Returning to Normality: A Word on Recovery
the act or process of becoming healthy
a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
I was asked to write about recovery after an endurance event. The timing could not have been more appropriate since I just completed an endurance event and am questioning exactly what a normal state of health, mind or strength is, as it has been close to 10 months since anything has been normal. Preparing for an endurance event casts all sense of normalcy aside as you train and sacrifice beyond anything that you thought possible.
The science behind recovery is pretty straightforward. Your muscles need to repair and strengthen after the wear and tear of training for and completing an event. The connective tissues must toughen, hormones and other enzymes have to be replenished and glycogen levels need to be restored. It is suggested that in the 30 minutes immediately following the completion of your race a mix of carbohydrates and proteins should be consumed to best facilitate the beginning of recovery. A mix of 3:1 or 4:1 carbs/ protein is the standard, and a combination of solids and liquids is recommended. Massage, ice baths and compression are highly recommended techniques to begin the process of restoring your hard worked muscles. As always with endurance activities, re-hydrating is also critical to the recovery process.
Now let’s assume that you have done all of the above. It is now hours after the event or even the next day and you feel like a bus has hit you. Believe me when I say that no amount of sports drink or pounds of ice in a tub will eliminate that feeling. What now? The science will tell you that you should try to take part in an activity that gets the blood flowing, your muscles working,and your mind occupied by something other than that bus. You don’t need me to list those activities but feel free to use your imagination. The idea is that recovery is not just about time off, weight gain and the loss of that fitness that it took you months to achieve, but rather recovery is about returning to a normal state..remember the normal state?
In all seriousness, I think that the best advice regarding recovery, and resuming a level of physical activity is to let your body tell you when you are recovered and ready to resume training. The recovery process is different for everyone and subject to various pre-event, event, and post-event factors. I believe that we all recover at various paces just like we all race and train at various paces – one size does not fit all. I usually know that I am ready to resume some level of training when I am no longer nauseated seeing someone running, biking or swimming. I think that it is much easier to gauge your physical readiness to start thinking about training for that next event, but the mental readiness to start sacrificing and preparing your mind for that next race is tougher to gauge.
Remember that a little time away from training is good for everyone, and is practiced by professionals and amateurs alike. Give your body and mind the much needed and deserved chance to recover in whatever way that works best for you. There are plenty of recovery guidelines available, but only you know your body and your body will let you know when it is time to resume training. Your normal state is right around the corner…so give it time.
Celebrate your latest endurance achievements!!