By Brendan Halpin
More often than not, endurance athletes lose sight of the journey that they are embarking on and only dream about their end result. A personal record, big win, and glory always sound good and can be very appealing. The only problem is that this dream can easily provoke too much hard work and not enough rest and recovery. These are two important elements that oftentimes go forgotten but can be the difference between a great race and an average race.
The most important element in endurance training is, hands down, consistency - both in training and recovery. Most great endurance athletes are not doing all that much more volume, but they are recovering better and getting in more quality sessions than the average Joe. Maximizing the level of quality in each of your training sessions is much more important than adding extra volume. Cyclists have a saying: "Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lay down?" Triathletes are notorious for entering races overcooked and coming out baked and disappointed.
The importance of recovery extends far beyond the first 30 minutes after you complete your workout, but this is a good place to start. You might think that your workout is finished once you stop your watch, but to maximize the benefit of the workout you need to immediately focus on recovery. Fueling and hydrating well during workouts is very important for recovery in future training sessions, but you can also gain a huge boost from a recovery drink or bar. For me, this starts with Recoverite or a Hammer Recovery Bar. "Studies show that consuming the right combo of carbs and protein within 45 minutes after high-intensity or prolonged exercise accelerates muscle repair, reduces inflammation, and improves performance in the next workout," Robert Portman, author of Hardwired for Fitness, states in the February 2012 issue of Men's Journal.
My routine after swims, runs, and bikes is to take in my Recoverite drink as I stretch and roll out my muscles. Building a routine for recovery into your workout will quickly become a habit, and you will experience the immediate benefits in your next training session. The outcome of your next performance extends far beyond immediate recovery.
The next element is rest. The importance of rest can be very difficult to comprehend when your normal life is completely full with a busy schedule. Most individuals want to make the most of every training session, so skipping sessions does not seem like an option even when you are exhausted. Many top-level professional endurance athletes enjoy the benefit of having all day to complete their training sessions. This leaves a good portion of the day to rest, relax, and recover. It is very difficult to have enough confidence to know your body well enough to skip a session and just rest! A good compromise for rest can be electrical stimulation with Compex. Substituting the occasional training session with extra rest is much easier when you can wire yourself up on the Compex and still get some work in on your muscles using the Strength, Resistance, or Endurance programs. You can also substitute Active Recovery, Recovery Plus, or Massage programs to have a more relaxing Compex session. I feel that the cyclists' rest mantra should be replaced with: "Why stand when you can sit and Compex? Why sit when you can lay down and Compex?" The best part about Compex is that you can use it just about any time you are sitting or lying down. I oftentimes wake up from a nap with the Compex beeping because my Active Recovery session has finished. I really cannot stress how important electrical stimulation could be for the busy athlete, especially one who needs to incorporate more rest and recovery into their training program.
My mantra has become: recover well so that rest leads to your best performance in your race. Next time you are really feeling beat, run down, and just plain exhausted, have the confidence to rest! Rest and recovery away from training sessions might be non-glamorous, but just like nailing race nutrition, this is free speed! Have fun at your upcoming races and remember to rest and recover well! HN