Recovery: Importance and Techniques

An often overlooked aspect of endurance sports is recovery. The recovery process is one that shouldn't be neglected; during recovery your body builds lean muscle mass and restores energy systems. This is the time that the body is adapting to the prior training load that was placed on it, so you can place a heavier load on it during the next training session. 

A little pre-race recovery lounging at GoCross Roanoke

A little pre-race recovery lounging at GoCross Roanoke

Recovery exists in two different ways: passive and active. Passive recovery is simply the act of taking a rest day, a day completely off from physical activity to allow the body to rest. Active recovery is the promotion of blood flow to sore and tired muscles through light exercise; imagine a session light enough to get the heart rate slightly up and get blood moving (get nutrients to the muscles), but not hard enough to elicit a training stress. Active recovery can be through the means of a light bike ride or run, a hike or maybe some yoga. 

For cycling, these are some of the things I try to focus on and keep in mind during recovery rides:

  • Ride on flat terrain- greenways and bike paths are great, they force you to keep the speeds (and effort) low 
  • Keep a moderate cadence; nothing too high, nothing too low- 80 to 90 rpm is ideal 
  • Keep power around 45-50% FTP, minimize large power spikes- imagine your cranks are made of glass 
  • Heart rate should be less than 65% of LTHR
  • 45 to 90 mins in duration
  • Add in a coffee stop! Caffeine aids in the recovery process and the re-uptake of glycogen (fuel) into the muscles. A recent study was published which dives into the details of this. 

Aspects of recovery that are also crucial are sleep and nutrition. It's important to aim for 8-10 hours of sleep a night and practice good sleep hygiene (tune in next week for more about proper sleep habits and hygiene). Sleep is so crucial to the recovery process, that if you have a bad night of sleep, you probably shouldn't train hard the following day. During times of heavy training it may also be helpful to incorporate short (less than 30 minutes) afternoon naps into your schedule. The recovery process is enhanced during sleep, therefore it's extremely important to be well-rested. 

Post exercise nutrition and hydration are huge components. During exercise, fuel sources are drained and it's important to replenish them as soon as possible. Refueling muscles allow them to build back stronger from previous training sessions. A meal is optimal for recovery within an hour of finishing your workout but sometimes a recovery shake is what's most convenient! Chocolate milk is a favorite because of it's 3:1 to 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio, it's inexpensive and it tastes great! Don't forget to rehydrate! Muscles are composed mostly of water, and a lot of that water is lost through exercise. Replace fluids post-exercise to ensure healthy hydration levels and healthy muscles.  

Incorporate some light stretching into your post-exercise routine. Some light stretching will aid in the recovery process and reduce the risk of injury. Some of our favorite methods to enhance the process of recovery are compression (via Normatec Recovery Boots), electric stimulation (via Marc Pro Plus) and various tools for myofascial release (foam rolling). Check out our fully stocked Recovery Suite at Podium Sports Medicine for all of these methods. These are all some techniques that will take your recovery to the next level! 

Athletes taking advantage of the Podium Sports Medicine Recovery Suite and Normatec Boots

Athletes taking advantage of the Podium Sports Medicine Recovery Suite and Normatec Boots

It may also be worth tracking physiological metrics such as resting heart rate and heart rate variability. Both of these metrics are values that measure physiological stress/strain on the body, and the numbers/trends reflect the response. Resting heart rate has been around for awhile now. If you track it daily, and see your RHR rise after a hard weekend or race, it might be time to ease up and recover. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a relatively new metric that has become popular over the past couple of years. It measures the variation in heart beats in milliseconds, essentially the higher number the better. Tracking HRV and RHR are like a traffic light; are they giving you the green light to train hard, or do you have some negative metrics (elevated RHR, depressed HRV) and you're getting a red light? There are plenty of smart phone apps (some free) that will measure these metrics as well as fitness trackers and watches. 

It's most important to listen to your body and what it is telling you. If you are sore and tired, take a day off. Did you have a long, stressful day at work? Maybe take it easy. Are you sick or feel like you're becoming sick? Definitely take it easy or take an off day. It's better to rest than to overdo it on a tired body and risk the chance of injury. A lot of athletes forget that you get stronger during recovery, not training. Train hard, recover harder!

