Rest & Recovery

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Something I often under estimate the importance of. After months of training and sacrificing much of my social life, I planned to reconnect with lots of friends, booked plenty of nights out, planned a trip to Ibiza. I forgot to appreciate the months of fatigue built up of an intense 6 month Ironman training plan. Finally I'm on a relaxing holiday to sleep, eat well, re cooperate. And it feels fab. I've written a blog with my top tips for recovery and testing, after individual training sessions as well as post race. 

The training cycle goes like this:

  1. Stress the body (training) 
  2. Refuel, Rest and Recovers (adaptation)

It's during the rest, recovery period when the physiological Adaptation happens to your body -  your body gets stronger, faster and fitter, produces more red bloody cells to transport oxygen to your body. If you miss out one of the above, your body can't adapt. 

Which is why I can't emphasis enough the importance to include rest and recovery sessions as part of your training plan.

Why is rest and recovery so important?

  1. It's during recovery when growth, regeneration and strengthening happens in the body:
    • Endurance - when training for an endurance event your body multiplies it's mitochondria. Mitochondria converts energy in the muscle. We use oxygen and carbohydrates (glycogen/sugar) mitochondria will convert these to energy in the muscle. The more mitochondria = more energy created in the muscles = more efficient your body will be at going the distance.
    • Strength - when strength training your muscles will slightly tear, it's when you refuel with plenty of protein and resting that will allow your body to repair, build and become stronger. 
  2. Allows your immune system to strengthen: When stressing your body with exercise you deplete your fuel stores (Carb, fat, protein and mineral stores) and your immune system weakens. It's during these recovery days that rest will build your immune system up. Along with fuelling your body with the best immune building foods such a bright coloured fruit and veg. The more brighter the better!
  3. Sleep: Sleep is the time when your body repairs and fixes itself from all the stresses it's been put through during the day. 7-8 hours is the recommended amount of hours to sleep.
  4. Meso Training Cycles: A good rule of thumb is following a 'meso' training schedule, cycles of 4 weeks. 3 weeks of building (distance , duration or intensity). 4th week will be a recovery week involving active recovery sessions. Low intensity, low high impact. This gives your body a chance to repair itself, adapt. Avoiding injury and illness. 
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TIPS FOR post training recovery:

  1. Protein Shake: Your body has a 30 minute window, post training, where it's at its protein stores are at its optimum to uptake protein. A protein shake is a quick and yummy way to get protein in. My recommendation is My Whey Protein. Chocolate flavour is my favourite!
  2. Meal: After 90 minutes of workout follow with a meal that includes whole food meals of protein and carbohydrate. 
  3. Stretch: To avoid DOMS and to help lengthen your muscles, also good for improving the mobility of your body. Hold each stretch for at least 30-60 seconds. I like to hold up to a minute for those muscles that are really tight such as my hamstrings. 
  4. Foam Roll: The foam roller will be your best and worst friend. Painful at the time, but really helps to avoid injury and long term strain. The foam roller really digs deeps and helps to relieve tension in the muscles. I roll my IT band which flares up when long distance running. When tight, my IT band pulls on my knee and starts to feel really painful. Once I started to use the foam roller on a regular basis my knee pain disappeared, cannot recommend enough!
  5. Rest:  Take time after the training session to rest your body for at least an hour. If you've been for a long cycle or run put your legs up on a wall, with your back to the ground. This will help to avoid vascular shunting, where your blood flows to the working muscles. It promotes blood flow back to the heart.

TIPS FOR REST DAY:

  1. Avoid processed foods: By eating foods in their most whole form will provide your body with the most nutrient packed, immune system building foods. I use rest days to eat plenty of protein to build and repair my muscles and lots of colourful foods for vitamin C.
  2. Active Vs Passive: There's lots of advantage to both. Sometimes a rest day without moving much can be detrimental and lead to the body stiffening up. Keep moving to encourage blood flow. Low impact sports such as yoga, cycling and swimming is ideal for rest day to stretch and lengthen the muscles.
  3. Sleep: Any extra hours of sleep you can gain in form of a nap will only be of an advantage. Get the rest and sleep in as much as you can.

POST RACE:

  • Plan a relaxing trip after your event. You've trained hard, put in the hours. Now it's time to give back to your body. Catch up on lots of sleep, get some sun, vitamin D. An just unwind.

The main thing is to listen to your body throughout training. If you are mentally and physically tired, but you aren't due a recovery day, put one in! Your body will benefit more from a recovery day, than pushing it and ultimately becoming ill and end up missing multiple training sessions. 

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alice thomasComment