Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recovery....Why is it so important?

Well if there was one lesson learned from IM St. George, it was to make sure to not overtrain and being an active participant in allowing my body to rest and recover. Athletes who participate in endurance sports are subject to injuries different from those suffered by other athletes. Most of the endurance sports injuries are the direct result of pushing the body to its limits over an extended period of time. When an athlete participates in an endurance sport, the continual, intense strain on the body almost inevitably leads to injury. In general, the best way to treat endurance injuries is prevention. Injuries of this kind are most often caused when the athlete pushes him/herself too far or too hard after insufficient warm up, training, and recover. Even when pushing endurance to its limits with this kind of extreme sport, it's important to treat the body properly.

I know that I definitetly overtrained, pushing myself too hard after IM San Juan, not allowing the body, especially my legs to recover.  Instead the very next weekend I was in St. George riding a rather aggressive bike course and taking part in extensive brick workouts.  If sufficient rest is not included in a training program then regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists then performance will decline. Overtraining can best be defined as "the state where the athlete has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery". The "overtraining syndrome" is the name given to the collection of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms due to overtraining that persists with athletes for weeks to months.  I was fatigued and became moody, easily irritated, had altered sleep patterns, became depressed, and lost the competitive desire and enthusiasm for the sport.  I knew I was in trouble when May 5th rolled around and I wasn't excited for IM St. George.

Developing an effective recovery strategy is essential to peak performance and injury prevention. Fatigue and energy depletion occurs after Ironman Triathlons, Marathons, Ultras and other endurance sport training and events, long bike rides, climbing, hikes, or after long periods of physical activity. Although endurance athletes have acute recovery needs, developing a recovery strategy and overcoming fatigue is important to all athletics.  I now know that recovery is as important a part of your training and the achievement of your athletic goals as the actual training session. Make sure that you take your recovery as seriously as your training.  Training takes a serious toll on your body. Muscles are broken down and weakened, your glycogen supply is exhausted, and sweating depletes your body of water and electrolytes.

Key components of proper recovery are widespread. 
  • Rehydration is mission critical. Begin hydration immediately after your training or event and continue hydrating until your pretraining or event weight is obtained
  • Beginning within 20 minutes after a long workout, have small meals of carbohydrates every 30 minutes for 3 hours, to restore glycogen and glucose to healthy levels.
  • Amino acid and protein uptake is three times fasster and greater than normal after a good workout. Milk, yogurt, or a tuna fish sandwich are good quick protein sources. Protein is not typically used as a source of energy for the body; however, when caloric expenditure  is high, the body will turn to proteins to  supplement its energy needs. This reliance on proteins  for energy is exacerbated when an athlete’s diet  is not adequate to maintain energy balance and/or carbohydrate intake is low. After endurance exercise, protein synthesis has been shown to increase 10%–80% within 4–24 hours.  Due to the rise in protein catabolism during activity and protein synthesis after exercise, appropriate daily protein intake is important. Endurance athletes should focus on consuming adequate quantities of protein daily to achieve a positive protein balance, which is important for muscle maintenance and recovery after daily training and competition.  ‎1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilo of body weight actually.
  • Electrolyte rebalance should begin immediately by consuming natural sources of electrolytes such as milk and bananas
  • There are several ways to reduce inflammation including (i) icing , (ii) compression garments, (iii) elevation, (iv) massage, (v) stretching, and (vi) hydrostatic pressure, where the weight of water (eg. ice baths) reduces inflammation.  Foam roller, rolling sticks, portable TENS Units, as well as ART are also effective means of helping the muscles, ligaments, and tendons recover.  ART is Active Release Therapy and ART is a movement-based soft tissue massage technique used to treat problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. This technique resolves chronic injuries quickly by creating length in scar tissue; it is this scar tissue that shortens muscles, binds nerves, and adds to tendinitis pain. All these injuries create the kind of pain that can make you inactive.  The massage element combines active stretching while the therapist provides a tension to the stretch targeting the tight, scarred tissue.  Accupuncture and Dry Needling are also viable options.  Research to see what may be most effective for you.
  •  Sleep, rest and relaxation are essential to recovery.  
  • Taking an easy short walk, run, swim, hike, or bike ride is a good way to encourage recovery.