Weekly Training Topic- Rest, Signs of Over-training, and Recovery Tools!
IMPORTANCE OF REST
I wanted to begin with a discussion on the importance of rest – an area that I see over-looked all too much and is increasingly important as we get older.
In my twenties recovery came easy and rest days, well those were few and far between and in my opinion for the weak minded. I used to become overcome with guilt for skipping a training day, even when I was sick, I lived by the mantra that somewhere someone is training and when you meet them in competition, they will beat you. They say, with age comes wisdom. I no longer feel guilty for missing an occasional workout, and realize that some of my best performances have come after a period of forced rest. It may have taken two decades of lessons, but I now look forward to my recovery days and it is not uncommon for me to string together back-to-back rest days. The forty-something me is also much more in tune with my body. I take my resting heart rate and check my body weight every morning, looking for those early warning signs of not being properly recovered (perhaps bordering on obsessive-compulsive behavior).
As someone who has battled with the depilating affects of insomnia I know all to well what a lack of sleep can do to not only one’s performance but also to their mental state to mind. Former professional triathlete and now endurance coach, Wes Hobson, believes one should not train unless they got a minimum of 6 hours of continuous sleep the night before – if that were the case, I would have had to skip the last half decade of training!
Living in New York City, one complaint I constantly hear from many of my athletes is their inability to get enough sleep. Work commitments, quality family time, training, recovery, all take their toll on us amateur athletes. A close look at the training regimen for any professional endurance athlete, invariably it will include at least 8 hours of sleep each night PLUS a nap. Now if we could all do that, I think most of us would be able to elevate our performances!
I have battled sleep troubles for years and knew I really needed to focus on my own sleep routine if I wished to stay competitive on the racing scene as well as just plain healthy as a person with a family. This is one of the reasons I have my athletes keep track of their own sleep patterns and resting heart rates as part of their training log – to help them identify when they have not gotten enough rest and need to take it easy!
As for how much sleep one needs – that is a very individual thing. Here are some tips to help you sleep or at least find a relaxed state:
· Caffeine – Yes, the lifeblood of endurance athletes – but try to go decaf after 3pm!
· Sugar – Ever see how your kid acts after a post-dinner cupcake? Well – we are the same and some extra sugar in the blood stream will keep you up!
· Alcohol – No, a glass of wine or beer before bed DOES NOT help you sleep!
· Dinner – Avoid eating late and spicy meals and you will find falling asleep a tad easier!
· Environment – Make sure where you sleep is dark and try to avoid reading or watching TV in bed as you want the bed to represent a place to sleep in your mind.
· Relaxation – Can’t seem to leave work at the office? Try writing down the exact things weighing on your mind on a pad of paper before bed and get into a routine of relaxation before you sleep – a few minutes of stretching and deep breathing from the diaphragm will help!
· Natural sleep aids – Valerian root and melatonin are both natural sleep aids that do help some (myself not included and be warned that Valerian root has a very distinctive smell!). Also magnesium is said to help open up the capillaries and can help you relax at night. Avoid taking your vitamins at night (better taken in the AM). One of my
favorites, a nice hot bath before bed works wonders!
SIGNS OF OVER TRAINING
Over-training is a word endurance athletes hear a great deal and is something no longer isolated to the ranks of Pro athletes. Even us amateurs can fall victim to over-training, especially when trying to balance training and racing with a family and full time job. Over-training should not be confused with another term thrown out by the endurance world, over-reaching. Signs associated with over-training syndrome include:
· Extended decreased performance
· Elevated resting heart rate
· Significant change in body weight (either up or down can be a sign)
· Difficulty sleeping (perhaps a source of recent insomnia?)
· Prolonged muscle soreness
· Frequent illness or onset of colds
· Low energy level and motivation (especially toward training)
· Mood swings
· Decreased appetite
· Several poor workouts in a row
Besides training, several other non-exercise related factors can contribute to the onset of over-training such as; poor eating and hydration habits (before, during and after exercise), recent illness or injury (and resuming training without being fully recovered), poor sleep habits, travel and jet lag, are among the most common non-exercise contributors to over-training. Add to this list psychological stresses like death of a loved one, new addition to the family, stress at work or financial problems and you can see jus how quick over-training syndrome can sneak up on an athlete.
Over-reaching can be a normal aspect of one’s training regimen. To over-reach is when one ‘overloads’ their training volume over a brief period in hopes of seeing significant results in a shorter period of time. Pushing one’s body to this higher limit of activity (but not going into the over-trained zone), allows for the body to enter a super-compensation mode, where upon recovery your overall fitness level is much higher than before. The key factor for over-reaching to work is pairing it with proper recovery (without, you risk over-training).
