart athlete who is not only willing to push limits in training and racing but also support those efforts with integrated recovery. Programming recovery into your plan is not laziness; its smart. Any one can train hard; the best know how to recover.
I hope you enjoyed this article, written by Matt Dixon. I find it very rewarding to know that I have been doing something over my last season that is finally getting the attention it deserves. I have implemented recovery into the training plans for my athletes and I think they all find it very comforting to know that they are "allowed" to have days off or just "exercise for fun". Of course, I could not have gotten here without Karel who repeatedly told me that I needed to "REST more and train less"!