Can you train any harder?
How hard is this sport? Well don't look at the face of the winner,
look at the faces of the girls in 2nd and 3rd.
"Can you train any harder?" ... if the answer to this question is 'no', (either due to physical limits, time restrictions, motivation limits or any other reason), then what's the next step to improving your speed on skates?
'Recovery-centered-training' is not exactly new, but it's importance has been highlighted recently. So, exactly what do we mean by 'Recovery-centered-training'.
Well, first of all, the training program should be designed with recovery in mind; training session length and intensity should be considered in relation to when the next training session is (in other words, how many hours before you train again - often the determining factors here are purely practical, i.e. when do you have track time and/or when do you sleep, and/or when is the gym available, or coach available, or when is club training scheduled). Or conversely, if you have more freedom then the placement of the next training session should be considered and adjusted according to the length and intensity of the previous session, or the next session.
Secondly, there are a variety of recovery methods designed increase either the speed of recovery, or the quality fo recovery. Some are as old as the hills and some are relatively new. We will cover some of the most common recovery protocols below:
Recovery cool down.
The empirical evidence suggests few advantages, and some disadvantages to cool down. But most top athletes and sports teams still do it. (Habit? Placebo effect? or is the science missing something? ) There are many different way to do cool down. But arguably, one effective method is on a bike because your body weight is supported by the frame/seat. In my own experience, it's is a very effective way of recovering. The "old science" sugested it keeps the blood moving around the body avoiding 'lactate pooling', and also keeping lymph fluid moving around the body (the lymph system has no direct pump, so movement is the only way to keep it moving) and helping to continue the movement of waste products on it's way out of the body. Easy spinning for between 15 mins up to 40 mins (depending on the intensity and length of the workout, and your training state) can enable faster recovery. The recovery could down should be done as soon as possible after the workouts end.
Your body is crying out for nutrients immediately after the trianing, so give it what it needs as soon as possible after training (get something inside within 10 mins). Now we could have a very long discussion about recovery nutrition, drinks, supplements, etc. but not here and now. Lets keep it simple; get some proteins, carbs and a little fat inside your body as soon as possible after the workout. Protein shake or chocolate milk to provide protein (amino acids) for muscle building and carbs/sugars to replenish muscle glycogen stores.
Drink plenty of water, both to replenish what you sweat out (maybe with a little magnesium or sea-salt in very hot conditions) and have exhaled. To move the waste products produced by hard exercise out of the body your blood system needs water, your muscles need water, your lymph system needs water. Give it enough of what it needs.
Your body is going to be in recovery mode for between 6 and 48 hours (depending on the workout). Eat a full meal within 45 mins of the workout.
Stretching will not help you recovery faster. But stretching protocols to prevent adaptive shortening can help prevent chronic injury (over many years of training). Any stretching should be done HOURS after training. Stretching soon after the training can actually do more harm than good.
There are different opinions about foam rolling, some find it useful, some find it time consuming. The best thing is to experiment with it and see how it works for you. Personally, I never doit after training (although I know people that swear by it). When I've done it before a workout I find my legs are dead and weak. Therefore, I don't use it at all. I would definitely not recommend foam rolling after a hard workout, as it can potentially do more damage to the muscle fibres, than good. It's best to leave this many hours after, or preferably prior to a workout the next day.
Contrast baths (or ice baths, or warm baths).
A complicated area, and much misunderstood. "Ice baths" are not the holy grail, and in fact can slow your recovery down. Ice baths are great for preventing inflammation to joints, tendons and ligaments, however the cooling effect shuts down blood flow by constricting the arteries and veins. Conversely a warm bath opens up the arteries allowing for greater blood flow, greater oxygen delivery and improved lactate clearance. Contrast baths (cold, warm, cold, warm) may be the most effective, but also are the most time consuming.
These high pressure massage boots have different programs for, among others, deep tissue massage, lymph drainage to combat lymph oedema. This can increase the rate of recovery. I've been testing these for 3 weeks now, I was "healthily sceptical" in the beginning, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness. In my own experience they help to reduce that feeling of "heavy legs" the next day. However, the most striking effect was the cumulative effect over many days. Just 30-45 mins treatment every day, and by the end of the week the legs were feeling substantially fresher than normal. (*Warning: Increased quality of recovery can lead to either an increased training volume, or increased training quality at each session, depending on your goal.)
Another disadvantage of our busy lifestyles is that we don't sleep enough. Most pro athletes sleep far more than the average person. Most sleep over 8 hours, and many sleep more than 9 hours. How many hours do you sleep? (*not, how many hours in bed, but how many hours actually ASLEEP?!!)
Most people are too busy. We forget to relax after training. True recovery means stopping being busy and actually relaxing. (By the way, one advantage of the recovery boots is that you must sit and relax). 😊
So if you have reached your limit of training time and intensity, then maybe time to look a little closer at your recovery. For more training advice, take look at our selection of Speedskating E-books.
Let's go faster,