It's more challenging than ever to recover properly from your sessions with more of us working from home, deadlines, the line blurred between home and office, kids etc.
If you don’t take time for proper recovery, your body can't adapt to the stress placed on your body from training. Which means you won’t get stronger or faster. In the other words, recovery is as important if not more so than the sessions that you do. Neglect it for too long, and you will start to lose this gains you have worked so hard to achieve.
Firstly your energy levels and sleep patterns will suffer first. Inevitably your immune system falls through the floor and you then lose your appetite. You don’t have to be logging hours and hours a week to suffer: recreational athletes can overtrain as well and are often more guilty of this than seasoned Pro's.
Pay attention to the following 10 markers. If three or more of these indicators raise a red flag, you should consider a few easy sessions or ‘off’ days so you can return to your sessions strong. Learn to love rest
1. You didn’t sleep well and or get enough.
A pattern of consistently good sleep will give you a boost of growth hormones, which are great for rebuilding lean muscle mass. Consecutive nights of bad sleep will decrease reaction time along with immune, motor and cognitive functions.
2. You’re run down.
If your energy levels are low, there’s something wrong. Being honest with yourself is key. Athletes can block out signs of fatigue to push through it, thinking it will make them stronger. 3. You've lost weight since yesterday.
A 2 or more % drop in weight from one day to the next indicates a body fluid fluctuation. It’s most likely that you didn’t hydrate enough during or after your last workout. Dehydration negatively impacts both physical and mental performance, and could compromise the quality of your next workout.
4. Your resting heart rate is elevated.
Take your pulse each morning before you get out of bed to find what’s normal for you, better still use a HRV App such as iThelete. An elevated resting heart rate is one sign of stress. It means your nervous system has prepared for fight or flight by releasing hormones that speed up your heart in order to move more oxygen to the muscles and brain. Your body won’t know the difference between physical and psychological stress. A hard run and a hard day at work both require extra recovery.
5. Your urine is dark yellow.
This can be an indicator of dehydration, barring the consumption of vitamins, supplements or certain foods the evening before. The darker the colour, the more you’re struggling to retain fluid because there’s not enough to go around. 6. You’re irritable .
When your body is overwhelmed by training (or other stressors), it produces hormones such as cortisol that can cause irritability or anxiety. Stress also halts chemicals such as dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that has a negative effect on mood when depleted. Crankiness probably means not enough recovery.
7. Your oxygen level has dipped.
The amount of oxygen in the haemoglobin of the red blood cells can be measured by placing your fingertip in a portable pulse oximeter, something you can get for around £/€20. The higher the percentage, the better: above 95% is the norm at sea level or for an athlete who is fully acclimatised to a given altitude.
This is a new area in recovery science, and it requires more research, but there may be a link between low oxygen saturation and the need for more recovery. As more researches does this could be an exciting field for athletes to pinpoint exactly when they need rest or don't.
8. Your planned session went poorly.
This is a subjective measure of workout quality, not quantity nor intensity. If you felt great on yesterday’s run, you’d evaluate that as good. If you felt sluggish on that same run, you’d count it as poor. Multiple ‘poor’s in a row is an easy way of identifying the need for more recovery.
9. You're sore or nursing an injury.
Whether you’re aching from overworked muscles or you’re suffering an injury, your body needs more energy to put towards repair, lengthening total recovery time.
10. You’re sick.
Any illness, or even a woman’s menstrual cycle, will increase your need for energy to refuel your immune system, which is having to work overtime. This means there are fewer resources available for recovering from training.
Pay attention to the signs and make sure that you take rest when you need it, recovery is as important to the session that you do to enable you to improve as an athlete.
Sisu Racing Triathlon Coach