All this requires something called “progressive overload.” Simply put, we slowly introduce more volume and intensity so that our muscles will respond by getting stronger and more accustomed to our efforts. Then we repeat the cycle, hoping to coax more out of our bodies.
As endurance athletes, the volume of training can get quite significant. Our competitive nature has us bumping up the intensity fairly regularly as well. All this can end with us feeling “wasted.” Since we are often more fit than our average couch potato friends, it is tempting to think we are somehow super-human. I have news…we are not!
The fact that we often lose sight of is that exercise breaks muscle fibres down so that they can be rebuilt to deal with the extra demand we are placing them under. That rebuilding takes place after the exercise is finished. This time should be treated as top priority if we want to realize the gains we’ve worked so hard for. There are three areas I think are important to concentrate on here so that training is not “wasted”:
Rest – Sleep and time away from training need to be a priority. Be honest with yourself and your sleep needs. If you are constantly tired, try to find a way to schedule more rest. You may find you need even more sleep as the volume and intensity increase.
Nutrition – Stay hydrated. We’ve all been guilty of going for coffee when we should be drinking water, juice or sports drink after a workout. The same goes for nutrition. Find out your recommended intake from a nutritionist or knowledgeable coach. In a nutshell, endurance athletes need more carbohydrates than sedentary people, among other nutritional considerations. Try to find quality food that is less processed wherever possible. Start with Canada’s Food Guide (see link on the right).
Self-help – If you are able to, get massage for those sore muscles. There are also self-therapy ideas you can try. Elevating your legs after a bike ride or run. Wearing compression socks after long runs. Ten minutes in a cold water bathtub after a run. These can all help speed recovery and have you feeling ready for your next workout.
I’d like to leave you with a challenge: Get a logbook and each day, rate your rest, nutrition and self-help on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being best). A little awareness will help develop good habits of taking care of yourself.