Recovery may be the most overlooked aspect of training.
Most athletes and coaches focus on the workouts. Improvements in fitness, however, occur during the recovery period between training sessions, not during the training itself. The human body is great at adapting to stress as long as that stress is applied in small doses. When the stress is too severe, or not enough recovery has preceded the new stress, injury can result. And I have had my fair share of injuries.
Positive physiological adaptations to training occur when there is a correctly timed alternation between stress and recovery. When athletes finish a workout, they are weaker, not stronger. How much weaker depends on the severity of the training stress. Recovery is characterized by two major processes: the reestablishment of homeostasis and adaptation.
Reestablishment of Homeostasis. Immediately after a workout, athletes begin to recover from the stress imposed by the workout, and reestablish homeostasis over the course of a few hours. This process is characterized by:
- decreases in heart rate and body temperature
- glucose sparing
- elevated fat oxidation
- glycogen and creatine phosphate resynthesis
- repair of cellular damage from free radicals
- lactate removal from muscles
- restoration of intracellular electrolyte concentrations and acid-base balance (pH)
Adaptation. Adaptation, however, is a process during which athletes respond to the repeated stress of training over time. How much athletes adapt to training ultimately depends on how responsive their cells are to signals. Muscle cells are able to detect all kinds of signals—mechanical, metabolic, neural and hormonal.
The greater the training stimulus, the longer the time needed for recovery and adaptation to the stimulus. If the training stress is too great and/or athletes don’t recover before their next workout or race, their performance and ability to adapt to subsequent training sessions declines. The most effective adaptations occur when athletes are recovered from previous training and are best prepared to tolerate a subsequent overload. Therefore, what athletes do the rest of the day when they’re not training is just as important as what they do when they are training.
What impacts recovery?
A number of factors affect how quickly and completely athletes recover from workouts, including age, training intensity, nutrition, environment, stress and level of fitness. The most significant of these factors is age. Younger runners recover faster between workouts, enabling them to perform hard workouts more often. Workout intensity is the next biggest factor, with higher-intensity workouts requiring longer recovery time. The athlete’s environment also plays a role in recovery, with altitude and cold weather slowing recovery.
Since recovery is an aerobic process, a high level of cardiovascular fitness speeds recovery due to the quicker delivery of nutrients and removal of metabolic waste by the circulatory system. Nutrition and hydration are also big factors that influence recovery, with carbohydrates and protein being the most important nutrients.
To enhance recovery, you should adapt and habituate to each level of training before increasing the level. Every few weeks, cut the training volume by about a third for one recovery week before increasing the training load. Train in cycles, using the final week of each cycle as a recovery week to absorb the training, make the necessary adaptations, and recover so you can handle the upcoming training load.
Refueling nutrient-depleted muscles is possibly the single most important aspect of optimal recovery. The most important nutrient to replenish is carbohydrates. Athletic performance is influenced by the amount of stored carbohydrate (called glycogen) in skeletal muscles, with intense endurance exercise decreasing muscle glycogen stores.
Muscles are picky when it comes time to synthesize and store glycogen. Although glycogen will continue to be synthesized until storage in muscles is complete, the process is most rapid if athletes consume carbohydrates within the first 30 to 60 minutes after their workouts.
So, that’s what I’m doing. Recovering.
**This was adapted from an article by Jason Karp.**
Quote of the Day:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or and hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” -Lance Armstrong
This was just delicious. And simple! But how can you go wrong with flatbread? I don’t know if you can!
Pear and Gorgonzola Flatbread
- 2 mini naan or flatbreads (or 1 regular sized flatbread)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 ripe pear, cored and sliced
- 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/8 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place naan or flatbread on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with Gorgonzola.
- Arrange sliced pears over cheese and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle pecans over the pears.
- Serve immediately.
Adapted from Let’s Dish