Recovery is an integral piece of the overall training puzzle. With proper awareness, intuitive training prescription, and generally good habits, any athlete can find a program which induces stress and allows for recovery in a balanced manner. If you’re unsure about whether or not you need more rest and recovery, keep reading.
Recovery from Training – 3 Signs You Need More Rest
Given that no magical training programs exist, the onus is on the coach or athlete to plan training in a way which takes into account individual timelines of recovery from training. Coaches and athletes must be willing to make do with the reality of the present moment, and adjust training as needed instead of blindly sticking to the plan.
How do you know when you, your sprinters, or the other athletes you work with need more recovery from training? Here are a few things you can look for in order to properly assess fatigue in yourself or your athletes.
Sign #1 – Your sprint times, jump heights & lifts are stagnant or regressing.
Any well-to-do coach is bound to do some kind of data tracking. While I do not suggest you become a neurotic coach addicted to the data, I do suggest that you regularly time athletes using a timing system and keep track of your lifting by hand or with some sort of tracker .
By quantifying and tracking your athletes’ times and lifts, you can more effectively regulate your training sessions to limit fatigue. With a nice timing system and a tablespoon of intuition, you can even predict impending breakdown and change things up before it happens.
For example, say you have a sprinter who has been hitting times of .99 in practice on his flying 10m sprints. You as a coach see that he is doing well and staying healthy, so you decide to add more volume.
Next week, his times stay the same, and the following week he runs consistently above 1.05. Then he goes in the weight room and gets squashed by a weight that is normally an easy weight to lift. This athlete is likely in a fatigued state, and any further increase in training load could result in injury. When we operate in a state of fatigue, we are less likely to properly coordinate movement and as such are at a greater risk of injury.
If you or your athletes are starting to show regression in more areas than one, it is time to deload. Take some time where the total stress of training is reduced, and in short time everyone should be OK.
Sign #2 – Physical aches, pains, and muscular tension become more prominent.
Nearly every injury I have ever had was preceded by signals which I noticed but ignored. Usually, these signals from the body came in a few different varieties:
- Pinpoint discomfort when doing a specific movement at a certain range of velocities, such as a knot in the hamstrings during acceleration.
- A string of tension which goes along the majority of the length of a given muscle, such as a long band of tension in the “semi” hamstrings or along the adductors.
- Generalized discomfort which is not specifically painful, but feels like a subtle message from the brain saying “pay attention to this spot”. This can come in the form of vague tension, tingling, local weakness or general discomfort that causes hesitation in explosive movements.
People tend to ignore signs of impending injury simply because the signals the body gives prior to injury are usually devoid of actual pain. You will feel tension, or even just little whispers of discomfort, but these can easily be overlooked.
Areas to pay particular attention to in athletes who sprint, jump, or change direction include include:
- Achilles Tendons
If you or your athletes start to notice signs such as discomfort or some weird sensation in these areas, it would be wise to step away from high velocity sprinting or other exercises which require large forces and elastic movements. Stick to low velocity movements for a while, and even consider taking magnesium glycinate as a way to reduce resting tone of your muscles.
If an athlete is experiencing tendon discomfort, isometrics can be used as a way to reduce pain and cortical inhibition of movement, allowing for the athlete to exercise through the injury. This would only be wise under the careful attention of the coach and support staff, as well as in cases where the athlete does not show signs of damage, but does exhibit chronic pain.
Often times towards the end of a season, pain management is a major part of the program, and as such targeted isometrics on problematic tendons can be warranted.
Sign #3 – Despite taking pre-workout, you’re still tired.
Everyone feels tired from time to time, but usually this can be alleviated by a low intensity session or an off day. Things get more complicated when taking supplements, and I personally have noticed that the more caffeine I take on consecutive days, the more likely it is for me to end up burnt out after a week or two.
I believe that when you take a stimulant like caffeine, you are forcing your body to produce more neurotransmitters than it would have normally. If done chronically, this can lead to overuse of the pathways which produce the catecholamine neurotransmitters you depend on for stimulation and alertness.
