Recovery 101

Recovery.  It’s called the “fourth discipline”.  We’ve all heard about it.  Some of us do it better than others.

Recovery isn’t just about that 10 second rest break between swim intervals or spinning for a minute on a bike after a hard effort (although both of those are types of recovery).  Recovery is more about allowing your body to adapt to the physical rigors that we put it through as we’re training for swim, bike and run (and weightlifting, P90X, Insanity, Crossfit, Warrier Dashing, etc).  The problem is, since the vast majority of us are not typically very good at recovery, we may be a little unsure of exactly what we should do, and when.  Moreover, we may not track our recovery in similar ways as we track the other aspects of our training.

Recently, Velo Press sent me a new book to read and review:  The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, by Sage Roundtree.  I finished reading it not too long ago, and I thought that since most of us are really in the “thick” of our training right now, it’d be a good idea to share some of my thoughts on the book.

This book is fairly small.  The chapters are typically fairly short, and as such, it’s a very quick read.

The book is broken into three parts:  Defining & Measuring Recovery; Recovery Techniques; and Recovery Protocols. 

In the first of the three parts of the book, we learn about why recovery in general is important, the work/rest cycle and phases of adaptation to exercise.  We learn about how recovery should be built into our weekly routines, but furthermore we learn about how we should be incorporating recovery into our macro exercise cycles (monthly, yearly, etc).  There’s a chapter devoted to overtraining, including how to identify and prevent overtraining.  Two chapters of the first section relate to using qualitative and quantitative measurements to help us understand how effectively we recover.

I found these two chapters particurly insightful.  One suggestion that the book made was that we should be tracking our recovery activities with the same level of diligence that we track our workouts.  We can and should be tracking both qualitative (how we feel) type metrics and quantitative metrics.  One way we can capture qualitative data is through our training logs.  For example, we could capture our general feel, our thoughts on our performance, our mood, about & quality of sleep.  Then, we should periodically look back and review our notes and compare versus our performance/racing to know how our recovery correlated to our performance.

The next main section of the book is devoted to recovery techniques.  There are chapters devoted to active recovery, stress reduction (and boy, don’t we all need some of this?), sleep, nutrition & hydration, supplements, cold & heat, home remedies, technological aids, massage, self-massage, yoga, and meditation & breathing.

Frankly, there are some parts of each of these chapters that I think many of us have seen or read before.  I have never seen them bundled together as broad tools in the recovery toolbox.  Each chapter goes into the benefits and cons of each modality.  For example, the chapter on home remedies devotes considerable time to compression socks.  (I’ve previously written about compression socks here and here).  Additionally, the chapter offers some insights on the use of creams and Epsom salts as recovery methods. 

A fairly cool aspect about the chapters in this section of the book is that at the beginning of each chapter there is a graphic called Sage’s Gauge.  The intent of Sage’s Gauge is to graphically detail on a five level scale the relative time investment, cost, accessibility, and confidence associated with each modality.  Additionally, there is a section where contraindications are called out.  For example, for the recovery modality of massage, time is marked at 2, cost is at 4, accessibility is 4, and confidence is 5.  Using massage to treat injury is listed as a contraindication.  To translate the coding – the time investment is relatively low, but cost, accessibility of massage, and overall confidence in the recovery benefits of massage are high.

The chapter on yoga includes very good pictures to demonstrate certain poses explained in the text.  While I’ve never done yoga before reading this book, I have attempted some of these poses based upon the pictures included.  If you’ve never done yoga before, I’m here to tell you that it’s hard – but also very relaxing.

The final section of the book gives some detail on how to recover from both short & long distance races and how to tie all of the myriad recovery options together into a suitable plan for you.

Summary:

  • The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery by Sage Rountree.  Available from Velopress.com
  • Soft cover, 203 pages, 20 chapters, 2 appendices and lots of good graphics, call-outs & photos
  • What I liked about the book:  It’s a fast read, offers good insight on how to avoid overtraining and how to incorporate both qualitative and quantitative data tracking to gauge my level of recovery.  While none of the information in the chapters on specific recovery modalities was “new” per se, reading in this format was beneficial in that it gave me a good refresher and new thoughts about how to leverage multiple modalities at the same time to boost my recovery
  • What I didn’t like about the book:  Actually, nothing. 
  • Would I recommend this book to a friend:  Absolutely, I would!

You can download the table of contents and some of the text by clicking on this link.

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2 thoughts on “Recovery 101

  1. Recovery is such a personalized thing though. I know I, and being 22 is a part of it, recover crazy fast. If/when my performance starts to slip, my coach gives me an easy day and I’m right back at it. Some people, regardless of age, need that 2+ weeks off after a full, but I know I was back on my bike 36 hours later after mine. And I know stretching any time I don’t feel tight actually makes me sore. I think recovery is like nutrition; there’s guidelines, but everyone has to find what works for them.

  2. Nice review of the book. You know, I have known for years that I should get more sleep to help with my recovery and reenergize for the next day’s workout. It is equally as difficult to have discipline with this as it is your workouts.

    More, when I first started training for triathlon four seasons ago, I never wanted a day off. Now, I am the king of recovery.

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