Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Recovery

Recovery is vital for preparing for key races, for performing each day during a multi-stage race and for reducing the time to returning to training after a tough race. I've been working on my recovery routines and trying to optimize the level of performance I can achieve. The idea is to ensure I'm getting the most out of the hard work I do in training.

I believe that the basis for good recovery is a healthy lifestyle first and then to load training on top of that. Following a good diet, sleeping at least eight hours a night and taking regular naps are the fundamental basis for good recovery. However, there are other complementary and interesting recovery modalities that are worth testing and experimenting with.

Recovery during training

To get the most out of training it's important that the quality of each training session is high, especially key sessions such as intervals or tempo runs. I like to feel rested, ready and focused before I start each important training session. If I don't feel good I would rather delay the session until I know that I can deliver on that session's objectives. There are times when I have to train when I'm tired, such as race simulation training blocks, but in general I prefer not to train when I'm not going to receive the full benefit of a hard session because I can't run at the intensity that is planned.

As I mentioned in the introduction, some keys to consistent weekly training are regular sleep and good nutrition. Additionally, a training program that is designed to account for the current condition of an athlete is vital. Don't train as if you have the condition to win a race when you are not ready for it, and do not train for the level of condition you wish you had. For me that means including two rest days a week. I'd love to train more, but my body is not yet ready to handle more work.

In addition to these principles, compression clothing can help recovery after strenuous training sessions. I use compression garments to aid recovery during or after tough workouts. I find that wearing calf and quad sleeves (or compression shorts) during long runs helps me to feel better the next day. However, the most benefit for me comes from using compression after long or tough sessions. I typically wear my compression leggings for about four hours after each hard run.

Recovering after a tough session in San Pedro.

Another useful tool for recovery or general body maintenance is a foam roller. A foam roller allows for self-myofascial release (rather than going to a physiotherapist or masseuse) and can improve flexibility and range of motion. This tool is particularly useful for resolving any ITB-related pain or issues. I try to use my foam roller a few times a week, but if I feel any niggles or issues I will diligently use it twice a day until my legs feel back to normal. I like the roller because it allows me to treat minor issues quickly therefore keeping my training consistent.

Recovery during races

In a multi-stage race the highest recovery priority should be eating and drinking within a two-hour window of finishing the day's stage. This time period is when the body most rapidly absorbs carbohydrates and converts them to glycogen to fuel the following day's stage. In desert races (and most races) it's likely that an athlete will be mildly dehydrated. The meal immediately after the stage is the optimal time to drink to thirst and re-balance the body's water content. These principles apply to recovering from all training, but the focus during a stage race is important as most athletes have restricted calories (due to not wanting to carry too much weight) and therefore it's worthwhile to consume the calories they do have in the two-hour window.

I have a well-defined post-stage routine. I drink a 1.5l solution with approximately 250 calories, I drink another 1l protein and carbohydrate drink with 500 calories, and I eat a small meal of couscous and parmesan cheese with about 200 calories. This provides enough water to rehydrate and enough calories to start the refueling process.

Recovery post races

This is an area of recovery that I'm still learning about. I don't have any hard and fast rules to share yet, only my current experience and what I'm trying out. After the Atacama Crossing I was tired and sore. My coach prepared a four-week "taper out" so that I would have enough time to recover before starting training for my next goal race. In this period I have been doing a low volume and low intensity of training. I have been sleeping as much as possible and eating a lot to cover the massive calorie deficit I built up during the race.

I also worked with Jose from RecoveryPump to try their recovery boots to complement my taper out training and resting. I used the boots for 45 minutes once a day for a week after the race, gradually building up the pressure of the boots from 60mmHg to 80mmHg as my legs felt better each day. Using the boots is similar to getting a massage and I enjoyed the sensations in my legs during and after each session. I'm definitely going to test the boots some more during hard weeks in my next race preparation cycle.

Setting up the RecoveryBoots for a session.

Adjusting the pressure. The boots are very easy to use.

Enjoying my recovery period!

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