I’m 8 days post-half ironman.
When met with those questions, I simply offer a smile and a “thanks for your concern“. 😊😊😊
I understand that training for 10-12 hours each week can be hard on the body. I understand that the repetitive motion of my chosen activities puts me at greater risk of injury (especially when you combine that with my loosey-goosey joints 😉).
And I understand that by being self-employed and running a couple of businesses, I have a lot of mental stress to add to the physical stress.
But here’s the thing:
If you take your recovery just as seriously as you take your training, you can reduce the negative effects of said training. Dare I even say…eliminate them?! 😮
I’m not quite ready to make that bold of a statement just yet, but check back in with me in 20 years. I’ll let you know how my hypothesis turned out.
The Importance of Recovery
When taken seriously, proper recovery has a myriad of benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. (And your spiritual well-being, if you’re into that kind of ish✨).
But while we often talk about improved recovery being one of the benefits of something, what does “recovery” really do for us? Why is it important? How is it going to help us tap into and unleash our inner badasses?
Essentially, recovery is the body’s ability to process the work put in during a training session, make the necessary adaptions to produce a stronger athlete, and repair tissues and systems so the athlete can do it all over again. With a little more strength, endurance, efficiency, or all of the above.
Skimp out on recovery, skimp out on results.
It’s as simple as that.
Recovery can happen in a few different ways. It can happen in the midst of a workout, such as between sets of strength training movements, or between sets of hard intervals on the bike.
Recovery can take place between workouts, when the athlete is either resting or engaging in different activities.
Or it can occur in seasons, such as when a triathlete (like myself!) focuses on different, more restorative activities for a portion of the year.
Basically, recovery is saying thanks to your body and giving it the opportunity to do what it needs to do so it can help you play for many years to come.
Variances Within Recovery Requirements
So what’s the optimal recovery recipe? Is there a simple X hours of training + Y hours of mental stress = Z hours of required recovery?
Ah, if only it were that simple.
As you’ve likely heard me say before, everybody and every body is different.
Two athletes may be undergoing the same training program and similar lifestyle factors, but one might need substantially more recovery than the other.
Because that’s just the way things are 😉
I often get frustrated at how seriously I have to take my recovery. I have friends who can train and race and train on minimal sleep with minimal recovery. And yet they still seem to pull PRs and strong workouts out the ying yang (although who knows, that might just be a show!).
I’ve found myself asking “WHY am I so tired? I should be able to handle all this!“. And in those instances I’ve had to stop and remind myself that A) I have A LOT on my plate, B) my body is not my friends’ bodies, and C) my body was treated like garbage for 10 years. I need to cut it some slack 😛
Mind-Body Recovery Essentials
Just as everybody’s recovery needs are different, the way in which we approach recovery can also be different. That’s the beauty of recovery – it can be adapted to suit your fabulously unique needs and lifestyle.
So while I’m sharing my mind-body recovery essentials, please feel free to use these as a blueprint and adapt them to best suit your own needs.
Sleep is KING when it comes to recovery. Those 5-6 hour nights aren’t doing you ANY good, sister. 7-8 hours per night is the common recommendation thrown around, but again, it depends on your individual circumstances and requirements.
During triathlon season, I find I fare best on 8-9 hours each night. Sometimes 10 😉. Any less than 8 and I feel like my workouts suffer, and I turn into a human who’s not a lot of fun to be around. This becomes a challenge because most days of the week I need to be awake at 5am. And the days I don’t, my body will rarely sleep much later than 6:45. It makes an early bedtime and proper sleep hygiene all the more important.
Muscular Self Care Tools
Muscular self care tool? While you may not have heard that term before, you likely know the things it encompasses. Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, PVC pipes. Those kinds of things.
My foam roller and I are attached at the hip (and quad, and calf) through much of triathlon season. But this year I was introduced to a fantastic new tool, The Beam by Nimble Back.
The Beam is a self care tool that allows your muscles to release and relax, helping to restore your body and mind. You’ve likely tried lying with a foam roller running down your spine. One of the primary uses (but certainly not the only one!) of The Beam is to lie in a similar manner. But the key difference lies in that you don’t need to focus on using your core to maintain stability.
There’s a time and a place for core training. Moments of ultimate relaxation and restoration is not one of them. You can simply lay on The Beam, breathe deeply, and take comfort in knowing that your body is working to heal itself as a result.
I like to use my time on The Beam as an opportunity to meditate. This allows my brain to relax just as much as my body. 10 minutes is the recommended duration, however I’ve often become so relaxed that I end up laying there much longer.
If you’d like to try out The Beam for yourself, check out their website right here and be sure to use the code Canada150 at check-out for free shipping.
If you’re fuelling your body with garbage after a workout, expect it to perform like garbage.
Kind of a harsh statement, but it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong – I still love my donuts and pizza and ice cream. Saturday night is pizza night throughout most of the year 🍕 But it’s still critical to ensure your body is getting a variety of nutrients and micronutrients. Good, focused nutrition gives your body the tools it needs to repair from all your fun, crazy activities.
When you live a busy life with a demanding training schedule, it’s SO important to give your brain some downtime as well. And while “downtime” looks different for many, I can tell you that it doesn’t involve mindless TV or social media scrolling.
Mental restoration includes mindfulness practices such as meditation, unstructured quiet time, and doing things just for fun.
Some of my favourite ways to restore my brain?
Going for a walk in nature. Meditating. Reading. Journaling. Colouring. Playing with my oracle cards and crystals. Rolling around on the floor and stretching while I listen to music.
The point of mental restoration is to do things without expectation of a certain outcome. Do these things just because they’re fun or they make you feel good.
Many (but not all!) instances of athletic injuries could be eliminated if we just paid as much attention to the recovery as we did to training. It may not provide the same sweat-induced endorphins as a tough workout does, but recovery allows us to continue to enjoy those feelings for the long-term.
What are some of your recovery essentials?
Have you ever incorporated mental recovery into your training?
This post was sponsored by my partnership with The Beam by Nimble Back through my affiliation with Fit Approach. As always, all opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.