Lots of athletes are keen to do the hard physical training, but not so keen to get the appropriate rest and recovery that will enable them to perform at their best when needed. This is a trait I can see in athletes all around me. They are eager to get out for the next session, do the best they can, push limits and keep improving on those all consuming Garmin numbers… Sound familiar?
I have dug myself into a few physical black holes in the past with that approach and have realised the hard way that there are other ways of training and measuring progress in training. Given the hours of training and the subsequent stresses that we put our bodies under, we have got to make sure that we recover adequately and give something back to our bodies.
Purely from my experiences with my own training and recovery habits, here are 4 of my own practical tips for aiding recovery.
- Water. Drink plenty of it. Take a sports bottle to work, top it up when you can, particularly in the hours before or immediately after a session. It can take days to truly recover from being severely dehydrated. Being dehydrated will affect your training and (in my case) makes me constantly hungry, leading to some dubious food choices!
- Massage and rolling. I have a friend who is a massive advocate for foam rollers and most other things that hurt your muscles. I have spent 2 years trying to ignore him but ultimately, for my muscles, he is right. Rolling is not a pleasant experience, but if I can do one half hour rolling session for my legs and back per week, I feel less stiff and more able to run or ride more fluently. I also notice that my sports massages are more effective and less painful.
- Cross Training. This is not a new idea. Athletes at all levels have been cross training to improve their performance in their chosen sport for years. Particularly for us runners, where the constant impact of running over time can take its toll on our joints, cross training can work wonders. It keeps me interested by doing different sports / activities such as pilates, swimming and biking. It can also reduce the overall impact on joints whilst maintaining overall fitness.
- Easy means easy. This is one of the top pieces of advice I have received. Easy sessions are not designed to be races. They can be strategically placed in a program to aid recovery. For example, an easy bike ride or swim following a run can help to get the muscles moving again. The trick is to do these sessions at the intensity for which they were designed. Easily. See my previous post on Going Slow.
You don’t have to be as fresh as a daisy for every session. I know I’m certainly not. But without recovering properly for key sessions or giving back to your body, the likelihood is that in the long term you will burn out or get injured. So make sure you take care of yourself and give back to those tired muscles every so often.
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