Keep in mind that when you train you stimulate your body to build all the energy generating systems, muscles and coordination needed for efficient top level athletic performance. But those improvements don’t actually happen during the workouts. They take place later when you are recovering. And most of that goes on when you sleep.
The big hormonal responses to training that make you stronger happen in deep sleep. Human growth hormone and testosterone, two of the biggies, spike in the night after a day of good training. And those two hormones rev up your body’s natural ability to repair muscle that gets broken down during training. And that ends up making you stronger.
Those messages get transmitted more strongly over time as you train. The end result is that your body moves more effectively in the motions you train it to. Of course this means that attention must be given to having good form. You will only get better at moving in the way you actual do!
So much of that neurological efficiency gets put in place when you sleep. It’s sort of like your brain is a computer that gathers all this information during the day. Then at night as you sleep it files away the key ingredients in the right folders to be accessed later on in the future. Moving your body gets a big folder dedicated to it if you are athletic and workout a lot. The more info about what it took to get your legs to spin in say that pedal motion on the bike or to do a freestyle stroke in the water that gets uploaded into that folder, the more movement knowledge and expertise you can use later.
Without both of those, the potential for great results gets compromised. Yes, even time during the day when you are daydreaming is part of your recovery process. I’m sure you have experienced this already. Think about the last time you got a massage. You relaxed and recharged both your body and your mind. What about your daily meditation practice? That quiets your mind and freshens up your whole being to be ready for more!
The sleep element is the most key part though. How much you need to recover and be truly fresh is going to be individual. The range can be anywhere from 6-10 hours per night depending on how you are hardwired. If you do not get as much sleep as your body needs, it actually add to any stress you may be under. And stress is the top killer of athletic performance!
If you are unfamiliar with this measure, it’s a great tool for relating how you are feeling to actually recovery markers in your body. Heart beats, although they seem regular, have slight variations. If you are well rested those variations are much greater than if your body is not recovered and under stress. There are many devices including things like an Apple Watch and Whoop that record those variations and give you a HRV (heart rate variability) score.
Backing down planned training is the toughest thing for most athletes to do. And if you are not tech and device oriented it can be even tougher. So here are a few simple rules of thumb that signal you are in need of more recovery.
Here are a few solutions to the recovery puzzle.
Join us at Mark Allen Coaching to get guidance in your training that takes recovery into account.
(This is the third in a 9-part series of blogs on tips to help you train and race at your best!)
I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.