Recovery is an around the clock process. You may be one of the hardest trainers in the world, but if you don't let your body recover you will never reap the rewards of your hard work. It is in the interval between workouts that your adaptations for increased muscle strength and endurance occur. It is crucial that the proper nutrients in the correct proportions are ingested before, during, and following a workout or race. It is also important to ensure that you are getting enough rest, and to look after all those aches and pains through adequate stretching, icing, and massage. You also need to monitor your resting heart rate to watch for signs of fatigue or illness, which can tell you that you are not getting enough recovery.
Way back in 1963, a physician at McGill University, Dr. Hans Selye, who is considered to be the father of stress related research, demonstrated that if rats were stressed and then allowed to recover they became stronger. If however, the rats were stressed again before they recovered, they became weaker. These rats were victims of the overtraining syndrome. When it comes to stress similar adaptive-defence mechanisms exist in human life forms.
The implications of this information are that after a particularly intense workout or race it is critical that it be followed up by a recovery workout. While this will facilitate stress adaptation it will also serve to flush your system of lactic acid. Full recovery between races or intense training sessions may take on a different protocol for each athlete, but the concept remains the same. You need to be icing any small aches that have popped up, you need to keep stretching to ensure that you stay flexible, and you need to get massage to help flush your system. On top of this regime you also need to exercise enough to stimulate active recovery but not enough to introduce a training load. Simple workouts of 30-120 minutes at a low heart rate, 25-40 beats below lactate threshold, at a comfortable speed will aid recovery.
After winning the 2001 Canadian National Championships race and with only 6 days before the Toronto World Cup race, Simon Whitfield spent his time relaxing, getting massage, and doing a few workouts. All but one of his training sessions were at low heart rates, with his only workout around lactate threshold being his track session held on Wednesday. The speed workout helped “open him up” and activated the clearance process of removing lactate. The recovery workouts helped him to avoid inducing training stress, but also helped speed the recovery process by increasing blood flow, accelerating the inflow of nutrients, and reducing muscle soreness. It obviously worked as he went on to win the Toronto race.
10 Steps For Quicker Recovery
1. Make sure you begin to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores with high glycemic index carbohydrates within 30 minutes after a workout.
2. Make sure recovery workouts between intense training sessions are only long enough to stimulate the active recovery process.
3. Select a sport drink that will maximally stimulate insulin, to speed glycogen replenishment and rebuilding of protein. A carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4 grams carbohydrate per gram of protein is ideal.
4. Power Naps -- take them as often as you can.
5. Limit the amount of protein and fat consumed in the immediate post-exercise period. Too much protein post-exercise hinders recovery by slowing hydration and carbohydrate replenishment. The optimum ratio is 4 grams of carbohydrate per gram of protein.
6. Keep your intensity below 65% of maximum heart rate during recovery workouts. This helps promote the recovery process by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle soreness without inducing fatigue.
7. Incorporate antioxidants into the nutrition program. Antioxidants can help protect against post-exercise muscle damage, thereby reducing soreness.
8. Drink fluids containing sodium, potassium and magnesium during and following your races.
9. Massage. The professionals get one just about every day.
10. Record your morning heart rate with a heart rate monitor to begin establishing trends in your sleeping and morning heart rate.