Recovery: a biological necessity

Recovery is not always a straight forward aspect to racing and training for endurance events. Even for those who take the necessary days off, the quality of recovery is often an unconsidered element within the recovery phase. Are you off your feet? Are you actively rejuvenating both physically AND mentally? This might look like a whole lot of foam rolling, but are you doing something engaging and unwinding so that you can mentally reload? As valuable members of an American society, we are all to often drawn into the “more the better” mentality and this can have the potential to derail a training progress.

Training improvement works in three phases. The first is inducing training stress which will decrease performance from baseline markers. This is due to the resulting fatigue from a training load. Phase two is the recovery phase during which the body recovers from the training stress. Phase three is the adaptive phase when the body adapts to the load of the most recent training stress and establishes homeostasis above baseline markers. As Dr. Vern Neville (from Loghbough University) puts it, “recovery isn’t just important, it’s a biological necessity”.

There are several different modes through which you can recover effectively. Each person will recover differently, even within an individual’s own training season. This is due to environmental, social, and personal life stresses. Each time you come to a recovery phase, it is important to make sure that the quality of your recovery is such that you give your body AND mind the chance to fully rejuvenate. You might think of this as a long term investment for your overall performance in a given season.

Massage

Massage therapy can be immensely useful in keeping your muscular system functioning at it’s highest capacity. This is also a helpful way to maintain injuries. Finding a massage therapist that works well for your body might take a few tries, but can be a powerful ally in your recovery strategy.

Yoga

I find yoga to be a great way to unwind and check in with my body. To be locked in a room for an hour+ stretching is often off putting to those of us that struggle to sit still for any extended period of time. However, if you find a class that works for you, this can be a great way to really check in and see what is tightening up, what you might keep an eye on in your next week of training in terms of icing and stretching. It is also a great way to let your mind change gears and recover.

Compression

Compression gear is everywhere these days. However, compression is a great way to recover. Whether you get a set of fancy compression boots or you simply use a pair of compression legging or sleeves, this can increase the blood flow to your muscles and allow them to recover more effectively.

Antioxidants

When you train extensively, your body releases “free radicals” or oxygen species that can cause damage to your cells. Adding antioxidants into your recovery phase can be useful to neutralize the damage of these oxygen species. Note that, studies have found that free radicals play an important roll in the adaptive phase of your training, so using antioxidants over an extensive period of time could interfere with your training gains. However, used for short periods of time that coincide with your recovery will very likely help in making the most of your recovery period.

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