"For many triathletes 'recovery' is a bad word. Some think it will cause them to lose fitness, or that they may get fat because of a couple of days off. If they do take a day and train easy, it many times ends up being a fast training day because it is completed with training partners whom let their testosterone get in the way.
So when it is time to plan out a taper for a major race? Invariably, the taper always ends up being too short. Why does this happen?
First, how many of you feel you may lose fitness during your taper? For example, you are doing an ironman race in 4 weeks. Your taper needs to start 4 weeks out from race day. But many times you panic and find yourself running very long 2 weeks out. Well, you just left your race out there by training long 2 weeks before.
To really understand the process of recovery and regeneration you need to understand some very important functions of the human body. After you complete a hard or long training session or race, your body needs time to recover and regenerate. This process involves repairing the damage to your muscles, replenishing glycogen stores, allowing the immune system to strengthen. This happens by actively completing recovery workouts to help the body get rid of the lactic acid that accumulated in your body from the training or the race.
I always tell my athletes- the workouts are important- but it is the recovery that makes you stronger and allows you to improve your fitness. If you never allow for recovery you always end up breaking yourself down. The process of regeneration never happens.
Look at athletes who are into power lifting or body building- their recovery process is so very important. They work really hard and then allow time to recover so they can get the most in muscular strength development. Look at so many Ironman triathletes who lose weight all season long- even though their body fat was very low to start with: they are only losing muscle which will result in a loss of power.
When you plan out your training try to block the quality close together so you have the rest of the week to recover, which will allow you to be ready for some longer weekend training. The bottom line is training should always be progressive week to week in small amounts, with recovery built in every 3rd to 4th week depending upon the individual.
Here are some key points to consider when looking at recovery:
1. Make sure you have set hr training zones that you follow for every workout.
2. Plan your nutrition for training and follow the plan. This will allow for better results while training, sets you up for the next training session, and allows you to access fat stores for aerobic training.
3. Follow workouts with recovery drinks within a 30-minute window after training. (Linc here - I strongly recommend Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite!) Whatever you do- don’t go without consuming something after training.
4. After 90 minutes follow with some quality protein either as a shake or whole food so you can assist the rebuild process of the muscles.
5. Try to eat every couple of hours so your blood sugar levels stay even which can lessen your immune system stress.
6. Monitor your am resting heart rate before you rise in the morning. This is done before you lift your head off the pillow. Do this for 7 – 10 days and then take an average. If you find the am hr is 3-5 beats above your average you need to schedule a recovery day.
7. Build in active and passive recovery workout days in your training. Active recovery workouts would include easy bike rides on flat roads or on a trainer. Keep it in the small ring with the 2 lowest gears that you have and drink a recovery drink while you are riding. Also easy swims that include some drills sets or some off stroke also help in recovery. Avoid running on active recovery days- the impact is too much to allow for recovery. Passive recovery is no training at all. Take the day and relax, get some extra sleep, eat well, get a massage or soak in a hot tub with epsom salts. All these can help to allow your body to recover faster.
8. Make sure you mix up your long training on the weekends. Don’t always follow the long ride on Saturday with the long run on Sunday. Try doing the long on the day before or a moderate ride and run on the same day followed by an aerobic swim the next day for recovery.
9. Listen to your body- if you are feeling tired, then take an easy day. Don’t let your mental thoughts tell you otherwise. If you really are feeling wiped out take 2-3 days off and then slide back into training after that break. You will not lose any fitness at all with a few days off.
10. Consider power naps if you have the flexibility to take them every once and a while. They pay huge dividends to recovery and immune system strengthening.
11. Try to avoid too much processed food - go with foods that are in their most whole form. These provide more nutrients for the body. What you eat has such a huge impact on how you feel on a day to day basis.
12. Most of all- training needs to be fun and you need to be motivated to train everyday. If you start to lose that motivation or training loses its appeal, then it is time to take a break.
Bottom line - recovery and regeneration are so very important for training to continue to produce results. Remember Joanie Benoit at the Olympic trials just coming off of surgery and ended up having a great race. So many high-end athletes have had great races coming off of a forced rest. Think about that!"