As you enter your key training block it becomes more important to keep a focus on your recovery. The quality of your recovery will determine the quality of your next training session. This article will break down the most beneficial recovery techniques with basic descriptions of each.
FLUIDS AND NUTRITION
After every quality session, short or long, you should drink some water and eat a quality source of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. You do not need to replace all the calories you just burned, but eat something to help the recovery process. We feel it’s important at this time to eat real foods, not sports drinks and bars- save those for the road when their practical packaging is a real advantage.
The typical endurance athlete does not need to spend hours every week stretching. That time would be better spent swimming, biking, running, Nordic skiing, or whatever you sport calls for. There is no need to stretch before a workout or race, especially considering a dynamic warm up will do a better job of preparing your body for activity and competition. In many cases passive stretching can actually be bad for athletic performance. ‘Active stretching’ engages the muscle during the stretch and lets the muscle determine the degree of stretch. Read the DYNAMIC WARM UP AND STRETCHING article to learn more about active stretching.
Massage is one of the best recovery techniques for the endurance athlete, but is relatively expensive and time consuming. Massage promotes blood flow to the muscle, breaks up scar tissue, helps the muscle release from its sheath, and helps the muscle regain its natural range of motion. Thoughtful foam rolling techniques can substitute for a quality massage, cost very little, and can be done within the comfort of your own home.
There are a variety of foam rollers worth investing in:
Basic Foam Roller: the classic firm (often black) foam roller for the back and upper legs.
Therapy Ball: a small, firm ball for the hips and glutes.
Small Diameter Foam Roller: great for addressing the lower legs, the smaller size does a good job of hitting smaller muscle groups and gets deeper into the muscle.
‘Trigger Point’ produces a good range of foam rollers to consider. http://www.tptherapy.com
Foam rolling can often takes weeks to see real benefits. Initially, very little pressure may result in significant pain. Over time the tissue responds and it takes much more pressure to get a similar response. The body often tells you where you need to address- look for ‘trigger points’ and hold the foam roller over those sensitive areas, breath slowly and deeply, waiting for the muscle to relax and give in to the pressure. This may take many sessions. After a few months of foam rolling on a regular basis (daily to 5x week for 10-20min) you can begin cutting back to 2-3x per week. Even when feeling good it’s wise to continue foam rolling as it will help prevent injury and keep your muscles happy.
Cryotherapy is a classic way to promote the recovery process, and over time can allow you to train more and recover faster.
We don’t use the word ‘ice bath’ as it implies that ice is necessary for the bath to be effective. The water needs to be in the 50degree range, which some baths can get that cold without the addition of ice. You may consider adding some ice to the bath as you’re adding water, but by no means does the water need to be 35degrees to be effective. During summer months more ice may be needed as the started water temperature if often warmer than in winter months.
Submerge yourself up to the hips for up to 15minutes. We recommend wearing a sweater to help maintain your core temperature.
THE RECOVERY SEQUENCE
This article breaks down an ideal recovery. You probably won’t need to do every one of these techniques after every workout. Quality recovery is a long term process and most important after key workouts during the primary training cycle. We don’t think of our workout as being over until we finish our recovery, this may take an additional 40min, but is worth every second.
The process is: