By Kevin Barda
Do you wake up the day after a hard workout or race unable to tie your own shoes? Does it hurt to brush your teeth the day after your weekly heroic 13th place battle in the senior 45+ beginner class? Welcome to everybody else’s world.
A solid recovery plan will lessen the soreness and fatigue you feel the day after an intense workout such as a 1 hour and 30 minute mountain bike ride, a 30 minute moto, or looking for the television remote.
Although better preparation the weeks and months prior would be more beneficial, I understand you want relief NOW!
Before I dispense this valuable advice lets look at why you want to work out in the first place. When you do a workout you place a stress on your muscular and/or cardiovascular system. It is the body’s response to this stress, not the stress itself, which makes the same workout seem easier over a given period of time.
What this means is that a single workout in itself is not that valuable. What makes working out valuable is consistency. It is the consistent stress that produces results. Therefore, the most important factor of a workout routine is consistency. The person that does five easy/moderate workouts per week will be better prepared than the person that does one “killer workout per week come this weekend’s race.
Remember, regardless of why you are doing the workout (cardiovascular improvement, cardiovascular maintenance, increasing muscular strength, etc.) recovering as best as possible will allow you to resume your training the next day. Remember, as different days within a workout routine should have varying levels of intensity it is most important that you get recovered from the most intense days since those have the largest effect on your fitness level.
Before you begin your workout you need to be sure that you are fully hydrated. Hydration does not begin by drinking water as you drive to the gym—after not drinking all day. Hydration is a continuous effort throughout the day. Remember, by the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. It is best to keep a bottle of water nearby so you will drink throughout the day. And no, your five cups of “double-mocha-latte-frape-whatever does not count.
You just finished your workout and you wonder, “What should I do? First, you need to get some carbohydrates into your system within 30 minutes after your workout is completed. Ideally the recovery drink/food should contain a ratio of 4 parts carbohydrates to one part protein. If that is not available then just go with a drink/food that is 100% carbohydrate.
This can be in the form of a carbohydrate performance drink (CytoMax, Accelerade, Endurox, etc.), solid food (bagels, pasta, etc), or a combination of both. I usually go with a bottle of CytoMax on the easy days and some Endurox and a bagel and the hard days. The two reasons I like to use a recovery drink versus solid food and water are that most performance drinks contain vitamins and minerals you lose during exercise and I am always on the go and a recovery drink in a water bottle is very convenient. Besides, most people are more likely to drink a recovery drink since it is better tasting to most than plain water.
Research has shown that within the first 30 minutes following exercise the glycogen sttores within your muscles tend to refuel more effectively than if you wait until later. When you workout it is best if you have prepared your recovery drink/food in advance so it is available when you finish.
And just so there is no confusion, although fries are a carbohydrate, going through the drive-thru at In-n-Out does not count as refueling.
A good stretching routine will also reduce muscular soreness. However, stretching is only valuable if it is done consistently. Some research has shown that inconsistent stretching may actually increase your chance of injury. So, if you stretch, you need to do so daily.
Now that you know what to do immediately after your workout you should be aware that what you do the rest of your week will also have a large effect on how you recover. The food you eat fuels your muscles during exercise. The better you eat the better your recovery, which will lead to better performance on race day.
You also need to get the proper amount of sleep. Although everyone is different, each person has a necessary amount of sleep required for optimal performance. As you increase your workout routine, either the intensity or the duration, your need for good sleep will increase.
So remember, although a proper recovery will help you feel better the next day the real value is it will allow you to continue your training day-to-day. And that is how you will see real results.
I understand not everybody can eat right, sleep right, and workout seven days a week. Life gets in the way all the time. However, doing what you can every week adds up. Consistency is key, so do what you can and remember that a little is not as good as a lot, but a whole lot better than none.
Kevin Barda lives in Victorville, CA, and his company is called “Designed Performance.” He currently trains Josh Grant and Dylan Lord, and interested riders can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin has a Master of Education, Physical Education, he teaches Health/Phy. Ed at Victor Valley Community College, and is head cross country coach at Victor Valley Community College. He was a SoCal 500 pro in the late 80’s, and is currently a competitive distance runner with a personal best 2:23:06 marathon.