Road to Recovery – Is Your Training Turning You Upside Down?

Are you a tired athlete?

Training to get fit, or stay fit can become obsessive.  Training plans must be flexible to be effective and include recovery. Doing a workout just to satisfy the plan is doing it backwards (Joe Friel).

Peer pressure can also lock you in to a daily training routine that may eventually wear you down, both physically and mentally.  It is very important that you programme enough rest into your training programme, to able to recover and build strength.

It is fairly common for athletes to sign up for a crash course to an event, for example, training from couch to olympic triathlon in just a few months.  This is certainly not unfeasible, but careful attention to rest and recovery will be key to surviving your first event without injury or burn-out.

Humans are actually designed to be endurance athletes. Originally, we were hunters, sprinting across plains in pursuit of a feast.  With the evolution of man, some were blessed with more endurance genes than others but this does not mean that the possibility of training for endurance sports is not out of reach.  To produce improvements in fitness you need exceed your limits gradually, and then plan time for recovery in between.  Your body needs time to adjust and adapt, your bones will adapt and become stronger, your muscles will improve and you will become more mobile.

If you are starting from the couch, or a period of little training, during the first four weeks of hard training, your Chronic Training Load (CTL) will demonstrate how much training stress you can cope with. The more stress an athlete can handle the greater their fitness. If this is monitored over a four week period and it is seen that the rate is creeping up too quickly, you are at risk of overreaching in your training and signs of overtraining syndrome will kick in.

How do I know if I am over training?

If you are showing signs of relentless fatigue, with those heart wrenching training sessions with poor performances, general lethargy and low motivation, you absolutely need to look at how you are training and if you are factoring in enough recovery.  If you are getting into the car after training and bursting in to tears of frustration and disappointment, and your attitude about life is generally negative this is a real danger sign and some immediate measures need to be taken before you train yourself into a dark black hole!

According to an article written by Joe Friel, if you keep pushing these boundaries you’re likely to experience full-blown over-training which is similar to having a disease such as mononucleosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Lyme disease  It could take you weeks if not months to to get rid of these symptoms.

How do I remedy this?

There are two very important words in the remedy recipe, which are nutrition and sleep.

Also, make sure that your training plan includes a period of rest, for example, two or three weeks of training and a week of recovery.  Keep track of the rate of your CTL increase, and you should be able to train progressively while making fitness gains and avoiding the downsides.  You can use Training Peaks as a tool to monitor your CTL.

If your CTL is increasing at a rate greater than 5 to 8 TSS per week, you are probably training too hard.  To learn how to understand and monitor your CTL (and TSS), click here.

It is important to remember that after completing a hard or long training session, your body needs time to recover and regenerate.  This process involves repairing the damage to your muscles, replenishing glycogen stores, allowing the immune system to strengthen. This happens by actively completing recovery workouts to help the body get rid of the lactic acid that accumulates in your body during training.

Plan your training try to group the quality sessions close together, so you have the rest of the week to recover, and allow you to be ready for some longer weekend training.  The bottom line is training should always be progressive week to week in small amounts, with recovery built in every 3rd to 4th week depending upon the individual.

Cupping before ITU Auckland

You could also look at the many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture,  cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, and supplements.  Try using the compression socks from Runderwear, they are really comfortable with a good fitting.  Personally I prefer them to Compressport.

Here are some key points to consider when looking at recovery:

  1. If you are not using a power meter to monitor your training zones, make sure you have set HR training zones that you follow for every workout. (You’ll need a Heart Rate Monitor to do this).
  2. Plan your nutrition for training and follow that plan. This will allow for better results while training and allows you to access glycogen stores for aerobic training.
  3. Follow workouts with recovery drinks within a 30-minute window after training. After 90 minutes, continue your recovery nutrition two to three hours post-exercise by eating a whole foods meal. It is fine to eat earlier than this if you are hungry but do not delay this post-exercise meal more than three hours. Try to eat every couple of hours so your blood sugar levels stay even which can lessen your immune system stress.
  4. After a training session on a hot day, immediately cool your body down if your core temp feels hot by drinking cool fluids, sitting in cool water or air conditioning and pouring iced water over your head. Cooling off will halt continued dehydration and increase your appetite.
  5. Monitor your resting heartrate before you get up in the morning. This is done before you lift your head off the pillow.  Do this for 7 – 10 days and then take an average.  If you find the morning HR is 3-5 beats above your average you need to schedule a recovery day.
  6. Build in active and passive recovery workout days in your training. Active recovery workouts would include easy bike rides on flat roads or on a trainer.  Keep your gear on the small ring in the front, with the 2 lowest gears at the back and drink a recovery drink while you are riding.  You could also do easy swims that include some light drills sets.  Avoid running on active recovery days – the impact is too much to allow for recovery.

Passive recovery is no training at all. Take the day and relax, get some extra sleep, eat well, get a massage or soak in a hot tub with magnesium salts.  I recommend Zechsal, and you can put a few flakes in water and drink it as well. They also make a fantastic body spray for those sore and tight muscles.

Furthermore:

  1. Make sure you mix up your long training on the weekends. Don’t always follow the long ride on Friday with the long run on Saturday.  Try doing the long run on the day before or a moderate ride and run on the same day followed by an aerobic swim the next day for recovery.
  2. Listen to your body!  If you are feeling tired, then take an easy day. Don’t let peer pressure, long term goals and the mirror tell you otherwise.  If you really are feeling wiped out take a few days off and then slide back into training after that break.
  3. Sleep.  Stick to early nights and a good night’s sleep as much as possible, and have power naps if you have the flexibility to take them every once and a while. They pay huge dividends to recovery and immune system strengthening.

Rest, recover and resume.

See you out there ladies.

 

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