3 Essentials for Triathlon Workout Recovery
by Chris Hague
If you are like me and many triathletes, you hate off days. Whether out of fear of losing fitness or getting fat, I dread seeing that gap in the my training log with a friendly reminder from my coach to take it easy (her last note was “Chris, recovery means recovery: no elliptical, no easy spin—do nothing).
Recovery is essential to proper training; without it, we would get injured and burned out. In fact, recovery days should be approached with just as much care and consideration as a workout. Many athletes approach recovery in the wrong way by scheduling too much, not taking time off, and binging on junk food, all of which will put more stress on your body and undermine your recovery. Here are my top tips for planning the perfect recovery day so that you come back stronger and refreshed instead of feeling like a flat (and fat) tire.
1. Keep the day blank: Endurance athletes sacrifice a lot of time with family, friends, work, and other responsibilities/obligations to train. Consequently, when an off day rolls around, their “to do” list is pretty long. They then spend the day on their feet racing around with the kids, doing chores, and overbooking themselves. By the end of the day, they feel just as drained as when they woke up—hardly a true recovery day. Instead, try not scheduling anything in advance but let your mood sporadically decide what you want to do.
2. Focus on proper nutrition: While it is good to occasionally allow yourself a treat—and off days are perfect days for this—do not completely loose control. Recovery days are supposed to allow your body to repair so it is essential that you get the necessary antioxidants, protein, and nutrients that will build muscle and decrease inflammation. You can still keep your indulgence (Diet Coke anyone?), but emphasize healthy fats (coconut milk, almonds, and flax), vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and beets), and of course plenty of water.
3. Detoxify the mind: Like lactic acid and muscular fatigue, lots of stress accumulates in the mind during training. It is therefore important to drain the mind of these “toxins.” Do some yoga, meditate, foam roller sore muscles, and maybe include nap.
If you have to do a workout on recovery days then make it easy and something that you usually do not do in training to give yourself a true day away from training. While you may feel lazy and unproductive on recovery days, these are just irrational fears; I can guarantee that one day off will not undermine your fitness, make you fat, or ruin your season. On the contrary, they will make you a better, stronger, and fresher athlete.
*From Coach Kevin: To listen to my podcast interview on the Athletes’ Guide to Recovery with author Sage Rountree, visit http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/interview-with-sage-rountree-author-of-the-athletes-guide-to-recovery/
Chris Hague is the assistant coach for triswimcoach.com and competitive triathlete in both the half and full Ironman distances. For more, check out http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/about/