Recovery is critical to both physical and mental performance. It’s not always easy to fit in, especially for the time-crunched athlete, but it should be a priority. I try to listen well to my body and always pay attention to its needs and whether it is properly recovering from training sessions. Recovery is not just “resting”… re-fueling adequately, stretching/foam rolling, massage therapy and sleep are all essential components of it.
After training, it’s important to re-hydrate and re-fuel within 30 minutes of finishing. Protein is important for muscle repair, but hydration is also very critical to recovery and performance. I personally enjoy real solid foods after workouts, but sometimes my stomach will only handle liquids, especially after longer harder runs. Read Stacy Sims’ article here on the importance hydration and recovery.
Self care takes time and discipline. Stretching and foam rolling, as well as doing some self massage are important while the muscles are warm. Post-exercise is an important time to get this in because it allows your body to absorb the day’s work and aids in prepping your body for the next training session. Focus on the trouble spots – no need to do everything. I have learned that if I have a 2 hour ride and have to leave 20 minutes after the ride, sometimes it’s better to cut the workout short by 10 minutes and use that time to do some self care. Recovery tights are also nice to wear after hard workouts.
Massage therapy is something I have recently been incorporating on a more regular basis. Thanks to Kevin Scalzo for his great work. Make sure to find a licensed massage therapist who can give you a deep tissue therapeutic massage, knows the bodies of athletes and is willing to work into the muscles most impacted through your activities. My coach, Cindi Bannink, who is also a massage therapist in Madison, WI, discusses the benefits of massage: “the effects of massage are cumulative, just like exercise. The more regularly you receive the benefits of massage, the more you’ll reap the advantages. This is preventative maintenance for a body that is being asked to perform day in and day out through training and racing. However much your budget can allow for a massage, get them, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.”
Get your Zzzz’s! You hear this all over, but how much has it affected your habits? Sleep is the time when the body and mind recover best. Go to bed early. Everyone’s bodies are different with their sleep demands and how much they can realistically get in. Personally, I don’t function or recover well if I get less than 7 hours of sleep. I aim for 8, but 9 would be optimal (although this is typically not possible). I like to swim with the Sierra Marlins Masters at 5:30am, but if I am going to bed with less than 7 hours of sleep, it usually doesn’t happen. So going to sleep early is absolutely critical for me! The National Sleep Foundation has released new recommendations for sleep times (sleep times). For adults, ages 18-64, it’s recommended to get between 7-9 hours. Remember that when you exercise regularly, your physical demands are higher and more sleep might be necessary.
Recovery is critical to your success as an athlete. Make sure you put it on your calendar just like exercise is, otherwise your body won’t be able to reap the benefits of the exercise.
Happy training and recovery!