 

Mental and Physical Prep for Race Day

Race season is here! It could be next weekend, or it could have already started for some of us. The first race of the season always brings a special kind of anxiety and uncertainty. 

"How is my fitness?" "Do I have race fitness?" "How has the competition's winter been?"

A lot of thoughts rattle around in your head. It's been a while since you lined up, and that adds to the pre-race jitters. I've been racing now for what seems to be 8 years (I'm starting to forget so I guess it's been a long time). Last year I sat on a start line over 60 times in events ranging from multi-day stage races, marathon mountain bike races, crits, road races, cyclocross races, etc. I won't say that I have the absolute best practice on race day, but I like to think that I've got my routine pretty dialed. It's important to find what works for you though, how you manage your stress and energy and channel that into the race. Through my years of training and competing at a high level and taking tips from successful individuals in the sport, I have been able to come up with some key points that I think are important to remember when coming into race day. 

  • Setting goals and objectives- Goal setting helps you work towards what you want to achieve, and check your progress as you go along. When setting goals I also like to set objectives that coincide. The objectives are the sub-steps that lead up to your goal. For example if your goal is to win a local crit, you've got to establish the plan of how to do that. Break it down and set objectives to help you stay on track and meet your goal. 
    • SMART goals- Your goal setting needs to be SMART. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Setting smart goals helps you to be detailed and thorough about what you'd like to accomplish. Specificity is important- "I want to increase my power this season." What power? Your FTP, 20min power, 5min power, 15sec power? A specific goal would be "I want to increase my 5min power". The goal needs to be measurable. "I want to increase my 5min power", by how much? Do you want to see a percentage increase or this there a certain number you would like to hit? "I want to increase my 5min power by 5%". Attainable and realistic aspects are similar and you must take into account your situation. A 5% increase in 5min power is pretty attainable and realistic with the proper training. A 50w increase in 5min power might be a stretch. Timely is the final aspect. When do you want to increase you 5min power by? Be specific. Do you want to see an increase in your 5min power by 5% in 6-8 weeks? Now that's a SMART goal.
  • Proper taper- What works for one person might not work for someone else regarding race prep. I've found it's probably a good idea to take a rest day two days out (Thursday if you start racing on Saturday) and then on the day before take an easy ride and include a few openers (60 second ramped efforts finishing in a full sprint). You want to come into the race weekend fresh, with no fatigue or tiredness, and "opened up". Try to stay off your feet, make sure you're hydrated and sleeping well going into the event. 
  • Positive Imagery- It's extremely important to come into the race weekend with positive thoughts and images in your head. Picture the race playing out in your head, and think about what you want to accomplish. Picture you making the break, cleaning that technical rock garden, or making the front selection on the final climb. These mental images need to be positive thoughts. If you can see this situation playing out in your head, more likely are you to wind up there.
    • Differentiate between good stress and bad stress- often before a race you might feel nervous or anxious. Don't think of this as bad stress. This is typically eustress (good) from a result of the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight) firing up and getting ready to race. Your adrenaline is pumping and you just need to channel that into the race.
    • Control what you can- We have to remember that anything can happen. Things can happen that are out of our control, and they often do. Focus on factors that you can influence, such as your nutrition, your bike etc. Show up with your plan, and execute that. If you can execute your plan and give 100%, no matter the result that is something to be happy of.
    • Be able to adapt- Cycling is a dynamic sport. Now we're racing and anything can happen. You could have a mechanical, you could miss the break, or someone could simply be stronger than you. Be prepared to abandon your initial plan and come up with a new one on the fly. 
  • Establish your pre-race routine or ritual- I like to do the same thing on race day. It takes some uncertainty out of the morning, and makes it seem like a routine day. I like to eat the same breakfast- race day isn't the time to try something new. I get to the venue with plenty of time and get registered or checked in. I'll pin my numbers/race plate, get dressed, do some course recon, relax and then start my appropriate warm-up. I personally like my race mornings calm and quiet.
  • Focus on the process- The race is over. Hopefully it went well, but maybe it didn't. There can only be one winner on the day and sometimes it's not us. That doesn't mean the day was a failure. Maybe you accomplished some of your objectives, but not the goal entirely. Maybe you executed your plan perfectly, somebody else was just stronger. Use that as motivation for your next training session and the next race. It's important to focus on the process instead of the outcome. We often get wrapped up in the result and if it didn't go as planned, that might overshadow all of the positive things from the race or weekend. Focus on nailing all of those objectives, the right positive mindset and executing your plan; the result will soon follow. 

