It’s easy to consider hard training sessions as being the best markers of fitness and performance gains, but how much thought have you really given to your recovery?
Chances are, if you’re like the majority of Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching athletes, planned recovery features low in the packing order, with long coffee rides at the weekend, and early morning sets on the turbo in the week, treated with far greater priority.
But recovery is the most overlooked, and dare we say it, the best ‘tool’ at your disposal if you want to gain that coveted edge on your competitors.
So - it’s time to make a few simple changes to your mindset, to unlock far greater return, and make yourself a stronger athlete on all counts. We run through some of the primary ways in which good recovery can support you as an athlete, along with some ‘top tips’ in which you can start to support to employ this in your own routine.
What benefits does good recovery have?
Reduces the risks of injury
It’s crystal clear, the athlete that recovers effectively will have a much lower risk of injury.
Our bodies are not designed to withstand an unlimited amount of load/stress, and so improper recovery can have a negative impact on your whole physiology. Niggles will more than likely turn into full blown sports injuries if not given the proper rest and recuperation. And some ‘injuries’ are not even visible, with adrenal fatigue and overtraining very common amongst competitive athletes, commonly brought upon by improper rest and too much of a focus on volume and/or intensity.
Giving your body time to repair between hard training sets, is imperative – so don’t feel so bad about spending your rest day on the sofa. It really is a good thing.
Be a better cyclist
It’s simple – if you build adequate rest and recovery into your training programme, you’ll be a better athlete as a result of it. Building in a structured recovery routine means that your body will adapt far better to the tough training sets, and you’ll find yourself in a position to get the very most out of them. Your muscles will be able to fire more efficiently, and your cycling gait will feel stronger and more controlled with the reduced associated fatigue. It’s far better to do a 6-hour training week whereby you get the very most out of every session you do, as opposed to 12 hours of back-to-back, fatigued sessions, with limited room for any form of rest and recovery.
Be a happier cyclist
Although this seems like a trivial point, after all, the most important thing is to put good power through the pedals – right? - this is an absolutely fundamental part of getting an appropriate amount of recovery. It’s so important that you enjoy what you do, otherwise there really will only be a very limited lifespan to your time on two wheels. Sport is a mental game as much it is a physical one, and to keep this balance, recovery is paramount.
Arrive alert and with your game face on for a race, rather than tired and barely motivated to do your warm-up; and the performance gains will be huge.
Simple tips to consider
Okay, so this might not always be easy in the modern day, but if you’re ever questioning whether or not you need sleep, or that hard training set, sleep wins almost every time. Listen to your body on this, sleep has a wide-ranging number of benefits on performance and indeed your general health.
if you want your body to function well, you’ve got to feed it to match these demands. Put in what you expect to get out in simple terms. Make sure that you eat regularly and sensibly around your training sets, and focus on nourishing yourself, with whole food where possible, featuring a good balance of protein and carbohydrate in particular.
Listen to your body
If you can feel a niggle brewing, take a step back. If you have early sniffles which suggest a cold is coming, then ease off and take the pressure off yourself for a few days. Becoming familiar with your heart rate can also help, as this can often tangibly show you, numerically, when you’re a little out of sorts. Become familiar with your resting heart rate first thing in the morning, and if this deviates from the norm, make note, and adjust your routine where appropriate.
Listen to what your coach tells you.
As well as listening to your body, make sure you follow the advice of your cycling coach. Working with your coach can help bring an element of accountability to the mix, and it’s easier to hear it from them, than it is guilt tripping yourself into thinking you should always be doing more.
We’re great believers in there being no such thing as an over-trained athlete – but instead, there’s a plethora of athletes that are under-recovered. Change your way of thinking, and trust what you are told.
Don’t feel afraid to say no
Life is busy these days, there is no avoiding that. But try not to overcommit yourself and wear yourself too thin. Prioritise key parts of your life and do them well, rather than dilute your time too finely, risking burnout and indeed, the danger of missing out on what is really important to you.