Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Recovery, The Effortless Workout

One of the things that makes training for triathlons difficult, especially when you have a full time job, family, and other responsibilities outside the sport, is getting adequate recovery. Your performance is basically the sum of your stress (or workout load/intensity) added to your recovery. But all too often when obligations work in direct opposition of planned training, recovery can be one of the first things removed from the training adaptation equation.

I've been thinking about this a lot this week. Probably because for the last two days I've gotten out of bed and haven't felt recovered at all. I also have been quite sore. Everywhere. So what caused my additional fatigue and continued soreness?

This morning I went to ride my bike. I had planned an hour tempo ride with a heart rate range between 130 and 145 bpm with a cadence between 95-100 rpm. From the beginning my legs were on fire. And my heart rate was drifting over 145 after about 20 minutes. I cut the ride short at 30 minutes and went to yoga. In yoga, fortunately the normal teacher was out with a sore throat, I was able to work through some of the soreness in my thighs and relax a bit. The substitute's class wasn't too physically challenging. But I still felt fatigued.

The good thing about yoga is that it can be both therapeutic and reflective. It occurred to me I'd made some new changes to my diet because of allergies recently. I hadn't gotten as much protein as I was used to. I also realized I hadn't taken a nap yet this week. Normally I nap daily for at least an hour. Monday I had gone shopping for some of my new foods during my usual nap time. And Tuesday, I had taken over someone's rolfing appointment when they weren't able to make it. My rolfer knows my schedule during the week is flexible and calls occasionally to let me fill a vacancy. Both days I had gone without a nap.

So between the change in my schedule and a subtle change in my diet, I wasn't recovering as I was accustomed. I came home from yoga and ate a Boca Burger (I don't eat these often but I do find the protein in them is readily accessible) and had a veggie/fruit/protein smoothie. Then I took a 3 hour nap. I woke up refreshed and "Look Ma no soreness!" Later I was able to complete my daily P90X workout (Shoulders and Arms) at the gym as well as play a little basketball.

I got lucky. I was able to pin down the cause of my poor recovery and fatigue and correct it within a couple of days. Next time you feel a little more fatigued than normal, or have some muscle soreness that seems to linger just a little too long, make sure you are getting the nutrition you need and the rest you require. Make sure you schedule your recovery and stick to it just like your other workouts.


Anonymous said...

Muscle recovery is my largest issue with training. I just have not found the right balance. I am curious if you've experimented with supplements and your thoughts. I heard through a friend about a new product called ARX. Its supposed to help you recovery faster using all natural ingredients. Have you heard of this? I went to the web site and read through the information, but I am never sure about how much this stuff really works.

ace said...

This is a good question. In order to simplify things for my own understanding, I usually look at muscle recovery from two vantage points. The first is the actual physical condition of the muscles themselves. Are they tired, stiff, achy, or all of the above. Depending on the physical condition, I try to address this in the hours and days following the workout causing the stress. For me this begins with some light Yoga to recover flexibility and range of motion. This could progress to a salt bath, then a massage if the physical condition still seems off.

For the nutritional needs of the muscles, I've been inclined to try to use real food as a primary recovery tool but some supplements can be quite good. Personally, I've found the better my overall diet is the less I depend on supplements. I am aware that common wisdom that says an athlete can't eat enough of the right foods to get all the nutrients they require but I wonder about this. Looking at the diets of Kenyan marathoners seems to contradict this thinking.

I haven't personally used ARX. But thanks for letting me know about the product. I'll give it a look.

In the end I think we are all and experiment of one, so what works really well is usually a process that we must undertake with some patience.