Some thoughts about recovery …

The faster you recover, the faster you can train again.

Isn’t that what we all want ūü§Ē

Unfortunately, as we age, the longer it takes to fully recover. As a senior athlete (and I use the this term liberally), I know what this means. It means more aches, pains, and the risk of injury.

So, what can we do to expedite recovery?

Here are 5 things I do ūü§ē

Welcome Rest Days

Rest days are¬†an integral part of a¬†training plan. As we age, the slower we recover, and more rest is necessary. I work 1-2 rest days into every week depending on how I’m feeling. Rest may mean a light active recovery ride and stretch, or it may mean a day off from all physical¬†activity.

Cherish Sleep

I wear an activity tracker with a built in heart rate monitor. I wear the device primarily to monitor my resting heart rate (RHR), and sleeping patterns. If my RHR is elevated, I know I’m not fully recovered. When it is in the low 40’s, I’m rested and ready for an interval workout, or long ride. If it is in the high 40’s or low 50’s, it is time for a rest or recovery ride.

I’m also interested in how much sleep I’m getting, and more importantly, how much “deep” sleep I get each night. I’ve noticed that when I workout regularly, I sleep longer, and better. On average, I get 9+ hours of sleep every night, and 5+ hours of that are considered “deep”. “Deep” sleep is required for proper recovery, and it is recommended that adults get 1.5-2 hours of “deep” sleep every night.

Sleep is not my problem ūüõĆ I have learned by keeping to a regular schedule, opening the bedroom window year round, and using a firm, memory pillow guarantee a restful, deep sleep.

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Eat More Protein

I’m a vegan / vegetarian – mostly vegan but occasionally eat eggs and cheese. As we age, we lose muscle mass. That’s a problem for senior athletes, and why it is recommended we¬†weight train regularly. Muscle is protein, and needs protein to rebuild and grow. In addition to eating a well balanced vegetarian diet, I am trying to eat fish once a week. That sounds easy enough. Right? I know fish is¬†an excellent source of protein. The problem is that I do not like the taste, smell, or texture. Ugh …

This may be difficult to sustain ūüźüūü§Ē

Eat Immediately After Workouts

To understand how the right foods can help after exercise, it’s important to understand how the body is affected by physical activity.

When we work out, our muscles use glycogen stores for fuel. This results in muscles being partially depleted, and proteins in the muscles are broken down and damaged.

After a workout, the body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins.

Eating the right nutrients within 60 minutes after exercise helps your body do this faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps the body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown;
  • Increase muscle protein growth;
  • Restore glycogen stores; and,
  • Enhance recovery.

I eat a mixed berry +¬†banana +¬†almond¬†milk smoothie, and a cheese + avocado + tomato + lettuce sandwich on toasted wholewheat bread within 30-60 minutes following a workout. This replaces the expended calories (~ 500), and provides the nutrients necessary to quickly begin the recovery process ūü§Ē

Wear Calf Sleeves

After a long ride, or hard interval workout, I relax with calf sleeves on for several hours in the evening. I used to be sceptical of compression clothing but I like the feeling and warmth of the sleeves, and have noticed a positive difference. Here are several of the reported benefits:

  • Enhanced blood circulation¬†as a result of improved venous return. This means that deoxygenated blood goes back to the heart faster to improve blood flow of oxygen-rich blood back to the body.
  • Faster recovery¬†following strenuous exercise and improved performance, by aiding in the removal of blood lactate through improved circulation.
  • Enhanced warm-up¬†because of increased skin temperature.
  • Reduced muscle oscillation and vibration, providing stability to the muscle preventing micro-trauma, resulting in a faster and easier recovery.
  • Reduced effects of delayed muscle soreness¬†following strenuous exercise by¬†¬†reducing swelling and inflammation.
  • Increased muscle support which¬†increases performance through improved muscle efficiency.

What do you do to recover? Massage? Cold baths? Stretch?