4 Keys to Recovery: When To Go To The Hurt Locker and When To Dial Back
“Garen, where have you been the last 2 months?”
I haven’t had much time to write any blog posts as I have been locked away enduring massive training weeks in the lead up to Ironman Lake Placid (only 10 days and 254 hours until the race starts on July 28… but who’s counting?). Now with the volume winding down and the taper in full force, I have some free time to burn! To relieve my taper jitters, I have put together a six-post series over the next week and a half focused on the lead up and keys to successful A-race. Post #1 is below so keep reading…
P.S. Thanks for all the cheers and support out on the NYC Tri course on Sunday! Though it was frustrating to learn I lost the overall amateur win due to a draft penalty (won by 1m43s but a 2m draft penalty dropped me to 2nd), it was great to see and chat with you all. Plus, I was pleased to learn that that my fitness is where it needs to be with Lake Placid looming.
Countdown to IM Lake Placid: Blog #1 of 6
I am full believer that to become a better athlete in training you have to grit your teeth and get out there and suffer. Push yourself right up to the edge and perhaps a little beyond. Big volume and high intensity are the cornerstones of a fast and successful race regardless of distance.
However, in endurance racing, consistency is king. Any individual workout that ends up compromising future workouts–or worse, that causes an injury–is never worth it. As I have become an older, wiser athlete I have learned when to go to the hurt locker and when to dial back the effort and focus on letting my muscles rest and rebuild.
Here are my 4 keys to recovery:
It isn’t luck that I have avoided injury over the past 7 months of high mileage and hard effort training (knock on wood). It has been the incredible efforts of Mike Conlon and all the folks at Finish Line PT to patch me up after hard weeks, improve my flexibility and manage any problems preemptively. In the past I was never able to put in this type of training without getting injured. I owe this kind of consistency to their hard work. Physical therapy is not just for fixing a problem; in its best form, it prevents a problem from ever occurring.
I know this sounds ridiculous in a post about recovery, but a lot of people never really push their limits as far as they should. There is definitely a time and place to go hard — and I mean very hard. (Think 3 mins into a 30-min interval where you are sure there is no way you can make it to the end in one piece. Somehow you will, I promise. And you will be all the better for it.) When your training calls for it, it is important to post a quality, hard-enough effort that deserves quality recovery time for your muscles to rebuild and adapt.
The day after a hard effort–or if your plan calls for it–you need to go easy. Too many athletes end up training in a constant steady state zone that neither taxes the muscles nor allows the muscles time to rebuild. Ultimately this will lead to a performance plateau. I have always chalked up some of my success to my weekly crossword puzzle bike trainer ride, which helps to keep my effort in check. I hop on the bike for 90 mins, and if I start drowning the newspaper in sweat and/or my eyes have gone crossed eyed and I can’t answer the clues, my effort level is too high. (Note: I try to do these rides on Mondays because I’m not really that good at crosswords and getting stumped on a clue mid-workout is demoralizing. Ha.)
Eating a mix of carbs and protein immediately post-workout has anecdotally hastened my recoverability from hard efforts by quite a bit. While I am certainly a sucker for baked goods, six weeks out from an IM I really clean up my diet and cut out all the crap and processed food. If it has a barcode, I don’t eat it. While my cookie cravings become increasingly persistent, it truly is amazing how much more energy you have when you eat a smart balanced diet. (It certainly helps in the race weight department too.)
What are your keys to recovery? Leave them in the comments! And tune in Friday for blog post #2: Heat Management.
Finish Line PT is sponsoring local elite triathlete Garen Riedel this year in his quest to return to the Ironman World Championship in Kona. In 2012, Garen was the top New York finisher at the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City, finishing 28th overall — the 5th overall amateur and 2nd in his age group.