As a physiotherapist, I see a lot of athletes coming to me with overuse injuries which could have been prevented. It’s just as frustrating for me to see, as to be the athlete suffering because there is a lot of wasted potential disappearing because of silly mistakes. We must learn that more miles and more sessions do not mean better performances. Better quality sessions and excellent recovery are what it's about.
We all want to be the best athlete we can be, but this often comes at the expense of social time and living life. Getting that balance right is hard but is something that you must play around with. In an age where ‘self-love’ and ‘mindfulness’ are buzz words used daily to remind us to have a rest, it is so important to remember that our bodies can only build strength, power and endurance once it has restored itself. So you must let this happen.
My top tips for nailing your recovery are below:
- Learn your body. Be aware of your last few weeks of training, how work has been, how much sleep and good nutrition you've been getting. Know what is normal for you - physiologically and mentally. And communicate this to your support networks and coaches.
- Make sure you have your rest scheduled into your plan! This is a basic commodity. Even when I used to train 15 hours a week I would still have a full rest day once a week. So many athletes don't respect this, they'll push more and more and end up overtrained and burnt out. If you want to enjoy the sport for a long time you need to mentally reset yourself too.
- Use your rest day to put 20 minutes aside to reflect on goals, performances and how you'll address weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, there are always things we can work on.
- Find other activities to occupy you on rest day - other hobbies, creative vocations, even just listening to your favourite music. Remember that you need something for you, something outside of sport and work. If you get injured what do you have to distract you? Filling your life with exercise is great, but if it gets taken away you need something to fill the void, or it will just lead to a low mood and consequently overdoing it again once you come back to exercise!
Between sessions you can also apply some really specific recovery tools:
- Sports massage – there’s no set prescription for this, but regular maintenance massage does help flush everything out and is especially useful before and after a race.
- Yoga – (I love the free Down Dog App!)
- Pilates – try and find a decent instructor, the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) really are the best, and much more evidence-based.
- Good hydration straight after a session, find what works for you – water & electrolytes, or milk is also fantastic!
- Nutrition – I’m no nutritionist but getting something into you straight after a session is really key. Something else I always notice too is people under fuelling for early morning sessions – don’t! Get something small if it's super early and you’re time-limited - a banana, a smoothie, just something to kick start your metabolism is vital.
- Compression kit! I've recently used some compression tights from Zone3, and they're incredible! They're super comfy and perfect thing to put on after I've been spinning or at the running track. They will also help increase venous return and improve the DOMS for the coming days!
- Rest weeks in your blocks of training. A of athletes overlook this too – make sure you build for 3-4 weeks, then drop the intensity for a week too.
Don't succumb to the pressure of more miles = better performance. If you train hard in your hard sessions and slow in your easy sessions, then your body will adapt with good consistent training.
A quote from a very close friend of mine which I thought was very poignant for this blog:
‘You should make sure that life isn't something that's stuck in between the next training session. Just enjoy it.’
Written by Zone3 Athlete Becky Hair