Isn’t that an Oxymoron?
I have been programming active recovery sessions once a week for one of my athletes for the last couple of months, since he completed his B race, and is building to his A race.
Last week I received a message from said athlete, asking (in their own words) “WTAF is recovery training?”
What I loved about this was that they had been doing the sessions religiously each week, regardless of not really understanding the purpose of them. This to me proved the trust they have in me. However, I didn’t love that I had an athlete in my camp blindly following workouts without knowing the why.
Now I get that not every athlete wants to understand everything (“thats your job” is something one of my guys likes to point out. “Monkey see, Monkey do, Monkey gets results” as he says) but I like to try and share the methodology behind everything we do so that they can execute every session to maximum advantage.
One of my biggest things, across every form of coaching that I do, is that if a client asks me “why are we doing this” if I can validate that question and explain the reason for the movement, or the workout, we shouldn’t be doing it.
As one of my experience athletes didn’t understand Recovery Training, I figure there must be others out there in the same boat so here’s the overview:
Recovery Training is a workout focussed on speeding up your recovery, rather than putting your body under any further stress.
To avoid stress we need to avoid high intensity, high impact, fast pace, or heavy loads. Recovery Training is ideally a maximum of 45 minutes and performed at a low intensity, keeping the heart rate down at around 30-60%. (*Note – It is NOT a zone 2 run. A zone 2 run occurs at a higher % of heart rate and although these often feel easy compared to the speed and power sessions, they are definitely still training and not recovery!)
I generally program indoor cycle sessions as active recovery sessions for my Ironman athletes but it can be swimming, walking, or maybe even some active mobility.
The goal is to move the body into a recovery state; a lowered heart rate, a lowered blood pressure – pushing your body to become more parasympathetic. This can drive up Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and people with a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and may be more resilient to stress.
Getting the body moving without stress will stimulate blood flow and help push fresh blood (and fresh oxygen) to every muscle fibre which will speed up recovery.
Working out at low intensity means you will be able to focus on the quality and rhythm of your breathing and the quality of your movement. Under fatigue we are all aware our form can go to shit and we are often gasping for breath any way we can get it. Recovery Training gives us time to build or reinforce our foundations, thus improving future workouts. I often spend some of my sessions focussing on my breathing patterns so that it becomes ingrained and less likely to fall apart under stress.
In a nutshell a Recovery Training session should make you feel better than when you started. It should help you feel more mobile, re energised and lessen the effects of the heavy, intense sessions that have come before.