“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of those tips that will kick your performance to the next level, without any inordinate expenditure of time or money. How are you going to reach your goals?
Today’s tip to enhance your performance is #29: Invest in Recovery
I have had a few requests from various parties recently about recovery – what are the whats and the hows and the whys of effective recovery?
There are – of course, since when was triathlon ever simple?! – many facets to post-exercise recovery, and many are open to debate so please let me know what I’ve forgotten or under/over-stated.
What is not in question is that proper recovery will boost performance by preventing injury and allowing you to perform at higher level for longer.
So, what should you be doing to recover after working out?
- Post-exercise warm down: do this purely for safety reasons if nothing else, as it allows your heart rate to return to a normal, resting state, and avoid a drop in blood pressure could drop and dizziness.
- Stretching: helps relax the muscles, flush out toxins and ultimately helps with flexibility which in turn helps prevent injury.
- Hydrate: hopefully you will be well hydrated from drinking throughout your workout, but be sure to drink plenty of fluids afterwards to aid recovery. We often lose weight while working out – this tends to be lost water. Drinking after training helps replace lost fluids and prevent sore muscles.
- Eat, eat, eat! as soon after training as possible, preferably within 30-60 minutes. Recommended foods vary, but some balance of protein and carbohydrates is important. Chocolate milk is on most lists as it contains both protein (to promote muscle repair) and simple carbs (to replenish glycogen). I like a banana as well. Make sure you have a good balanced meal after training to fuel your recovery.
- Massage: treat yourself to a pro or spend 10 minutes with your foam roller. One is more pleasurable than the next, but both methods may help flush out lactic acid, reduce swelling and heal faster.
- Naps & sleep: Get plenty of sleep to allow your muscles to recover. Increased sleep has been linked to improved performance, as when we are quietly (wait, do you snore?!) dreaming, our body is at work repairing our muscles.
- Cold/Hot therapy: in the form of hot/cold showers, ice baths and ice packs help boost circulation and flush out toxins. The other day I left my spinning class in my shorts and t-shirt went out into freezing weather on the way to the car. While all my muscles froze in the wind, this is NOT a recommended approach!
- Rest days: give yourself regular days off where you do nothing at all except enjoy some rest. While many feel the urge to keep training, a day off will allow you to perform better over the long term.
- Active recovery: is exercising at low-intensities and can include the warm-down immediately after a tough main set, or going for an easy swim shortly after your week’s long run. Studies show that rather than resting, active recovery helps flush out lactic acid and has psychological benefits – who doesn’t enjoy a nice, easy session from time-to-time?
There is a lot you can do to help you recover quickly and more effectively. While adopting the tricks above may take some practice, they are relatively easy and quick. Build them into your training plan and your daily routine.
Tons of equipment is available to help e.g. eye masks for a nap, ice packs, compression socks, foam roller, protein shakes and more.
Don’t just work hard during practice. Your training extends beyond your timetable and into recovery hours. The pay-offs will be clear over the course of a long season.
What have I missed? Vote now and I will try to include in the last couple of posts of the series!
The “31 Easy Tips” Series:
#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18: Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller
#22: Engage Your Core
#23: Don’t Break the Bank!
#24: Be Persistent and Patient (Like Skyscraper Builders)
#27: Race-day training
#28: Visualize Victory