“Anyone can work hard. Do you have the discipline to recover?” – Lauren Fleshman, U.S. champion in the 5000 meters, 2006 and 2010.
After finishing a beast of a workout where you hit all of the intervals and managed to keep your pace despite fatigue, your mental confidence should be high and you should be another step closer to reaching your goal.
And you will be – if you recover correctly.
Sadly, many athletes do not understand that without proper recovery their grueling sessions are doing more damage than good. After a tough training session, your body is in a fatigued state. You have broken down tissues and muscles, and your energy stores are depleted.
The following three steps will lead to a more effective recovery process. Although the steps are far from earth-shattering and truly rather simplistic, they’re critical to achieving a proper recovery.
Step One: Plan It
You have all of your training sessions outlined – likely down to the minute. So if recovery is as much – if not more – important than the training itself, shouldn’t we plan our recovery as well?
Decide ahead of time what nutrition will be required to replenish your energy stores after each session. Consider the availability of quality nutrients and if you’ll need to pack your snacks or meals. Additionally, plan how you’ll increase circulation to jumpstart the recovery process. Will you use elevation? Cryotherapy? Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NES)?
Not only is it necessary to plan recovery for the times immediately following your workouts, but it’s also essential to have an overall plan to rest the body. Following a sleep schedule will help you stay injury free, have enough energy for the increased demands of training, and aid in performance gains. Your training schedule should also include recovery days and recovery weeks.
Step Two: Do It
Once you have your recovery plan, don’t blow it off. This is just as much a part of your training as the active sessions. Don’t skip the foam roller because you don’t want to; stick with your post-workout protein shake and walk past the smoothie bar. Record the late-night movie on TV to watch another time so that you don’t stay up past your bedtime. Follow through!
Step Three: Record It
Finally, write down what you’re doing for recovery. Just as you have the ability to look back at your training sessions to analyze what’s going well and areas that you can continue to improve, you can also evaluate your recovery. Always feeling sluggish on Thursday afternoon? Take a look at your Wednesday nutrition. Felt awesome on your Saturday run? What did you do for recovery on Friday to help you reach this state?
So while it may be simplistic, following these three steps will help ensure more effective recovery so that you can make it through that beast of a workout each time!
Stay disciplined. Recover right.
Elizabeth James is an Ironman, a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and a TriDot Coach. She made the transition from running marathons to triathlon in 2012 and has completed sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and full Ironman distances. She and her husband, Charles, live in Garland, Texas. Her TriDot Score is 33-35-45.