Recovery: My Version of the Myth

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March 10, 2015 on 1:32 pm | In From the shop, Life at TriSports.com, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Juan Martin Tanca. Recovery is truly a buzzword in the endurance world, but what does it REALLY mean? Check out Juan’s take on it…I think he’s onto something!  Check out Juan’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @jmtanca.

In recent years, recovery has been the most common topic in the endurance world, yet the most ignored and misunderstood by the majority of everyday athletes. My idea of recovery and rest is quite different from what most people do and think. A few months ago, I was reading Matt Hanson’s blog and he was explaining that for him, recovery was a whole day process, not just a single action done after a workout. When I read this, I started thinking more about it and, after some research and discussion with my coach, it made complete sense. If you integrate recuperation and rejuvenation into your lifestyle, the results in training/racing will be evident and way cheaper than getting a new “superbike” or a Star Wars-like aero helmet.

Recovery involves sleep (at least 8-9 hours/night), proper nutrition and fueling, hydration and trying to minimize life stress. We all know that it is almost impossible to have a stress-free life nowadays, but the key is trying to keep balance.

Recovery is seen sometimes as “nice to have,” but in order to be successful as an athlete, resting must be part of your plan. Viewing rest and recovery as a triathlon’s 4th discipline will have positive impacts in your training adaptation, hormonal balance, immune system and overall mood.

Sleep

Sleep is the single cheapest and easiest way to boost your performance. This is where all the training adaption takes place. Sleeping 8-9 hours per night is ideal but 7 will work, too. Power naps in the afternoon are great, as well (10-20 minutes). Sleeping 60 to 90 minutes in the afternoon is not beneficial because it disrupts the sleeping cycle and it will be difficult to sleep at night.

To understand how to heal our body, we must understand what happens to it when we exercise. The body sees exercise as stress, therefore when we are training, our endocrine system secretes stress hormones (Cortisol & testosterone). The downside of this is that for our body, having a bad day at work or an argument has the same result as a hard track session or hill repeats, so if we want consistency and good health, it is vital that we must try to keep a low stress life and have “Athletic IQ.” What is this? Athletic IQ is not having a myopic look at the specific training day, but instead having a long lens view. What I mean is, for example; yesterday I went to bed at 9pm and woke up at 6am. I slept for 9 hours but woke up feeling heavy and fatigued, so I slept in, then went to work and did my workout in the afternoon instead, feeling refreshed and with a better mood. Sometimes forcing a workout with residual fatigue is useless. Tim O’Donnell says “One workout will not make you a world champion but the sum of consistent years of training, will.” By no means am I saying to be lazy, but if you know your body and your fatigue levels you will be able to make the call. Training = stress + adaptation.

You should wake up feeling refreshed

There are other kinds of methods of boosting and balancing your hormonal level. My coach (Matt Dixon) likes us to go for 30-40 minutes runs, but REALLY, REALLY easy. If your running pace is 7min/mile, go for a 10min/mile pace, it will boost your mood and your endocrine system will secrete endorphins that are always awesome. Those easy runs and easy rides (coffee shop rides) will make you feel rejuvenated and fresh and will serve as a bridge for the next day. The key is to differentiate the easy workouts from the hard ones; there must be significant difference in intensity.  To achieve this, it is very important to trust your coach and be brave.

Fueling, Nutrition & Hydration

What we put in our bodies is extremely important. If you want your car to run amazing, it’s better if you put super premium gas in it. Our bodies work in a similar way. Some people do not view nutrition and fueling as important, but they are extremely important. First let’s explain each of them separately.

Fueling is what you eat 60 minutes before a workout, what you eat and drink during the training session, what you eat and drink immediately after working out (30 minutes max!!). Like Meredith Kessler says: “The workout is not finished until the fueling is done.” During training I like to go with natural foods (Feed Zone Portables recipes are super easy and make training tastier, and Osmo nutrition is my hydration choice). As I said earlier, the body secretes cortisol when we workout, so the only thing that stops it immediately after we finish our training is protein. Having a high protein meal with carbs (4:1 ratio) within 30 minutes of finishing your training will help you to be ready to tackle the next training session feeling better. Avocados are great for recovery, as they have good fats to stabilize your metabolism and reduce muscle soreness.

Feed Zone Portables is a great guide to real training food

Nutrition is what you eat the rest of the time. If you want to lose weight, here is where you want to cut your calorie intake – do not sacrifice your training adaptation by cutting fueling calories. If you have a healthy diet and fuel correctly your body will do its part and will put you at the correct weight. Remember, it is not a linear formula that the lighter you are, the faster you will run.

Hydration is a key component, as well. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated and your body is producing cortisol.

Personal protocol, tips and objective measurement

Immediately after I finish working out I have a pre-set protocol that I try to follow every time:

  1. Rehydrate and refuel
  2. Shower
  3. Dynamic stretching  and hip mobility exercises
  4. Wear recovery boots for  60-90minutes
  5. Rest with the feet higher than the heart
  6. Foam roller massage 2 or 3 times a week.

When I am on a hard training block or I feel that I have not recovered enough before going to bed, I drink Nocturne from Infinit Nutrition. This product uses tryptophan (which is found in cherries) to boost your growth hormones while you sleep so you can feel fresh and rested when you wake up.

An objective way to measure your fatigue level is to use urine strips. If, on the first pee of the day, you have protein in your urine, you are not ready to go. Sleep in and enjoy an awesome day off from triathlon. Urine strips also measure your leukocytes levels. If leukocytes are present in your urine, you might be in an early stage of sickness.

Follow the signs your body gives you!

Recovery is a vital part of every training plan. It is important to understand that recovery is not only taking a day off, but an integral piece of training. It should not be hard to apply in your daily life, and your recovery protocol should not be daunting and should not cause more stress. The key is balance and planning ahead. You can be a successful triathlete with 12 hours of training a week or less. The volume of training (miles-hours) is not a very successful tool for measuring your success.

“Most triathletes are extremely fit but are chronically tired” – Matt Dixon. Don’t be one of those triathletes!

References:

Dixon, Matt. “Recovery.” The Well-built Triathlete: Turning Potential into Performance. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Boulder2014: Velopress, n.d. 35-58. Print.

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