You’ve been working hard at building up your stamina, but have you been taking your rest programme seriously too? Recovery is incredibly important in a training schedule in the run-up to your next triathlon event, but it can be tempting to push yourself harder without appropriate rest activities in-between.
Why recovery is important
You might think that time spent not training is time wasted, but that simply isn’t true. Remember that your muscles need time to recover and strengthen, and they can’t do this while they’re being used. Recovery means giving your muscles time to repair themselves and restore glycogen levels, so that your next training session is easier and you can push yourself that little bit harder. Proper recovery will also help to boost your immune system, so you don’t risk ailments putting your overall training back even further. Rest is crucial to advancing your abilities as an athlete, so don’t feel guilty about scheduling time in after each training session for a little R ‘n’ R!
Active versus passive
There are two types of recovery: active and passive. Both are necessary to aid body repair and improvement, so make sure you include both types in your training programme.
Active recovery means very, very gentle versions of a bike ride, run or swim. We mean exceedingly gentle. It should almost be an embarrassingly slow pace, so rather than a run perhaps take a gentle stroll. Active recovery also includes the cool-down after your hard training session, so remember to take time for a proper stretch out to make sure your muscles go into repair mode as soon as possible to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.
Passive recovery means exactly the opposite: do nothing. Don’t let the guilt eat away at you if you choose to sit down and watch a film. If you are tempted to do some housework, don’t. If you fancy doing the shopping, don’t. Just get those feet up for a bit.
There are two types of massage for recovery: self and therapist-based. Both are beneficial to triathletes, but as most people can’t afford their own sports therapist on hand 24/7 we suggest you book in a massage one week prior to a triathlon event, and one the day after. The rest of the time, it’s up to you.
Self-massage helps to relieve sore muscles, aid repair and prevent knots. One of the easiest and most effective tried-and-tested methods is to use a foam roller, which is especially helpful for working on the iliotibial band (the one that runs down the outside of the thigh), calves, hips and soles of feet. Releasing pressure in the sole of the foot can help to improve the health and fitness of the entire leg – so don’t neglect those tootsies! A tennis ball is a great pressure reliever, too – sit on a chair with the ball underfoot and gently roll back and forth.
One of the cheapest solutions for muscle recovery is an ice bath. This requires a little foresight and a lot of ice – a friend to help load the bath is always a bonus! Best after long training sessions, getting into the habit of taking an ice bath will help you get used to the shock of sitting in freezing water.
The final and most essential tip: rest up! Get plenty of sleep, as this will aid your overall recovery, boost you immune system and make sure you are ready for the next training session. Put your feet up, read a book, watch a film, play some Scrabble… the list is endless. Just don’t do anything active!
The next time you feel guilty about taking time out from your training schedule for the next triathlon event, remember the importance of recovery and rest time and kick back for a couple of hours. You deserve it!
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