It is wise to moderate caffeine consumption just like you would any other aspect of your training or nutritional intake. If you’re taking caffeine or a stimulant containing pre-workout but you still feel sluggish, chances are that you are excessively fatigued and could use a change in your short term training plan.
One way to minimize the risk of burning yourself out is to moderate and vary your pre-workout caffeine intake. For your every day session, challenge your body to produce stimulatory neurotransmitters on its own by sprinting or lifting without any supplemental stimulation. As you intensify training or have days where you want to hit that extra gear, take some pre-workout caffeine and Alpha-GPC.
How can you enhance recovery from training?
First and foremost, the easiest way to recover from sprint training, lifting, or any other high intensity training method is to take some time off. Shocking, right? I find this to be particularly important for sprinters.
There is an assumption among coaches and athletes that sprinters must run at least 3 times per week, with some programs pushing athletes to sprint 5 or 6 days per week.
The logic used is that more running will make you faster, but this logic does not always work out. For example, how can you run faster if you are tired? How can you run faster if you are burnt out physically and mentally? How can you run fast if you are always on the verge of injury? You can’t, at least not safely.
In the real world, athletes get tired and need to recover. High stress training sessions warrant adequate recovery, and the faster or stronger you are, the more taxing your sessions can be. A 1000lb deadlift at 100% a lifter’s max is far more stressful than a 500lb deadlift at 100% of max, and the impact of that stress can equate to a greater need for active and passive recovery.
Instead of thinking you need to sprint X number of days per week, aim to sprint on every day where you feel fully capable of sprinting at maximal intensity. If your body isn’t up to par one day, modify the plan to fit your current physical state. I like to lift on my non-sprint days, using strength & power training as a way to keep my body stimulated during times where I for whatever reason cannot make it to the track.
In addition to eating a healthy and balanced moderate to high calorie diet, consider making homemade jello as a way to increase collagen synthesis rates within your body. In recent research, ingestion of gelatin enriched with vitamin C was shown to enhance collagen synthesis in a dose-dependent manner. Collagen synthesis is an important process for recovery from training, and as such it would be wise to start incorporating collagen sources into your diet.
“The current data strongly supports the hypothesis that starting an exercise bout 1 hour after consuming 15 grams of gelatin results in greater collagen synthesis in the recovery period after exercise,” said a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
I buy the plain gelatin, but a supplement such as collagen peptides is a simpler solution. If you get regular gelatin, boil some Gatorade or juice to make your mix. Add crushed vitamin C tablets, creatine, and vitamin D for an extra punch of important nutrients.
Sleep is a king of all recovery tools. Before you go out and buy a bunch of equipment or supplements in hopes of improving your recovery, make sure you’re sleeping 8-10 hours of quality sleep.
A study with college basketball players showed a 9% improvement in free throws and a 9.2% improvement in 3-point shots as a result of extending sleep to a minimum of 10 hours per night.
While many factors go into performance, this is just one example of how important sleep can be when it comes to be the best athlete you can be.
Manage Life Stressors
Stress of all sorts will affect your body in an additive manner. Thanks to the commutative property, workout stress, financial stress, relationship stress and job stress, will all add up regardless of what order or priority with which they occur in your life.
If a significant other is mad or a loved one is facing ailing health, I guarantee that most people will find that their workouts suffer. Because your body is a single unit, it can be physically affected by any number of mental or emotional factors.
If you can, give your body a better shot at handling the stress of your training by “keeping your room clean” both literally and figuratively in your life.
- Prevent social issues by treating others properly.
- Live within your means so you do not end up with increasing debt or late fees and credit score dings.
- Show up early to work and do your job well so your livelihood is never in jeopardy.
Keep your life in order, and both your training and your recovery will be better off.
If you feel like your progress is stagnant or regressing, you feel more aches and pains than usual, or your pre-workout or morning coffee aren’t doing the trick, it may be time to take a look at your rest and recovery.
First, look to see if you are getting enough rest. Beyond that, consider the quality of your rest, as well as the other stressors which are affecting you in your day to day life.
By keeping your life in order and your training intelligent, you can ensure that them time and effort spent training has positive effects on your sports performance.
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