I have a simple equation that I think all athletes should think more about …
Accurate Training + Optimal recovery = Peak Performance
Most people do not focus enough on
the recovery aspect of athletic development and instead simply train themselves
in to the ground. They wonder why their race results don’t reflect the hard
work they did in training. The problem is not that they are not fit enough but
that they are tired, tight and sore and unable to operate at optimal levels. When you don’t take care of yourself
you develop muscle adhesions which prevent the muscles from contracting
properly. Furthermore, these adhesions prevent you from operating at full range
of motion which inhibits biomechanics. When athletes don’t focus on refueling
and rehydrating they overtime deplete their body’s stores of the very fuels
they need to go fast. When you exercise you break down the muscles and cause
inflammation and small tears to occur. Part of the recovery process is allowing
yourself time to let this inflammation and damage to heal and grow back
stronger than it was before the session. Luckily, there are many very simple
things you can do to optimize your recovery so that you absorb the training you
do and are ready for your next hard session.
There are 2 types of recovery:
intensity movements that promote the “flushing out” of your muscles
that don’t involve you putting in any real physical effort
Here are some of the key
strategies you can use…..
Ice. The application of ice to sore areas and sitting in iced
water reduces localized and general inflammation rapidly.
Antioxidants. These free radical scavengers “mop
up” the cellular damage caused by training and the conversion of oxygen to
energy. In particular, Vitamins C, E, Ginkgo Biloba and CoEnzyme 10. Grape seed
extract is a very efficient form to get your C & E. Make a high quality
antioxidant supplement part of your daily arsenal.
Hydration. We know that 2% dehydration reduces
performance by 20% during exercise but chronic dehydration caused by not taking
in enough water and electrolytes each and every day is a serious performance
inhibitor. So hydrate
like it is going out of fashion. Train with a carbohydrate and electrolyte
beverage and look for at least 20 fl oz of this per hour every hour.
Protein & Carbs. Protein is essential for rebuilding
the muscle tissue that exercise damages and for keeping the immune system
strong. Carbohydrate is your endurance fuel. Ideally post exercise consume a
carbohydrate : protein drink with a 3-5:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Look for
200 calories plus and be sure to get it in you within 15 minutes of completing
your session. Thereafter ensure that each meal is rich in high quality
carbohydrates and that each meal contains a protein source.
Massage. I suggest that every athlete in
serious training should get proper sports massage on a weekly basis and more
frequently if possible. Pro-cyclists can often have up to 14 massages a week.
These include pre-event, warm-up massages, post event flush massages and deeper
body work to iron out adhesions. The benefits are obvious and huge. Oxygen is
pumped to the tissues and organs improving circulation and therefore the
removal of waste products from the body. Cramps and spasms are calmed, the
immune system is boosted by stimulating lymph flow and flexibility increased
allowing a full range of movement.
adjustments are magical for many people. When you are out of alignment the
muscles, tendons and ligaments are operating at false tensions and therefore
contract inefficiently. A regular visit to your chiropractor keeps your joints
in top shape, increases energy flow and coordination
Stretching. A short yet regular program is
better than a rare long stretch session. Pre-exercise, stretching gets you
ready for the optimal movements by increasing the range of motion of your
joints and muscles. Post exercise, stretching reduces muscle tension, increases
the range of the joints and increases blood circulation. Check out the chapter
on flexibility for examples of the various stretches you can do.
Acupuncture. Many western practitioners frown on
this ancient art but I have personally seen magical results from people who use
it. Acupuncture is all about energy flow throughout the body. It can be used to
treat localized symptoms and the body as a whole by correcting and balancing
the flow of “chi”.
The Foam Roller. This self-massage tool is great for
rolling out tight areas using your own bodyweight and movement. You can pick up
a 3 foot long foam cylinder for under $10. There are many great exercises that
you can do with it.
Cool-down. Don’t skimp on this vital part of a training session! I suggest an equal
warm-up and cooldown time allotment around every training session. The aim is to lower heart-rate
to near resting levels and to flush out metabolic waste created in the training
session such as lactate. We want to reduce blood
pooling in the muscles and reduce the potential of DOMS (delayed onset muscle
Sleep. Quality and quantity are important.
We are looking for deep restful sleep that leaves you feeling fresh and alert
on rising. It is during this deep sleep that growth hormone release is optimal
and it is this hormone release that promotes recovery. Strangely, it has been
found that athletes who use hypoxic sleeping tents get the performance benefit
not from increased blood chemistry but rather from a greater growth hormone
Days off. Sometimes simply doing nothing at
all is the best thing you can do to regenerate. Remember that a day off should
be total time off and not a day for running errands or other forms of exercise.
It’s amazing how many athletes ask if they can just lift weights on their day
off or go to yoga. My advice is to do as little as possible. Nap, get your feet
up and do nothing at all.
In summary, recovery should be built
in to every program, a constant focus and this is a rare case where more is