7/6/13

My top ways to recover after a long/hard workout


I don't think I know of any athlete or fitness enthusiast who doesn't like to recover quickly. I know in some weird way we love the post-workout "hurt" but if it lingers on to a point that form suffers, motivation declines and fatigue ensues, it's likely that you are wishing that a) you didn't overdo it with your workout or b) when will I feel "normal" again. 

So for those who have tried to tweak their recovery routine, I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways (aside from nutrition) that I use for recovery. 

Now I must preface this and say that training or working out "hard" is only one component of making performance gains and often times it doesn't lead to successful performances or reaching goals. Training smart, on the other hand, is where the magic is made. When designing a training plan, it is important to factor in time for pre and post workout nutrition (sorry - I had to put in one nutrition suggestion in this blog :) but also for warm-up/cool down and of course, your recovery to ensure that you can be consistent with training. I see/hear far too many athletes who are pressed against the clock and rush out of bed to squeeze in a workout/training and then rush off to work or daily tasks. Totally fine in my  book to "get 'er done" early and to maintain an active lifestyle BUT it is important that you consider the necessary time spent on preparing your body before and after workouts for quality training. Thus, if you have 90 minutes for a run or bike or swim in the morning, consider the 10-20 min you may need to warm-up, the 10-15 min you need to cool down and then additional 10 minutes or so to properly recovery. I don't think that you'd be upset with a 60 minute workout although it isn't the 90 minute workout that you planned. However, considering the time you spent on taking care of your body, you can thank me later when you see consistent performance gains and more enjoyment with your balanced training plan. 


Today's workout was all about "race prep". Many coaches like to call this period of training "peaking" and although I do not want to peak right now (but instead on the 28th in Placid), it is important that I am considering every aspect of race day such as my nutrition, clothing and pacing. I practice, practice and practice these things all the time but nearing race day, I realize that my body may not make drastic gains in fitness but to ensure a great race day, I need to know what my body is capable of doing for 140.6 miles. Therefore, finding that right power zone is important on the bike to let me know what I can do for pacing off the bike. Similarly, designing the perfect run/walk strategy is important to me as well as "testing" all types of scenarios, including the ones that Ironman athletes hate to do....hold back on the first 6 miles of the Ironman run and holding back on the first half of the 112 mile bike. 

I am really pleased with today's workout, despite being hot and windy (like usual), my body performed well and it was a big confidence builder for race day. 

2 hour bike: 
30 min 'warm' up at 10 watts lower than predicated IM race pace
Main set: 3 x 20 min @ IM race pace watts w/ 2 min EZ in between.
Steady effort home, pace similar to warm-up although it felt much easier after doing the IM race pace intervals which was not too taxing on my body. 
Total: 42 miles

Transition to run: 
15 mile run, 2 hours and 14 minutes (including walk breaks)
Strategy: run ~8:20-8:30 min/mile pace, walk 30 seconds in between (to resist fatigue and to maintain good form since I believe in saving my best performance for race day)


Post workout......time to RECOVER!!!

1) Active recovery

This is not a consistent thing for me but there are some workouts (ex. running) where I like to go for a short EZ spin afterward for 20-30 min to loosen my legs OR jump in the pool to let my body enjoy non weight bearing activity. I try not to sit (although I did for this picture to show off my lovely triathlete-in-training compression socks + tri/cycling short tan lines) within the first hour after a workout as I find I get extremely tight so this active recovery helps my body out. I usually do no more than 30 minutes of some type of active recovery or I just walk Campy. 

2) Epson Salt Bath

We always have bags of Epson Salt in our house. I typically buy from Wal-mart, Big Lots or CVS/Walgreens. Epson salt baths are great to help relax the muscles and you can choose warm or cold water, whichever makes you happy. If I am short on time after a hard workout, I just grab a handful and use it as a scrub on my legs to soak in my pores. It works wonders. 

3) Compression
  
On goes the mobile ice bath after my muscles are a bit more relaxed. I LOVE 110% Play Harder and I have been using them for years. I wear compression while I train (always) such as tri shorts while running and cycle/tri shorts while cycling. I never wear running shorts because I believe compression works for me. I also wear calf sleeves in races and compression socks (CEP) in training/racing as well. I wrote an article a while back on compression and I have always felt like it helps me. I also have compression tights (Zoot for me, CEP for Karel) and several types of compression shorts. What's great about compression when you aren't training is that you can easily wear it while traveling or under many types of clothing to help with recovery, at least for the first few hours post workout/racing. Although, I am not afraid to rock my compression in public :)

             
                          
                                    (on my way to Kona for the IM World Championships in 2011)


4) Trigger point therapy


I typically wait a bit (after I eat a meal) to do some type of TP therapy on my body, particularly for longer workouts. For more intense workouts or weekly workouts, I may use the roller or ball soon after for my back and piriformis just to reduce any soreness. The thing I always do though is dedicate 10-15 minutes EVERY evening to using this kit and stretching. Yes, I am human and many times I do not want to do it and I just want to tell myself I'll do it in the morning. But it really helps me out and I want to be consistent with my training so thus I have to be consistent with my recovery. The Trigger Point Therapy kit comes with a helpful DVD which you can also find great videos on line as to how to properly get out your trigger spots. 

5) Extra's
Aside from nutrition, I get massages once or twice a month and I try to make sure that I keep up with balanced training because there is nothing better than going to a massage therapist who is sport specific and having him/her just "find" something to focus on. The thing that is the worst is going to a massage therapist as if they are the healer of everything and will cure all your aches and pains in 1 session. I have a few great massage therapist and they all know my body very well which is great, because my body can be quite difficult to understand at times (hence visiting many doctors and getting multiple imaging testing done for my chronic hip issues). 
I know napping is important but I just can't do it. I sleep wonderfully at night, almost always 8 hours a night is exactly what I need. I never do less than 7 and I get restful sleep which is important (aside from the occasional cat making noises at 3am and waking us up or Campy deciding that a King size bed is not enough room for him so he has to press against me under the covers). Karel is a great napper, just 20-30 minutes at a time and he is good to go. I guess my brain has a hard time shutting off so I just make sure that I get to bed at a reasonable hour (often times a bit earlier on the weekends) to maintain consistent sleeping....as I believe the sleeping is the key to keeping me sick-free for the past 6-7 years as I have yet to have the flu (no flu shot) or cold. I'm sure diet helps but I really believe that quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and mood. 
A good attitude is important. I don't like to dwell on workouts that did not go as planned or "off" training. I try to keep my mind in a positive state which is important as if you start to doubt your fitness or think too extreme, you may find yourself doing unnecessary things the rest of the day such as restricting food, overtraining (junk miles) or pushing harder than needed. Try to reflect about past situations in order to better plan for the future. And to help with better quality workouts, be sure you train hard and recover harder. 

Happy training!