How to use recovery effectively in endurance sports.
I received this email from one of my athletes : “ Coach, What else should I do to boost my recovery ? I feel my recovery is slow. In the morning I wake up, I feel tired. I do not feel sore at all and there is no pain. But just feel very tired. I get like seven hours sleep and eat healthy. I am not sure what went wrong and how to boost my recovery. “ Thank you, Dan. Here’s my thought on the subject : Appropriate recovery is of the most underused advantages for most athletes. Many athletes do very little to use this paramount tool to get faster and become stronger athletes. Ultimately, if one wants to achieve their best performance and wishes to have longevity in the sport, recovery is essential. Excellent recovery involves many modalities in order to achieve supercompensation, which is the objective of any athlete. The following is an example of some of these methods that can help with recovery.
Sleep: Adequate sleep remains the golden nugget of any recovery program and it is the most effective tool. It is free of charge and can be obtained by anyone with a slight adjustment to daily habits, such as turning off the TV or shutting off all electronics in order to go to bed an hour or two earlier than one is used to. A decent amount of daily sleep can be beneficial. Ryan Skidmore elaborated further that “The human body cycles through several sleep stages throughout the night. The stage most important to athletes is rapid eye movement (REM). During REM sleep, the body releases reproductive growth hormone, HGH, which promotes protein synthesis and tissue growth and repair. HGH is a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream rebuilding damaged tissue while building stronger muscles. This reparative process prepares our bodies for the next workout. “1 Aim for 7-9 hours, hitting the higher numbers when training load and intensity increase. Naps count to this total number so don’t be afraid to grab sleep whenever you can! Rest days: Every endurance program should include adequate rest days (passive recovery). These days should be craftily built in the weekly cycles of the training plan designed for any training and racing period . These rest days are essential to allow the most basic physiological and even mental processes to recover and “cool down “ in order to comeback and re-engage in heavier, more vigorous bouts of training . One of the greatest triathletes of all time, Chrissie Wellington put it this way “Many of us find it hard to take days/time off. This was anathema to me and tantamount to weakness – especially if people were always asking what I’d done. To respond with “I haven’t trained today” was like admitting I was weak or a failure” Rest/recovery is NOT weakness or failure. It’s fundamental to success. It’s not the swim/bike/run sessions that will make you fitter, it’s the recovery – the adaptation and regeneration from the stress caused by those activities. And it is not just about physical recovery; it’s mental recovery/relaxation too.” 2 Nutrition: Nutrition is the backbone of living a healthy, productive life. I believe that for an athlete to improve performance, there must be a sound nutritional strategy that becomes a way of life. We have covered this subject in another blog piece here :https://www.strong2thefinishline.com/single-post/2016/10/24/FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT However, nutrition is a paramount recovery variable, especially if it focuses on an overall nutritional strategy that meets the athletes’s needs. A sound nutritional strategy must include pre, during and post fueling and nutritional plans that take into consideration replacement of lost nutrients immediately following strenuous bouts of training to replenish the body. Luckily, there are many training products in the market today that make it easier for today’s athlete to choose what works best. That said, nothing takes the place of real, whole, nourishing food to help drive recovery. Massage: Massage is great for ridding the body of excess adhesions in and around muscles, tendons and ligaments. It can help the body get rid of tightness, prepare muscles for the hard onslaught of rigorous training and accelerate recovery to support long-lasting and sustained output. "It's amazing how many athletes don't even think about getting bodywork, especially when they are in season," said Mary Owen, massage therapist with a concentration in sports therapy and myofascial release. "Regular maintenance is always recommended to athletes that are consistently overworking the same muscle groups. But during those tough parts of the year, when athletes are racing, competing and doing their most rigorous training, that's when it's most important."3 The best times for massages would depend on every athlete and their preferences, but I would recommend after long bricks, long rides or runs, Swedish and relaxing massages are highly recommended, but deep tissue massages should be done on periods of lesser training intensities. I would caution athletes from doing deep tissue massages on race week, since these can undo the muscular tonicity needed for performance during races. Instead, on taper weeks I recommend sport massages and would avoid deep tissue massage on race week. Foam rolling: Foam rolling can be very beneficial to athletes and can be an effective recovery modality. There is some research to back up the hype. The Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that foam rolling—coupled with old-school static stretching—could increase range of motion in the hip more than stretching alone. One of the study’s authors, Central Michigan University associate professor Blaine Long, says "foam rolling may decrease a muscle’s “viscosity,” which would make the muscle less resistant to motion and therefore more flexible" . Another study, this one from Canada, linked foam rolling to less muscle soreness, better vertical leap and greater flexibility. There are dozens more with similar findings. And while some researchers failed to find benefits, nearly all of those experiments involved less than 30 seconds of rolling—compared to 90 seconds or more in studies that turned up positive results. 4 Compression socks: There’s evidence that compression socks help with recovery via faster oxygenated blood flow. “Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! On the other hand, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will get back to the heart quicker, which will help to increase the rate of recovery and decrease muscle soreness! Compression will also help to stabilize the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue. To sum up the benefits of compression; enhanced performance through increased blood flow, quicker recovery and decreased muscle soreness, and less fatigue. All good things!”5 Recovery Boots: Recovery boots have an even better advantage than compression socks as they can cover a larger area of the body including quadriceps, and can be used as a dual massagers and compression at the same time. Mental relaxation/Mindfulness: Not many point to this very essential element. For an athlete to perform at a high level, he or she must find time to release all mental tensions and stress. We live in very stressful times, whether this stress is caused by money, jobs, family dynamics or socioeconomic reasons that can affect our beloved athlete’s mind. Triathlon is a very stressful sport. The rigors of training and the amount of demand it puts on an athlete’s life are very high. Adding life stresses on top of these training stresses can have difficult effects such as burnout, loss of motivation or even over-training (if inadequate recovery is present). That’s where mental relaxation, whether by reading a book, listening to relaxing music, doing meditative yoga practices, deep breathing techniques or following a mindfulness practice can be a tremendous help to the athlete . This modality should be stressed upon by coaches and used to enhance the athlete’s life and fill it with joyful practices. In conclusion, incorporating these recovery tools can ensure a stronger, healthier athlete and can lay the groundwork for a season, or a lifetime of better performances. Marques Garcia, M.S., CSCS
Head coach, Strong2thefinishline Tri Club
www.strong2thefinishline.com 1- Ryan Skidmore- Beginner Triathlete, June 30th, 2018 2- Chrissie Wellington- 220 Triathlon, March 10th, 2015 3- Active Health- Active.come 4- TIME magazine- MARKHAM HEID @MARKHAMH 5- Fleet Feet West Hartford- Sports Medicine