Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Train Hard, Recover Hard

Taz--expert on recovery.

My Ironman training has been going incredibly well, as of late. Social life, other hobbies, family life, work, anything else--has all been suffering, but that's to be expected. Afterall, I'm training 16 hours a week. But I'm loving every minute of it. I've never in my life been able to train this hard without feeling overtrained. Why? The answer is: recovery.

Recovery is equally important to training. Training breaks the muscles down and recovery gives your body the rest it needs to come back stronger. In the beginning, it takes less to tear your body down. More rest is needed, and you need to be very conservative to avoid injury or illness. Of course, none of us do this because we are all type-A triathletes. All of us have suffered from injury, illness or overtraining at some point (including, gasp, me). So what has changed?

1. Gradual Adaptation:
I have slowly been increasing my volume and miles over the last 4 years. Yes, years. It takes that long for the tendons, bones, ligaments, and other tissues of your body to be able to adapt to a gradually increasing training load. Each year, I assess how my training and racing went, how much time I spent training, and I plan no more than a 10% total increase in volume for the following year (to a point--I don't think I'll be increasing in '09 after such a high volume for Ironman AZ in '08).
2. Listen to Your Body:
Seems simple but so hard to do. When I feel tired, run down, or sick, I take extra time off. I try not to be a slave to my training plan. I try to be flexible. I'd rather be 10% undertrained than %1 overtrained for an A race. Your body is an expert at sending you early cues--muscle cramps, tightness, a cold, fatigue. If we listen early on and take a day of rest at these first signs, we can avoid long periods of rest forced on us later when more serious illness or injury forces us to the sidelines, missing key races and causing significant fitness losses.
3. Days Off & Recovery Weeks:
Rest is just as important as training. It cannot be stressed enough. I mix easy training days with hard ones. I take 1 day off each week and every 4th weeek of training, I reduce overall volume by 30-50%. The fluctuations in my training intensity and volume allow me to feel fresh and recovery quickly, giving me greater fitness gains in the long run.
4. Sleep & Nutrition:
The more you train, the more sleep you need. I make sure I get 8-10 a night. Sometimes I take 2 hour naps too. I also make sure I eat a lot of healthy, balanced meals several times throughout the day to feed my body. People are always asking if I'm pregnant because of my insatiable appetite. Nope, it's the Iron Beast! I don't question it. If I want to build muscle and strong bones, replace my glycogen stores, and maintain a strong immunity, I need to make sure I'm getting all my calories and nutrients. Bring on the steak and smoothies!
5. Stretching, Yoga, and Massage:
The balance of these 3 things helps loosen up tight muscles and prevent injury. The foam roller is an amazing invention--sheer mix of medeval torture and miracle cure. I stretch daily, do Yoga 1-2x/week and get a deep tissue massage 1x/week. The results have been amazing.
6. Physical Therapy:
All of us have biomechanical issues that predispose us to overuse injury, especially with running. A knowledge of your body and how it moves is critical. By combining a tailored stretching and weight program for your weaknesses, you can correct these issues before injury develops.
7. Weights:
Although running, biking, and swimming hits most of the major muscle groups, adding a short weight session to your program 2x/week for 20-40 minutes can be amazing for hitting the parts we miss, specifically the core. It also builds endurance, strength, and speed that will help get you through the tough miles as well as prevent injury in the long run.
8. Properly Fitting Equipment:
Running shoes that have been fitted to your feet, custom orthotics, a bike that has been fitted to you by a professional--all of these things are critical to success, especially at higher volumes. Make sure your shoes have no more than 500 miles. I actually change mine out at 250; it helps immensely. I also get my bike fitted every 3-6 months because my riding style, body, and position are constantly changing and needing little tweaks.

All of these little things add up to the larger equation--adapting to heavy training loads. For more specific info, check out the links to some previous posts on Overtraining and Yoga for Triathletes.

Good luck and happy trails!

1. Overtraining/Recovery
2. Yoga


beth said...

i'm very impressed you fit in all the yoga-ing, stretch-ing and roller-ing in on top of your crazy schedule! that's going to be my goal next week...thanks for the reminder. i SUCK at stretching

Wes said...

Good stuff, Rach! Love Taz showing us how to get'er done :-) OK. I'm in my second year, training for an Ironman. Don't scare me! K? :-)

Rainmaker said...

Good post! I also follow the same one day off per week and periodization every 4 weeks plan. I agree, taking time to rest is key. Because your muscles only build while resting - not working.

Fizzgig said...

its hard for me to rest, because i work so much and have so little time for workouts! I feel lazy if I take time off, and thats how I wind up catching everything that comes along.

triguyjt said...

great post. i give you props for getting in 2 hour naps...wow..
the 10 perecent rule has been a standard i never break..
i need to stretch more, though pilates helps...i need more....
thanks alot

M said...

Just got referred to your site by a friend - I too am doing AZ o8, and really identified with everything you just wrote. I wish I could do the nap thing, though - I could use it!

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