Training creates stress impulses, and these stress impulses create adaptive responses in the body. This adaptation can be either functional or non-functional. As athletes, we always aim for functional adaptations that improve performance.
Humans are adaptive machines, but we cannot always predict the ways in which our bodies will react. One workout sequence may develop your performance perfectly well for one training cycle and yet in another have a totally different effect. The way we influence the body to adapt functionally is through progressive increases in training load and also through recovery!
Athletes spend a lot of time adapting to an increasing training load. However, what is often left out is the other component of the equation, which is recovery.
Training + Recovery = Optimal (functional) adaptation = performance
The key is to optimize both components of the equation to achieve optimal adaptation and thus performance.
Everyone pretty much agrees that 1) a 3-4 week cycle of progressive increases in training load including a week of decreased training load; and 2) specific days off are very important to ensure adequate recovery. What is often missed or neglected is an intentional approach to recovery between workouts. Having an intentional recovery protocol between training bouts prepares the athlete more quickly for the next session and maximizes the opportunity to improve quickly.
Not being intentional and implementing a recovery protocol means athletes leave huge opportunities for performance gains on the table. They cannot train as hard, as long, or as often. Here are some key thoughts to take way.
- Eat & Drink – Ensure you have a pre workout meal and enter the workout well hydrated. Do not force the body into energy or hydration deficit before workouts.
- Warm up – Perform a complete warm up before executing a hard workout. Dynamic stretching, a slow jog/ride, and drills are excellent. This will maximize blood flow to the tissues, stimulate neuromuscular pathways, increase performance, and reduce injury risk.
- Eat & Drink – Ensure you walk into each workout with an appropriate nutrition & hydration plan for the intensity & duration of the workout. Execute the plan.
After workout recovery:
- Cool down – Perform an adequate cool down after a hard workout. Walk it out. Return muscles from a state of high tension to relaxation.
- Stretch – Always stretch and do it while still warm to ensure your muscles stay flexible.
- Eat & Drink – Eat your post workout recovery meal within 30 minutes of the workout including both protein (non soy) & carbohydrates to maximize the opportunity muscle resynthesis and to restore glycogen stores. This is especially important for women. Restore fluids lost through exercise.
- Ice – Ice joints and sore tendons after workouts.
- Rest/Nap – Put your feet up & get a cat nap. Nothing good comes from executing a hard workout and then standing on your feet all day.
- Eat – Ensure your diet is healthy & you are not in a low energy state. Eat fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, lean protein (non soy), and lean dairy throughout the day – 5 times a day to manage energy stores and blood sugar levels. Ensure you have the nutritional components to build muscle in response to training demand
- Massage – Roll your muscles to maintain flexibility & eliminate tightness
- Sleep – Human Growth hormone, essential to muscle repair & growth, is released as you sleep (typically in the 2-3rd hour of sleep). You get stronger when you sleep not when you are awake. So get to bed at a reasonable time & sleep.
Like training, where consistency is king, recovery benefits from a consistent approach as well.
Be intentional. Recovery is training.