by Jon-Erik Kawamoto
(This article first appeared in our October/November 2011 issue)
Recovery is an essential aspect of performance, superior training and staying injury free. However, the time off between workouts isn’t the only thing to consider. Most coaches agree that a well-planned recovery program is more important than the actual training itself. No matter how good your training program is, it could all be for not if the recovery plan isn’t executed effectively.
The recovery process needs to be proactive and well-planned. It’s important to remember that you break your body down when you train. Energy stores are depleted, muscles and other tissues are broken down and your body goes into a fatigued state. Adequate recovery refuels these energy stores, eliminates fatigue and rebuilds tissues to a stronger and fitter state than before the workout. This is known as supercompensation and is how the body gets stronger over the season of workouts. A lack of proper recovery can lead to overtraining otherwise known as under-recovery or over-reaching.
Here are six ways recovery can help you make the most of your training program:
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The Cool Down
Recovery starts with the cool down after a tough workout. This is known as active recovery and the focus is to reduce breathing rate, heart rate and core body temperature to pre-workout levels. The easy ride after the workout is also important for removing unwanted metabolic byproducts from the muscles such as lactate and reducing muscle stiffness. After a hard effort, ride for 10 to 20 minutes at around 65 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
It has been shown that a lack of adequate sleep can: decrease the competitive edge and reduce tolerance to training; alter mood and increase perception of fatigue; and negatively affect the body’s ability to adapt to the stresses of training.
Hormonal secretion during sleep is one of the most important factors of recovery. Anabolic (muscle-building) hormone concentrations and activity increase during sleep while catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormone concentrations and activity decrease. Try to develop a regular sleeping routine where you go to bed at a similar time every night. Remove distractions such as light, phones and television watching. Try for eight hours per night and add in a 30-minute powernap in the afternoon when possible.
Dehydration can reduce performance, but also delay the recovery process. Exercise increases the body’s need for water and electrolytes. It’s recommended that men have a fluid intake of 3.7 litres per day and women 2.7 litres. But it’s important to take in more fluids to compensate for sweat lost. Aim for a ratio of roughly one litre of water for every 1000 kcal burned.
Proper nutrition during recovery is crucial. Protein is required to rebuild muscle tissue and to supply the building blocks for various tissues, enzymes, hormones and the oxygen carrying protein, hemoglobin. Carbohydrates, meanwhile, are muscles’ major source of energy. This makes them essential in refuelling the body’s glycogen stores. It’s important to consume a post workout snack or shake within 30 to 60 minutes and then a well-balanced meal about two hours after the workout.
Another form of active recovery, easier rides are important on days between hard workouts because they help bring blood and fresh nutrients to the muscles and remove waste products accumulated from the hard effort. Perform recovery rides at 65 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
No matter how good your training program is, it could all be for not if the recovery plan isn’t executed effectively.
Self Myofascial Massage
Self-massage or self myofascial release (SMR) with foam rollers, massage sticks and even tennis balls can reduce muscle stiffness, promote circulation and induce a state of relaxation in the muscles. It might be painful during, but SMR can be performed the night of a hard workout to remove scar tissue, adhesions in the muscle and restrictions in the fascia (a type of connective tissue that wraps around the whole body). Gently roll over all major muscle groups until you find a sensitive spot. Apply direct pressure until the pain dissipates. Roll over the muscle again and repeat if necessary.
Jon-Erik Kawamoto is a strength and conditioning specialist.