Most people do not recover well enough to make significant improvements in performance. Why? They do a poor job of balancing stress and recovery. Want to take your performance to the next level? Maybe it's time to do less or increase your recovery practices.
We talk about this all of the time with our endurance programming. We focus on quality runs with strength and recovery instead of throwing a ton of mileage on our runners. We understand that we have to work hard and then give our body the rest it needs. After all, the recovery is where all the magic happens. Are you stronger after a big workout? No, it's after we recover that we come back for the next workout stronger, faster, and ready to go!
But we can't only focus on the physical stress that our body sees. Here are the three major types of stress we like to monitor:
- Physical - Hard training sessions, lack of sleep, travel, and outside activities
- Emotional - Stress from work, home situations, or other disorder (anxiety, depression, etc)
- Nutritional - Diet, caloric intake, and chemicals (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc)
We battle these stresses with recovery practices; recovery walks, ice baths, massage or acupuncture to name a few. We must be careful to make sure we perform enough recovery practices to sustain the level of training.
"You’re going to have to pay. Every action has a reaction...you can’t cheat it, beat it, or outrun it."
How do we know if we are out of balance, i.e. stress is greater than recovery? Here are a few tests to measure your current state:
- Increased Resting Heart Rate (taken after waking up in the morning)
- Greater than 10% performance loss (strength or endurance)
- Increased fluid intake (especially in the evening)
- Need an alarm to wake up
- Mood changes (feelings of impatience or annoyance)
- Muscles are sore for longer than usual after a workout
- You lose the will to workout
Each individual handles stress differently. It takes self-knowledge to know when to back off and self-discipline to actually do it. In Part II we'll discuss how much recovery is required for your desired work load and discuss some of our favorite recovery practices.