I am wired such that in just about everything I do, my approach is: work hard... Tired? Work harder!
While I had weekly days off during my years skating and rowing, up until working with Greg Mueller, my triathlon training was structured such that I wouldn’t get a day off until I was nearly at my breaking point. Adam and I would joke about my mom’s refrain whenever I complained about being tired: “why don’t you take a day off?” In the past year or so, I have learned – sometimes the hard way – that while working hard is important, recovery is equally so. More is not necessarily better!
This winter, Greg and I are working to improve how I recover. The more performance I require of my body, the more important recovery becomes, especially given my injuries in past years. But that doesn’t mean that even recreational/beginner athletes can’t benefit from good habits when it comes to recovery! On the contrary, it’s even better to engrain good habits in your routine as you get started and build your fitness.
In the spirit of it never being too soon to recover diligently, I thought I’d share a few things I’m working on, why, and the impact my changes thus far have had.
- Daily Schedule: It is tempting to separate the “stress” we incur from training, work, life, etc. But as Greg says, “everything effects everything.” Your body doesn’t care where stress is coming from. So this year, I’ve started scheduling in transition time between class/meetings/calls/workouts so I’m not SPRINTING from one to another and perpetually late. It’s incredible what a difference it has made for to be able to (somewhat) calmly move from one commitment to another! I can focus better and live in the moment.
- Diet – I am (or was) an ice cream addict. I used to easily down a pint a night (plus toppings!). On Jan 1 of this year, I cut it out of my diet. Cold turkey. Our bodies are like machines – garbage in, garbage out. I decided (with a nudge from Coach) that if I am working hard and expecting a lot from my body, my fuel should align with that. It was insanely hard at first (and I admittedly still treat myself to a bit of chocolate after dinner), but I now feel stronger and more even-keeled energy-wise as I’ve replaced those ice cream calories with real food.
- Hydration – 100+ ounces per day is my goal! I’m historically bad about this, so I recently decided to mark an “X” in my TrainingPeaks log everyday I hit it. I've also restocked my favorite First Endurance mixes, which help keep me hydrated properly during and after workouts so I have no excuse! It’s a work in progress, but creating that accountability for myself is key.
- Sleep – The most magical form of recovery, and often the first thing to go when we’re busy! Especially as an athlete, getting enough sleep is critical – studies have shown it and I FEEL it when I don’t get enough. This year, I have made a special point to plan my workflow ahead and schedule my many b-school group meetings to shoot for a MINIMUM of 8 hours a night.
- Active Recovery – Massage and physical therapy/maintenance exercises are critical to maintain training load over time. This is particularly true for me given past injuries, but as Dr. P reminds me, it is important for any athlete at any level to maximize performance and prevent injury. I honestly didn’t realize just how impactful this aspect of recovery could be until I incorporated it into my routine. Even just 10 minutes of myrtls/stability work and a good roll after each run make a difference! Rolling is a particularly effective alternative to massage that keeps me loose, limber, (and under budget!) and ready to go for that next run.
What can you do to recover better? Don’t wait - pick one thing, do it well, and go from there. Each little change adds up.