How to Recover More Efficiently

Q  I’m training for my fourth half-marathon and trying to break 1:45. I’ve upped my training substantially and wonder if you have any tips for tracking training recovery. I want to push it, but I also don’t want to overtrain and burn out. I’ve been known to push too hard at times, and I’m really trying to make a change and train smarter. – JACKLYN

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A  You’re really wise to focus on evolutionary progression and recovery. It’s the most overlooked training focus, but once mastered, it can up your game and improve your performance.

When I coach athletes online, I have them complete a log each day that includes all the standard stats — heart rate zones, mileage, finish times and pace, weather and sleep. In addition, I have them rate how they felt in the workout.

To keep things simple, I have them colour-code the workouts to teach them how to tune into how they feel during the workout and then correlate the workout performance to variables that can play a role in boosting or diminishing the quality of their performance.

They simply log the words “Yellow,” “Orange,” or “Red” to rate how they feel during the workout, from start to finish. It’s a simple flagging system that requires they tune into their bodies and communicate that to me.

Yellow = I felt strong and could have done more today.

Orange = I felt okay, but nothing to write home about. I didn’t feel awful, but I also didn’t feel particularly strong either – somewhere in the middle.

Red = I was in the “bite me” zone for much of the workout and struggled to finish. I could have played the role of Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs after this workout (and other self-defeating thoughts).

I realise this may seem like Sesame Street (simple and cute), but it works. It is all about evaluating the trend in performance and recovery rates, which is hard to see by words alone. When you highlight it in colour (especially on paper logs or calendars) you begin to see the trend and how your body is adapting to the training load (very cool).

If you see lots of yellow and a few oranges, you are on the right track and your body is recovering well. If, however, you begin to see a trend in consistent orange and some red, something is affecting your recovery rate.

This is when you look at all the variables that can affect efficient recovery:

  • Training workload – too much too soon, too much progression, or too much too frequently.
  • Quality and quantity of sleep.
  • Hydration and fuel replenishment.
  • Stress in your everyday life schedule.
  • Travel.
  • Menstrual cycle symptoms.
  • Changes in terrain (altitude, hills, humidity).
  • Lack of downtime and recovery.
  • Running your easy days too hard.

The key is to log the information as close to the finish as possible and include plenty of information about how the workout felt, the elements, and other variables. When we just log pace and time, we aren’t looking at the whole picture as to how our body is adapting to the training load along the way.

Some of my clients love to use highlighters and a paper calendar and colour in the day with the appropriate colour. They get that high from manually checking it off their training to-do’s, and make performance art along the way. When it comes down to it, tuning into our bodies is the simplest and most effective means to evaluating training performance.

Keep it simple, make it colourful, and watch your training evolve and grow.

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