by Karl Nygren
The power of recovery cannot be over exaggerated. Without recovery the body is unable to elicit a positive response from training and is merely worn down. Proper recovery is, without a doubt, the largest missing link in skier’s training plans. While training breaks the body down, recovery is what allows the body to super compensate and rebuild stronger then before. Recovery is fundamental to successful ski racing and encompasses everything from small daily details to broader lifestyle choices.
Recovery commences the moment training terminates. Following training small recovery efforts provide enormous returns. Immediate dry clothes, water and food when the body is worn down provide the initial impetus for recovery. Waiting until the onset of cold and hunger is foolishly counterproductive. Food digested very soon after exercise is preferentially stored as muscle glycogen and the primary fuel source for future exercise. Therefore, a small snack with a mixture of carbohydrates and protein such as yogurt and a banana or chocolate milk is crucial. Taking care of the bodies immediate needs after training greatly aids proper recovery.
Once home stretching and showering help soothe the body into a relaxation mode. While working hard during training now is the time to take it easy. The ability to relax and rest is largely dictated my work schedules, family obligations, and the ins-and-outs of daily living but simple choice to maximize rest and minimize stress greatly aid recover. Actively seek to stay well hydrated and feed. The quality of what goes into the body dictates the quality of work produces so strive to eat healthy foods. Maximize rest and sleep while maintaining mental stimulation without which athletes often feel lethargic.
The power of recovery is seen most strikingly in the mentality with which skiing is addressed. Accepting that less is often more and that training rested allows for optimal performance is the first step. There is simply no reason to train exhausted. When worn down take time off. The largest obstacle here is accepting that rest is not lost training. Rather, rest is the training needed that day that will allow the greatest improvements. Therefore embrace rest like training and strive to do it well, free of guilt.
Ideally athletes would train multiple times every day, entering each workout 100% recovered and ready to flawlessly execute each session. Never starting tired the maximal benefit would be obtained from each practice and dramatic improvement would ensue. Such a world does not exit and a limit must be placed on training based on an athlete’s fitness so that exhaustion and over training do not occur. A training plan should be taxing yet productive. The goal of training is to elicit a positive response in the form of fitness, strength and speed. This can only occur if the body is allowed to adequately recover. It is not possible to enter every workout 100% recovered but recovery and training must be monitored so on-the-whole an athlete’s body is built up rather then worn down. A training log monitoring morning heart rate, daily training and how the body feels helps illuminate downward trends and when rest is required.
Training and recovery compliment each other in a delicate balance. Each provides no benefit without the other and therefore both require great attention. Recovery is training’s limiting factor. Therefore, it is only possible to effectively train as hard as your body can recover. For some this might mean additional training is possible. However, for many either less training or better recovery is necessary for optimal performance.