By Personal Trainer Mollie Millington
Endurance athletes need to remember that recovery is an important part of training. Recovery allows the body to repair and rest (1).
When an athlete has a day away from the gym and track, they shouldn’t think of their training suffering, but rather as a way to allow the body to fully prepare for the next session.
Without adequate rest, the body will be unable to perform to full strength and endurance.
Static stretching after a workout will help your muscles release any tension built up during your session and train the nervous system to allow for an increase in flexibility (2). Athletes should aim to stretch after every workout as part of a cool down.
Flexibility helps athletes to harness muscle power, prevent potential sprains and injuries, and increases the body’s range of motion.
Types of Effective Recovery
A lot of athletes forget that rest and recovery is an important part of the training schedule.
Some athletes though might have a hard time giving up being active completely! Try these forms of effective recovery:
1) Foam rolling
This is something that is easily accessible for everyone. Foam rollers are relatively inexpensive and don’t take up too much space.
In between sports massages, foam rolling can help muscles release tension, even though it might be painful at the time.
2) Hot showers or baths
3) Active recovery
Recovery with a short easy swim, run, or walk; sauna (but not a steam room); performing stretching, such as yoga. (3)
In a study by Taoutauo et al., it was found that active recovery (walking, slow swimming) can be beneficial for endurance athletes (4). Both endurance-trained and sprint-trained athletes recovered at the same rate during passive recovery (sitting still for 60 min) but the endurance athlete who pedalled for 20 min then sat for an additional 40 minutes (partially active recovery) recovered faster and sooner.
Providing Energy For Effective Recovery
Carbohydrates, fat, and protein all give muscles energy, but the body cannot store carbohydrates as it can protein and fats. (5)
Without enough carbohydrates in your diet, you will feel tired and not be able to performance to your full ability.
If you work out for more than 90 minutes/day, you will need to monitor your intake of carbs to fuel your body properly.
Aim to consume 8-10g/kg of body weight each day.
Don’t forget there are plenty of foods that are not based on grains that will give you adequate carbohydrates:
✓ Sweet potatoes
✓ Dried fruits
✓ Bananas and berries
✓ Quinoa and grains
✓ Beans and legumes
Protein consumption levels for endurance athletes should ideally be around 1.2-1.4g/kg body weight/day.
✓ Extra protein will give you more energy and helps support increase muscle mass. Obvious choice is meat, but also check out tofu, dairy products (like cheese and yogurt), and nuts.
✓ Another option for increasing the rate of recovery is to drink carbohydrate-protein beverages (355ml with approximately 08.g carbohydrate/kg with approx. 0.2g protein/kg body weight) rather than a traditional sport drink (6). This is due to a higher rate of replenishment of muscle glycogen.
Drinking water is definitely an important part of recovery too as 3g of water is required to bind 1g of carbohydrate to muscle glycogen. (7)
✓ Three litres of water a day is optimal!
How do you know if you have recovered enough?
✓ You will feel well-rested, sleep soundly through the night, have a positive outlook, and be enthusiastic about training.3
✓ Record your moods and amount of sleep alongside your gym sessions in your training log to look for patterns in your programming and recovery.
Don’t forget that reducing emotional and psychological stress is part of recovery too!
Take Home Message
Although you might feel like your time is best spent at the gym or on the track, recovery is an important element of training.
Take the time away from the gym for food prep, planning your routine, and spending time with family and friends!