The Importance of Recovery

Medena, Meghan and David heading for the swim portion of a Race Specific Workout: Boston, MA

Medena, Meghan and David heading for the swim portion of a Race Specific Workout: Boston, MA

   Triathletes are undoubtedly extremists and masochists by nature. Who else would subject themselves to swimming in a murky river, then crouching on a bike for over an hour in constant fear of the next wave of agonisingly biting wind (certainly in April in New England) only to finish with a nauseatingly exhausting run for good measure? The sense of achievement makes it all worth it in the end as you haul yourself knackered over the finish line, wretched and slightly traumatised, but nevertheless happy with satisfied exhaustion. That’s the pure thrill of it, and you may be training perfectly correctly if you feel this way after a race, as you’ve pushed yourself to your utter limits. The very nature of the sport defies the principle of rest; you’re supposed to train tired to prepare yourself for this horrendously painful yet wonderful challenge... right? Yes, but not all the time.

   Are you indifferently on a rhythmic cycle of running 6 miles before work, with biking and swimming thrown in around this and your work schedule? Patting yourself on the back for an incredible four months of solid working out? Stuck in a rut and unable to get your swim time down? You might well be overtraining. If you regularly find yourself lacking even the energy to eat let alone shower after a back to back swim and bike trainer workout because you’re simply too wiped out, only to get up the next day with a plan to run easy for an hour and ‘maybe a light swim after for recovery’, and it’s the still off season, you might be taking this ‘training while tired’ thing a bit too far, mate. If you keep up this act on a regular basis, your body is going to find itself regularly depleted of cortisol, unable to benefit from any of the training you’ve actually done let alone recover for your next workout, and will be a long way from being able to prevent illness. You’ll be becoming nothing more than a cart horse.

   Recovery is equally important, if not more important than training. It should be incorporated as part of your training routine, so you are able to reap the rewards of all the hard work you put in. What’s the point of being a metronome stuck on a beat, unable to take a rest day because you feel ‘too guilty’, but never gaining speed or seeing any decent results? That means eating the right recovery foods and getting enough sleep too; don’t deprive yourself of essential and plentiful carbohydrates and protein after you finish that weekly killer track workout; and make sure you get enough sleep after to allow yourself to recuperate.

   Like many triathletes, you may despise recovery days; maybe you can’t sleep if you can’t workout. So make your recovery active, but don’t workout: go for a brisk walk, or go dancing! You’ve heard the old cliche, ‘It’s quality, not quantity’, so ask yourself if you can honestly say your training is of this nature.

    Change up your routine and shock your body into doing some speed work and regular strength training rather than just cranking out the miles. If you workout just to workout, then feel free to ignore this advice. But, if you’re trying to better your times and challenge yourself this race season, then you need to learn how to recover properly and swim, bike, run, smart.

- Coach Medena 
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