Many athletes dread their days off. Tapers and rest weeks make them cranky and don’t even get me started on forced rest due to injury. What we’re forgetting when we complain is this magical formula: Training = Workout + Recovery.
Recovery is an important part of training particularly for endurance athletes and it’s something I have learned to embrace as part of my Ironman training.
1. EATING & DRINKING
Figuring out proper nutrition has been a pretty fun part of the Ironman journey. Over time I have started seeing my body as a machine. I’ve learned that post-workout I need to focus on rehydration and making sure I get food in my system within 30 minutes, followed by a larger meal within a couple of hours. The amount of calories I need varies depending on how many hours I’ve worked out, but it should be about 0.8-1.2 grams of carbs and 0.2-0.4 grams of proteins per kg of bodyweight per hour I’ve worked out (My resources for these numbers include Racing Weight, The Feed Zone & our Coach AJ). I’ll go into more details about this in a future nutrition post, but basically what it equates to is that post-workout I can enjoy yummy chocolate milk, fruit and veggie greek yogurt smoothies, yogurt parfaits…and sometimes even chocolate milkshakes!
Be honest, how many of you stretch after you workout?
When I was a dancer I would spend a lot of time stretching both after practice and at other times during the day. Runners and triathletes however are notoriously bad at stretching, but here’s a little secret; stretching is important.
After dealing with injuries for much of my running and cycling career, I finally added a post-workout stretching routine a couple of years ago and I have been almost injury free since. Some of my favorite stretches are the piriformis stretch, spinal twist, hip flexor stretch, pigeon and the IT band stretch. I also love using the foam roller on my legs, shoulders and back and a tennis ball for my feet.
I’m a fan of yin/restorative yoga, which uses props and focuses on deep stretching. Some people think it’s too slow, but I love it! Here’s a great sequence from Lizzie Fuhr on Popsugar.
3. GETTING A MASSAGE
The other recovery activity I attribute my lack of injuries to is my monthly massage. I know massages can be expensive, but they are so worth it! My massage therapist, Ginger, uses the Trager approach which focuses on relaxation and mindful, natural movement and it has helped me so much! She has helped me become more mindful about my strokes in the pool and on Wednesday we started working on my run strides too (I learned Sunday I drop my right hip when I run, so Ginger and I are going to see if we can fix that).
4. USING COMPRESSION GEAR
The research on the effectiveness of compression gear varies, but I am a believer! I love my compression long sleeve shirt after a swim workout and swear by my compression socks or calf sleeves after a bike or run workout.
I used to make fun of Pablo’s need for 8+ hours of sleep. I firmly believed in the quote “No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep.” Even after my friend, who is a fitness instructor, told me that all she would do on busy work days was workout, sleep and eat, I didn’t take sleep seriously…sleeping a lot, I used to think, was a waste of time. Well, I was wrong.
Great things DO happen when you sleep, especially if you’re an athlete! As our coach says, if you skimp on sleep, you may as well not do your workouts. That’s probably a bit extreme, but the point is that sleep is a super important part of your training. When you rest your muscles rebuild themselves and your body adapts to the stress you are putting it through when you workout. You might not look back on life and remember the nights you had plenty of sleep, but without those nights you won’t have great things to look back to during the day either!
How do you recover?