While over-reaching may take several days to a week or more to fully feel like your old self again depending on the training load, over-training can take months to fully recover from. What is the remedy for over-training? Try simple, old-fashioned rest. Put the cycling or running shoes in the closet, skip some races and just chill. Let your body recover, so you can come back fresh and strong!
OTHER RECOVERY TOOLS
Compression socks burst on the scene in recent years. Now everywhere you look, those tall NBA-like socks that stretch almost to the knee can be seen all over. Runners, triathletes, even walkers are sporting these. And better yet, they come in nearly every color under the sun – from simple black or white to neon pink or lime green. These compression socks, while new to endurance sports, have been around for some time. Perhaps you have seen there earlier incarnation on a visit to a loved one in the hospital – yes, the same idea used for decades in the medical field to help improve circulation and prevent muscle damage. During exercise like running or cycling, the contraction of the working muscles aids the heart in pumping blood to and from the heart. When idle, that natural aid is gone, leading to some slight pooling of blood in the lower extremities. Compression socks provide a bit of pressure on the blood vessels of the legs aiding in the circulation process. According to the numerous studies I have read, the jury is still out on whether or not compression socks can aid one’s performance during an event. But, there seems to be more concrete work on the benefits of compression socks during recovery. Personally, I would not be caught dead in them during a race, but have come to understand their potential after a race, especially if faced with a long car ride home.
Perhaps my favorite recovery tool is the good old-fashioned massage. A staple of a traveling professional cyclist where one cannot help but have visions of a weary rider lying on a massage table recounting the day’s battle with a well-aged soignier (the euro word for massage therapist).
Kinesiology Tape – You know that colorful tape you see layered all over the bodies of Olympic athletes? That is KT tape (or Rock tape is another brand) and it does serve a purpose! According to KT, KT TAPE is applied along muscles, ligaments, and tendons (soft tissue) to provide a lightweight, external support that helps you remain active while recovering from injuries. KT Tape creates neuromuscular feedback (called proprioception) that inhibits (relaxes) or facilitates stronger firing of muscles and tendons. This feedback creates support elements without the bulk and restriction commonly associated with wraps and heavy bracing. KT Tape gives you confidence to perform your best. I have used it myself and so have many of my athletes and it does for on those problem areas that might be giving you trouble (like mild knee pain, neck, shoulders, lower back, etc). More info here: https://www.kttape.com/what-is-kt-tape/
Of course another old-fashioned stand by which one sees in many sports, especially among the full contact sports like football is the ice bath. A tub filled with cold water, add in a few trays of ice and you have your own ice bath – the perfect post-race fix for those sore and aching muscles. I find it particular helpful in reducing the swelling in the muscles after hard workouts like a session at the track or intervals on the bike, or right after a race. The ice bath works redirecting blood to the core to help maintain body heat, while forcing blood out of the muscles and thus reducing inflammation.
How about a set of recovery pants that look like they were borrowed from the New York Fire Department? Voted the VeloNews Innovative Beauty of 2009 and dubbed ‘Space Legs’ by the Garmin-Slipstream Team, the NormaTec MVP (Most Valuable Pump) has quickly found a home among many of the world’s best professional cyclists The NormaTec MVP consists of a computer controlled-electric pump and chambered pants increasing circulation via pneumatic compression cycle (like compressions pants or socks on steroids!). Several NormaTec authorized recovery centers have opened across the country, allowing athletes to use the high priced boots for a small fee while sitting in a comfortable Lazy-boy type recliner. Buying a pair for yourself will set you back a mere $5000!
Cant’ afford the steep price tag on the NormaTec boots? Well, you are in luck as a couple less expensive alternatives have come to market, including a lower-end model from NormaTec rumored to retail for under $2000. Also on the market is Recovery Pump System (www.recoverypump.com
). Priced at just over $1100, this recovery boot system comes in five different sizes (all based on leg length), runs on a continuous time cycle, and utilizes a full zipper for easy entry. Other less expensive models can be found on the web or through Amazon!
Other recovery tools include one rather bizarre technique called whole-body cryotherapy (WBC). Think of it as an ice bath on steroids in which one actually stands in a metal chamber the size of your regular shower stall (called a cyrosauna) while it is filled with nitrogen gas cooled air, dropping the temp of the stall to -130 to -160 Fahrenheit. This technique was developed in Japan in the 70s and has seen several centers pop up in the US (including one here in NYC on 57th
). In addition to specialized centers promoting products like the NormaTec boots or cryotherapy, we are seeing a growing trend in ‘Recovery Clubs’ popping up across the country. Designed like a fitness club, these membership-based centers offer a wide variety of recovery tools from massage therapists to PTs to recovery baths and even hyperbaric chambers. One such club located in Boulder and Denver is Fuelary, which boosts a 3000sq foot center complete with an espresso bar!
Next Week – Importance of Intervals in your Training and the Concept of HI/LO training!