Rest and Recovery — The Underutilized Training Strategy

Type: Easy Ride
Distance: 20.16 miles
Time: 1:00:31
Average Watts: 169 watts
Normative Power: 176 watts
Average Heart Rate:
Total Work: 614 kJ
Average Speed: 20.16 mph

It was a good workout this morning. I really like interval workouts that challenge me — they are a great way to start the day. This was a session on the bike with longer intervals. Today I had a five minute warm-up and then did two minute intervals with three minutes of rest between each. The intervals were tougher today than yesterday, but I did take it a little more easy during the three minute rest periods. I did forget to open the window and it got really, really hot in Mike’s Pain Cave. There is still too much snow to get outside for my workouts. I think the snow should be gone within the next week, so I will be able to get back outside to workout again. That will be a happy day as there are only so many times that I can actually stand to watch Gladiator and 300 while on my trainer or treadmill.

Rest and Recovery

One of the most important areas that many endurance athletes either totally ignore or do not use to the level that it could be is rest and active recovery. I think the nature of many endurance athletes drives them to always be working out or at least thinking of the next workout they can complete. So few of people who are new to running or triathlon know about the full benefits of rest and active recovery, that I thought I would put together a list of a couple of my favorite strategies in these areas. Because this list will not be comprehensive, please feel free to add your own suggestions as a comment. I hope to get a pretty decent discussion on this topic started.

1. Foam Roller — Ah the foam roller. If you really use one the way it is designed I would call you a liar if you told me you liked to use one. There are entire websites dedicated to the use of the roller, but to sum them all up, when properly used the foam roller can help you stretch muscles and tendons and break up light scar tissue. I have friends who have solved IT Band issues with their foam rollers. This is typically called myofascial release and has also been known to help shin splints as well. I haven’t used mine extensively this off-season, but I can guarantee that you will find me with one in the spring. Here is a great instructional video on the proper use of the foam roller…

2. Ice Bath — Oh ice bath, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. There is no easy way to get an ice bath in, but man do they help me after a really hard effort. I have read that ice baths constrict the blood vessels in the effected area and also can help reduce swelling. All I know is my legs feel much better after a long run if I take an ice bath. There is no easy way to get one started either. You really just have to suck it up. I will fill my tub up about halfway with cold water and sit down. I take a second to get used to the water and then dump a bucket of ice into the water. I try and distract myself by reading or something for the next 20 minutes and then I pop out. I don’t get into a hot shower or anything — I just let my body naturally warm my legs back up.

3. Yoga — Purists and more serious practitioners of yoga may disagree with me here, but I find yoga to be very relaxing and helpful to bring me back to my center. You can use an yoga practice to kick you butt and get a challenging workout in, but most of the time I use it for stretching and relaxation. If you are feeling run down and tired, take an hour and go through an yoga practice and just take it easy. I find with the measured breathing and analysis of my current behaviors, yoga also has mental and even spiritual benefits too.

4. The Power Nap — Who among us has not gone on a long ride/run and come home and taken a two hour nap in the afternoon. I swear that I live by naps on the weekends. If I could take a nap every day I would. If you are an endurance athlete, you know and I don’t have to explain to you how truly spectacular post-workout naps can be. Convincing your significant other to snuggle up with you for a nap = awesomeness.

5. Post-Workout Meal — I will admit this is one of the harder things on this list for me to do. Usually I am not starving after a hard workout. Actually, it is usually the opposite — I am never hungry after a hard effort. I am sure it has something to do with the absorption of the calories that I took in during my workout. Regardless, this is very important to help you replenish the Glycogen stores in your muscles and to help you prepare for your next workout. When I am in my two-a-day workout mode, I have to watch this very carefully. Optimally, you should ingest a mix of protein and carbs. The ratio is 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein. The 4:1 ratio is pretty widely accepted and you do not need expensive recovery drinks to meet this need. In fact, a recent test showed that chocolate milk is optimal for this purpose.

6. Good Old Fashioned Day Off — That’s right, your body needs a day off from exercise and intense physical activity from time to time. I take mine one day a week and I feel fantastic during the first workout after a day off. You body needs time to repair and recover, and the best way to do that is spend time with your family doing something else. If you take time off from focused training, your body will thank you later. It is the same reason we taper before and important race — your body needs the time to adapt to the stress and translate these adaptations to improvements in performance.

7. Massage — My wife had a tough time convincing me to get a membership to Massage Envy, but I have been really grateful for that membership ever since. Getting the right massage from someone who knows your body is a fantastic way to help you work out all the kinks that develop in your muscles. The gal who does mine can find knots that I did not even know were there and I can target them with additional stretching. I don’t love going to get a massage more than once every four to six weeks because I feel like I got beat down. But, I am always glad I went…

So what are your recovery strategies? Care to share any secret remedies with us?

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...