I remember when I started running, I just wanted to go, go go all the time. I knew nothing about recovery or how to take it easy. When I started doing triathlons, I quickly learned the hard way that you can't go, go, go all the time. You need that time to recover. So I would take one day a week off completely. That formula worked for me for years. As I started to push myself more (i.e discovered tempo workouts and training with power) I found that I'd have to watch how my workouts were scheduled. I'd generally have two "fully loaded" days a week (weights, run & bike) followed by a swim day. The swim days could also be pretty hard and there were times where I completely caved. Now I judge my effort by how I'm feeling when I get in the water. It doesn't always make my swim coach happy but the swim is the shortest event so whether I swim 1:45's or 1:47's doesn't matter to me. Yes, that difference could cost me a position overall but honestly, I'd rather focus my efforts on being the best I can be on the bike and the run.
The things I incorporate into my recovery routine have changed as I've gotten older. I've added a few new things because I need to maximize my recovery. It would be easy to say "well dial things back" but that's not really me. It's easier for me to incorporate more recovery strategies into my life vs. dialing things back in training. Yes, I'm a hard head. I fully admit it.
I've spoken about recovery tools before but lately I've been focusing on using my nutrition to aid in my recovery. Training produces an inflammatory response in the body. Time heals the inflammation but there are things you can eat that help speed along the healing process.
Protein repairs exercise induced muscle damage and helps to reduce the response from the stress hormone cortisol. In order for it to be really effective, experts say it should be consumed within 30 minutes post workout and in combination with carbohydrates, usually within a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio. And you don't need more than 20 grams of protein. After really hard workouts I tend to use a recovery beverage as that is the most convenient thing for me to get into my system quickly. Most of the ones I like have a mix of carbs and protein. I like the GU Brew Recovery and Genuine Health's Active Recover.
Re-hydrating after a workout and then continuing to STAY hydrated is just as important and getting in a protein / carbohydrate mix post workout. I have failed at this more times than I care to admit. I am a big sweater on the bike and I don't know that I actually take in enough fluid to replenish what I sweat out, especially on my long indoor rides. I'm definitely trying to work on this.
Anti Inflammatory Foods:
Cherries: There's been a lot of talk about how tart cherries are great for recovery. Cherries in general are great, the darker the better. Antioxidants called anthocyanins give cherries their dark colour and are also responsible for aiding in muscle recovery after strenuous exercise because they help reduce swelling in exhausted muscles. Another added benefit? These little morsels contain the hormone melatonin, which the body produces naturally to control sleep and wake cycles. Additional melatonin is thought to improve sleep quality. I can attest to that as I've eaten my favourite chocolate cherry "ice cream" just before bed and I when I do, I sleep like a baby. And we all know how important sleep is for recovery as well!
Turmeric: A well known spice used in curries, the active inflammatory fighting component in turmeric is curcumin. You can take it as a supplement or you can cook with it. It's not very well absorbed so it has been suggested to take it with black pepper. I usually take 450-900mg / day depending on what sort of workout I'm doing. You can also add turmeric powder to your smoothie. It is an acquired taste and I find using ginger with it gives it some zing. It will also make your smoothie bright yellow. This is a smoothie recipe that I make on occasion. It's also good if you're feeling a bit run down.
1 cup pineapple
1 to 1.5 cups of liquid depending on how thick you want it - I use cashew milk but coconut water would be nice!
the juice of a lime
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 inch of grated ginger
a dash of black pepper
sweetener of choice if desired
Toss everything in the blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Those are just a few of the things I've added to my recovery routine. I also take fish oil on a daily basis and up the dosage after a very hard workout.
What's your favourite recovery food? Do you use a recovery beverage? If so, what is it?