Positivity, self-care, and time-management: My interview with Kaysee Armstrong

This week for the Coach’s Corner blog, we’ve got an interview with Knoxville local and trail-shredder Kaysee Armstrong. Kaysee has been crushing the mountain bike race scene for a few years now. She’s got numerous National Championship titles and countless race wins all over the world. She’s extremely positive, incredibly hard working and dedicated to all aspects of her life and she lives right here in Knoxville. Read the interview below to get a glimpse into the daily life of Kaysee Armstrong, see how she handled the off-season, how she handles the mental side of sport (and life) and what she’s got coming up.


Profile

·      Age: 27 year’s old 

·     Location: Knoxville, TN 

·      Day Job: Full-Time Accountant 

·      Discipline: Marathon mountain bike, cross-country and stage racing

·      Sponsors: Liv Cycling, Harper’s Bike Shop, Yee-Haw Brewing, Hyperlocal Knox, Podium Sports Medicine, Nox Composites, Health First Fitness

·      Favorite race: TransAndes 

·      Favorite trail: Squirrel Gap, Pisgah National Forest

·      Favorite Adult Beverage: Yee-Haw Dunkel

·      Favorite Caffeinated Beverage: Espresso! 

·      Favorite Workout: 20 min Low Cadence at Tempo  

IMG_6396.jpg

Elliott Baring: Give us the 60 second introduction to Kaysee Armstrong

Kaysee Armstrong: I’m Kaysee Armstrong, 27 years old, with two graduate degrees in Accounting and Healthcare Administration. I race my bike full-time as well as working as a full-time accountant here in Knoxville. I’m a Little Bellas Mentor, a NICA coach, I love my dog Dale and I love being outside.

EB: We're only a month into the New Year, and you've already tallied up one race win with the TransAndes Challenge in Chile. How did that go and how are things looking in the early season?

KA: I signed up for TransAndes months ago, then I broke my hand and I dreaded it. I felt like I wasn’t very motivated to race in January, I felt I could’ve backed off and hit the training harder with a longer off-season. The race did help me stay motivated through the hand break and also helped me avoid a pretty harsh couple of weeks [weather] in the Southeast. I went into the race thinking “I could win this if I work hard and stay focused”. It ended up working out and I got the win, which was a treat and a perfect way to start the season.

EB: You had a slight setback this fall with a broken hand; did you feel like that hindered your progress throughout a crucial build period?

KA: It was great timing actually, in November. Although it was also a few weeks of time where I could’ve been getting base miles in; but because of my cast, I didn’t want to lose too much form so I was doing other things to stay fit like long day-hikes, TurboSpins [local group spin class], Zwift and increasing my weight training. In a way it probably helped me rather than hindered me by forcing some time off the bike and helped bring in a variety of different ways to stay fit.

EB: By taking an untraditional off-season with hiking, TurboSpin, Zwifting and significantly increasing the weight training, do you think that contributed to your overall fitness and helped you avoid burnout?

KA: Now that I’m training seriously and with purpose, so there’s higher stress and pressure. The hiking was an especially great way to get in a big days of exercise and also gave me a break from riding to clear the mind. The low-intensity aerobic qualities combined with the weight-bearing nature of hiking make it such a great activity to do in the off-season. I actually grew to really enjoy long day hikes with friends and my dog, Dale. I do think it helped me avoid the usual burnout though... People often train so hard, and let cycling become such of a task in their daily life that they forget why they do it. Sometimes you've got to take time off the bike to remind yourself why you miss it and why you love what you do. Or just simply go ride your bike for enjoyment before you start training and hitting the base miles. For me cycling isn't a job, if anything it’s an escape from my daily job, so I don't see why I should waste my mental energy getting stressed and worked up about training, cycling should be about fun and stress relief. 

EB: You manage your time incredibly well, what’s it like being a full-time accountant and a full-time athlete? Do you have any specific ways to make that work?

KA: I pick battles and prioritize. I ask “what am I going to focus on today?”, and I plan accordingly to break the day up and get all of my tasks done. I plan big training days to match with slower days at work, and vice versa. I feel like cyclists are very self-determined to do all the training before they get to the start line, and for me part of that is getting my work done [accounting] accordingly.

