A huge mistake that many amateur athletes make in their zeal to become fitter and stronger is to leave out recovery strategies in their training plan. The issue with many amateur athletes, this including the fitness fanatics amongst us that just exercise for the sheer love of it, is that we mistakenly remove recovery from a training plan, thinking that to attain an elite level of fitness that we need to crush every workout, train daily and keep upping the intensity with each session, expecting that we’ll keep improving.
Often this does nothing more than to send us into a state of overtraining, which is a physical state characterized by systemic inflammation, tiredness, malaise and most worrying, a sharp decline in performance.
Recovery methods, no matter what sport or area of training you favour, can be roughly split into short term and long term protocols. Short term recovery refers to what happens immediately after a training session. Recovery is critical because during this time muscles repair, rebuild and strengthen and our bodies rebalance fuel stores in preparation for the next effort.
Short term recovery strategies can include paying attention to pre and post workout nutrition, and also include hot and cold baths/showers, massage and sleep. Sleep, especially, is critical to performance, particularly when training loads are intense or increased.
I’m a perfect example of this. On Sundays I get up and go for a ride. Then I have a warm shower, breakfast then go back to bed for a couple of hours. Yep, the body requires more sleep when you are training hard!
Long term recovery involves working time off into the training plan. This week, I have decreased my exercise load significantly – no early morning riding, no weights and minimal classes. Taking a break allows me to focus on allowing my musculoskeletal and nervous systems to rest as well as clearing my mind. Plus I’ll be looking forward to picking up the training again next week.
Will I lose my fitness gains? Possibly a little – but they’ll be back again so quickly it will be next to unnoticeable.
Instead of training this morning, I rolled over in bed and slept in until 7.30am. Instead of running around like a madwoman doing errands, the kids and I went to see Madagascar 3. Instead of cooking a complicated dinner we’re eating grilled chicken , steamed vegetables and a large garden salad – followed by a bowl of strawberries for dessert. Instead of staying up until 10.30pm, I’ll be curled up in bed with a good book by 8pm.
Ah, I really enjoy these weeks of recovery when I plan for them!
How about you? Are you specifically including recovery in your workouts?