Whether you are training for your first Super-sprint triathlon, seeking a place on the GB Olympic squad for Tokyo 2020, or dipping your toes in to the waters of ‘going long’, one thing that you will all have in common is that you will have a ‘main training session’ planned each week, but how many of you also plan a main session recovery and what does that even look like? Read on for a few ideas.
Seems counter-intuitive right, do more exercise as a way to recover from a training set? But active recovery is actually a really effective session with more and more people incorporating it into their training plans as a complimentary session to the harder work. These active recovery sessions actually help to flush out the waste products and lactic that builds up in the muscles after an intense session and in the long run will help strengthen your muscles and aid quicker recovery too.
Active recovery sets can also be very beneficial to your mental health, it keeps the body ticking over and ensures you aren’t filled with doubts because you haven’t trained, you get the endorphin release from exercise and you get a chance to mix it up and just enjoy being active.
A short zone 2 run, a gentle spin out on the bike, or some easy lengths/laps of the pool or lake whichever you choose you’ll feel the benefit.
Indeed, why not use these sessions to explore a new trail or cycle route, remember as it’s a recovery session you won’t be pushing hard and thus you can take in and enjoy your surroundings more. Haven’t seen that friend for a while as you are both on very different training blocks? Well, why not try and align an active recovery session and head out for a gentle run and chat.
STRETCH / YOGA / MASSAGE
Something that most Triathletes, in fact, why stop at triathletes, most athletes, neglect is stretching but why? Some light stretch work can help relieve muscle stiffness, improve motion and flexibility and even has the benefit of helping you to relax and de-stress.
Add yoga to the mix and you see further benefits that include improved muscle strength and tone and potential injury prevention benefits as well.
Not keen on Yoga, then why not try a massage instead, lots of similar benefits to be gained from a regular massage session, or better yet combine the two for a big tick in the recovery box!
The Zone3 Compression range is another great way of helping with your recovery. Wearing the Calf guards, shorts or tights after a hard workout for a minimum of 2 hours can increase your recovery time. After exercise blood can stagnate, whilst muscles become fatigued, achy and stiff, Compression can help to maintain good circulation through the tried muscles, which means more oxygen and nutrient return for improved performance and faster recovery.
Whether it is a sports nutrition bar, or a plate of ‘real food’ be sure to get something protein (helps repair and build muscle) rich in to your body post-exercise, and look out for foods with Healthy fats (promotes muscle growth) as well, Salmon for instance is a great post work-out meal.
However one of the easiest and best post-workout foods is Eggs, whether you boil, scramble or poach them, eggs pack in a big punch of protein and they are both quick and easy to prepare as well!
Be sure to stay well hydrated during and after your training sessions. Whether you use electrolyte drinks to help replace the salts that you lose through sweat, or just plain old water, the importance of staying hydrated should not be underestimated especially given the benefits it has for muscle repair and fatigue reduction.
That’s right, good old-fashioned rest! Having an active recovery session in your plan is great and certainly has a number of benefits, but the importance of rest should not be underestimated either.
It gives your body a chance to repair any damage and gives the niggles, knocks and strains a bit of a chance to recover. It also gives you a day to commit to family and friends, something that might get neglected depending on the time of year and that is hugely important to re-charge your headspace and gain some perspective.
What is clear is that there is no one-stop-shop for all, different things will work for different people and will likely even vary in their effectiveness depending on the intensity and distances involved with your main session. Whatever you do, try a few things out and then settle on the ones that work best for you, and most importantly have fun!!
Written by Zone3 Ambassador Philip Keel