EB: How do you spend your down time to relax? I don’t think I ever see you sit down for a minute and take a breather.

KA: I love my downtime! People may think this is crazy, but I walk with my dog. I discovered about a year ago, that those walks are so relaxing because I don’t have to worry about what the next task is (like work) or what my power and heart rate are (like training). It can be an hour or it can be 20 minutes, I can call my mom or I can self-meditate; anything helps me unwind during those walks. I really think it's important to find a self-care act that works for you; whether that be unwinding with a bath, reading a book or watching Netflix. For me I take walks with my super cool dog Dale and enjoy his company.

EB: What are your goals and major focuses for this season?

KA: Cape Epic in March is the next big focus! It’ll be a new race for me, a new country (South Africa) and a new format of racing by doing the Duo format with my new teammate Serena Gordon. I’ll be doing a lot of the US Cup races and racing some more cross-country this year. I’ll be racing all of the EpicRides events and racing Dirty Kanza with some local lady friends from Knoxville. Those are all definitely on the schedule and I will probably find my way to the start line of another stage race or two.

EB: With my biased opinion, I would say you are the most dominant/successful female US stage racer. How do stay so consistent in multi-day races? Do you have any tips, tricks or morning rituals?

KA: Well I first started working on what I was not good at; climbing. I love shredding the trail but I was struggling on climbs my first year of stage racing. I got a new coach (Drew Edsall) and we started working on that. While I’m in the races I specifically focus on staying calm; my coach uses the saying “control what you can control” and I only use my energy to focus on those things. I do a lot of deep breathing and I try to go to the start line with no pressure. I try to keep the pressure off by focusing on one little thing at a time instead of the big picture. Focus on the process instead of the outcome. I also don’t think about the race when I’m not racing. I focus on food, relaxation and enjoying my time! I think about stage racing as a vacation and like to enjoy the new experiences that new races and locations bring. I often use it as a self-care retreat. So my recommendation would probably be to take a step back, enjoy the moment and don't get so wrapped up in the race. You'll probably have a better race if you're more relaxed and not stressing about things outside of your control!

EB: You spend a lot of time working with the Little Bellas and with NICA. How is it working with the future generation?

KA: It all began when I used to do competitive cheer and then I also coached it. I love working with kids; they’re a good reminder of what life is like without obligations [a job, bills, etc]. They simply do things for enjoyment and because it’s fun. They don’t worry about how far they’re going to ride, or how fast, they just have fun. It’s honestly another self-care act for me, it’s a retreat from daily life because I don’t focus on training or my daily job, I just focus on these kids and they remind me why I love to ride my bike. It’s also a good reminder that winning isn’t everything. The kid that did his best and got 15th is just as stoked as the kid that got 3rd. I think it's helped me realize I should put the pressure on doing the best I can, instead of simply winning. The first season I worked with NICA I came off a rough race season, and working with those kids helped me remember why I love to ride and helped me enjoy the ride itself instead of getting so wrapped up in the numbers and the results. It really helped me turn my mentality around and focus on the right things.

EB: Last question is the most serious, what’s your favorite breakfast food?

KA: Greek yogurt, it’s perfect and I love it! Anything that involves greek yogurt is great but I do often put that on some Kodiak Cake protein pancakes.

IMG_6397.jpg

HUGE thank you to Kaysee for this interview. Kaysee is such a positive and uplifting person that I think a lot of people could benefit from taking a tip or two from her. 

You can find Kaysee on Facebook and Instagram (@kaysodip) or you might run into her at a local coffee shop, Harper’s Bike Shop, or on the trails!

Keep tuning in for weekly blogs and hopefully some more occasional interviews from interesting individuals I've met in the realm of endurance sports, health and fitness! Thanks for reading.

-Elliott, Baring Performance Management

Staying fit through the Winter

Cold temperatures, occasional snow, the dreaded freeze/thaw of the local trails, and darkness when you get home from work... it's winter. For the majority of endurance athletes, it becomes difficult to train and maintain fitness through the winter due to all of those limiting factors. The majority of us have full-time jobs, families and often other commitments that make it more difficult to carve out the time to train when the days get shorter. Here are some tips that I've picked up over the years, that can help you maintain fitness throughout the winter and holiday months. 

