One of my coaches once told me, “There’s no such thing as overtraining, there’s only under-recovering.” If you’re training hard for an event or for an expedition, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between tired, heavy legs that will re-energize once warmed up and the deep aches of needing a day off. How do you know when to push it and when to pull back? I think every athlete strives to learn how to better recover to maximize training sessions. What I’m learning is that it takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to train and recover for maximum benefits. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
- Listen to your body. When you’re training, try to really focus on how your body feels. I sometimes log notes into my training logs, especially the small aches and pains.
- Take into account all the other demands in your life. If you have a stressful upcoming project at work, that additional stress is likely going to affect your training. If you are battling a minor cold or illness, hold back. If you have stress in your family life or relationship, you’ll feel that in your muscles. If you just got back from a big trip and a long plane ride, don’t go for your hardest workout. Stress, whether it’s from workouts, travel, work, family or relationships, has a way of causing tension in your muscles. Those are not the times to push your workouts into overdrive, no matter how enticing it sounds.
- If you’re really sore and need a day to recover, try to do a short (20-40 minute) bike ride, recovery run, mellow hike or swim to keep the muscles moving. During these recovery workouts, keep the intensity low. This is not the time to explore or go out with a new partner. Keep it chill, respect your body and you’ll likely find a good benefit from this.
- Stretch it out. I’ve recently got back into yoga for recovery. I do 20-40 minutes of gentle, restorative yoga to help unwind tense muscles. I’ve found it’s a really effective tool in my rest and recovery arsenal.
- Ice. Especially right after a hard workout. As a professional skier, I have so many aches and pains in my knees. If I’m able to ice them for 15-20 minutes within the first few hours after a hard run, ski tour or hike, I find they feel better the next day.
- Hot tub or cold plunge or both. This one is controversial, but I love the feeling of going from a hot tub, jumping into a snow bank, and going back in the hot tub. The sensation of hot and cold creates a delightful tingling and I find it helps my legs and body recover. If you don’t have a hot tub with a deep snow bank to jump into, find a pool with a hot tub and go back and forth between the hot and cold water a few times. It’s a nice treat for your muscles.
- Massage. If you don’t have a masseuse, ask other athletes or trainers for recommendations. When you get on the table, be specific and ask for what you want and need. Many masseuses just do a general “fluff and buff” for clients, but if you need work done on your legs, ask for it.
These are just a few tips I’ve learned and I hope they help you achieve your training goals!