  • Zwifting!- Smart trainers and Zwift are changing the game of riding indoors, this revolution has gotten huge over the past few winters. I typically try to avoid riding more than an hour or hour and a half on the trainer; and the best way to make the most out of this time, intervals. Nothing makes an indoor ride go by faster than hitting that lap button every few minutes. Zwift has excellent interval workouts as well, such as 12-week FTP Builders to get you prepped for race season or give our Workout of the Week a try!
  • Weekend Group Rides- Finding some local group rides on the weekends or riding buddies are a great way to get the hours in when the weather might keep in off the bike otherwise. Nothing like the company of close friends for a few hours when the mercury is close to freezing. Group rides add camaraderie and a sense of accountability to your weekly hours. Maybe add a coffee stop in halfway or towards the end of the ride.   
IMG_5890.JPG

 

  • Hiking- This winter I've really been embracing this type of off-the-bike activity; hiking is GREAT when the temperature is miserably cold. Nobody wants to get on the bike when the high is sub-20. Activities (like hiking) off the bike throughout the winter help you avoid mental burnout too, keeping it fresh and new with different activities keep the mental energy high. I also love hiking because of it's low-intensity aerobic and weight bearing qualities; it's excellent for your joints and muscles. 
IMG_5936.JPG

 

  • Strength Training and Group Fitness Classes- The winter months are the perfect time to hit the reset button and focus on areas of your body and fitness that may need some work. For example cyclists are notoriously bad for having low bone density; winter is the perfect time to hit the gym and do a little strength training to combat this. Gym work will increase your lean muscle mass and metabolic rate, help combat injury throughout the season (if done properly), increase your bone density and muscle integrity, and help establish a strong foundation to build your season upon. Strength training will also keep the overall training load high and add extra caloric expenditure when your time on the bike might be lower. 

My biggest recommendation for the winter months is to mix it up. It's easy to burnout in the winter by staying strict and hyper-focusing on a training plan. Keep things relaxed and add some different type of aerobic activity, try hitting the gym or going on a hike!

Welcome to the Coach's Corner!

Welcome to the Coach's Corner! I (Elliott Baring) am an intern student for Podium Sports Medicine this Spring. I'm a college student from the University of North Georgia studying Exercise Physiology. I'm also a professional cyclist with a specific focus on marathon mountain bike and stage race events, as well as cyclocross in the Fall. Here at Podium, my internship will consist of working in the Performance Lab and as a cycling coach (USA Cycling certified). I will be frequently posting weekly blogs and weekly workouts so tune in and keep an eye out! Now let's get onward to the first Coach's Corner Talk!

As an endurance sports athlete, it's very important to test yourself frequently to check in on where your fitness lies. Consider it like a progress report; you get an insight of how you are adapting to a training block or program and allows you to see if you're improving, stagnating or declining. These results allow you to readjust your training plan; is it working and you need to increase your power or is it not working and you need to adjust and try a different method? Frequent testing allows you to update your zones to build off and train with for the rest of the season. A great opportunity for testing is when a new calendar year rolls around. It's an insight into how your fitness has been maintained over the off-season, and lets you hit the reset button when creating a new training plan for the upcoming season. 

Now that I've explained a little about why you should test frequently, lets talk about why you should test in a physiology lab. Testing in a lab allows you to specifically target your zones; more precise than you would be able to on the road, or with "field testing". In the lab you are able to more precisely identify thresholds and zones because you are checking blood lactate levels in response to power (or pace) zones, rather than using the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale to check your efforts. Lab testing utilizes ramped protocols to slowly increase the effort and push the athlete to exhaustion. These ramped protocols are preferred over field tests because it takes the pacing strategy out of the equation. Testing in a lab might give you the opportunity of collecting other useful data such as VO2Max and VLaMax. A recent VeloNews article (VeloNews Training Plan, part 1) mentions the importance of testing specifically in a lab. 

“A lactate test in a respected physiology lab is the best way to identify your zones. It’s worth the money and, if necessary, the travel.” -Trevor Conner

If you want to start 2018 off right, and crush the upcoming season, come into Podium Sports Medicine for some lab testing. We are currently running an offer through the end of January that is about 50% off INSCYD Physiological testing. We are fortunate enough to be one of the few facilities in the country that can utilize this type of testing. Give us a call soon and secure your spot before the offer ends!