Recovery: one of the most understated tools in an athlete’s repertoire.
No matter how hard you train, lack of proper recovery will catch up with you eventually and lead to diminishing losses. It is also one of the most limiting factors when it comes to training; you can only train as well as you recover.
Take for example a person who works out more than once a day. After the first workout, it is crucial to replenish what your body has lost so you are able to get the most out of the second session.
How can you avoid this? More common methods such as frequent massages, foam rolling and stretching are great benchmarks to begin with. These methods are great for muscle recovery and ensuring the body has proper mobility when going from workout to workout.
What about recovery tools that aren’t so easy to see with the naked eye? What we think of as 'recovery' with today’s technologies has largely shifted from your standard eight hours of sleep to being able to monitor your body’s metabolic functions—from blood levels to muscle oxygen levels. It can be easy when training values such as heart rate, sleep patterns, and blood levels are tracked consistently. This can show trend patterns that people can follow and see exactly where they are deficient. This is made even easier by wearable technology that can track this data for you.
What metrics should I be monitoring?
With clinical-grade fitness trackers at your disposal, the question is no longer how to monitor your body's signs of rest and recovery, but which metrics to look into. We'll break down the benefits of a few biometrics that can serve as tell-tale signs of your bodies well-being.
Monitoring your heart rate is now easier than ever with today’s advancing technology! Using wearable devices can accomplish this through heart rate straps and now wrist heart rate measurements.
Tracking your heart rate each morning can help develop patterns for your body’s RHR, or resting heart rate. Keeping a log of your resting heart rate each morning can show trends in both decreases, as you get fitter, as well as increases.
It's important to note that increases are not necessarily indications of “loss of fitness,” but rather can be used to track “overtraining.” Heart rate values can begin to rise overtime with lack of proper recovery and a sign that your body is being overworked. When your body is working in overdrive to keep up with the amount of added stress placed upon it, it becomes more susceptible to illness and fatigue. Illness also contributes to elevated values in your body’s RHR, working harder to fight off infection.
Heart Rate Variability:
Another critical value to measure based off of Heart Rate is Heart Rate Variability, or HRV. HRV is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. This is measured by the peak waves of the heart beat itself. You can see this on an ECG (echocardiogram.) Many different factors can influence this value and is not limited to exercise alone, and the HRV can help detect modulations in the nervous system.
The body has two different systems that influence the rate of your heart beat. These are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS.) To put it simply, the SNS can speed up your heart rate based on external and internal influences, while the PNS is the opposite, and works to slow down heart rate. Acute stresses can affect these systems such as mental stress and aging.
These added stresses slow down the HRV, while exercises acts to reverse these effects in an effort to speed up your HRV. Why is this important to you and recovery then? Keeping track of HRV over time will show trends in training adaptations, both positive changes and negative. Different types of training effect HRV and are indicative of training loads that suit each individual best. For example: interval training at high intensities results in a delayed HRV response as compared to longer sustained durations. Recovery time is then hampered and crucial to an athlete especially after high intensities. The negative effects will be seen in trends overtime that will show significant decreases in the frequency and time between heart beat intervals. Overtrained individuals will be hypersensitive to these changes and will be reflected overtime.
This information of heart rate variability is crucial for individuals to serve as a parameter to manage their fatigue and establish baselines for exercise intensity. It is important to note that these measurements should be taken immediately after exercise each time to insure proper readings.
It’s no secret that replenishing lost energy stores is a key component to your body being able to adapt and recover to exercise and training loads. This intake isn’t limited to food alone, but the often neglected hydration levels of each individual.
In regards to hydration: the general rule of thumb to use is to never finish a workout with a weight loss greater than 2%. Anything above a 2% loss is indicative of performance decrease. Aside from weight loss, dehydration can lead to a greater amount of built up fatigue. This is due to loss of blood volume following exercise, which requires your heart to work harder to pump blood to all of your body's’ organs. If blood is not properly distributed, or is not in adequate amounts, your muscles won’t receive the sufficient amount of oxygen they need. Without proper amounts of oxygen in the muscles, fatigue begins to set in, reducing your body’s ability to perform at its optimum level. Along with lack of oxygen to muscles, without proper hydration the synthesis of protein for muscles is decreased. If this is hampered, the rebuilding of muscle repair will be delayed and further reduce your body’s ability to recover properly. It is important to note that during and after exercise it is crucial to replenish your body’s lost electrolytes through hydration. Remember that water follows salt into your body’s cells. Having a sport specific drink can help replenish the crucial electrolytes lost, as well as help to restore carbohydrate levels again.
In the past, it wasn’t so simple to find a way to quickly detect hydration levels. Most of the time going off of urine color was the route people went. Most of the time if you’re already thirsty, you’re passed the mark for dehydration. Now, thanks to wearable technology, athletes are able to detect skin hydration levels almost instantaneously.
Now more than ever, it is becoming increasingly easier for athletes to track biometric values to help increase their training and recovery. Tools that allow athletes and coaches to analyze heart rate, hydration, and other essential biometrics can help ensure that each individual is benefiting from training as well as recovering to ensure optimal success. Making sure that all of the details are being closely monitored can set individuals on the path to success.
You spend all of your time working hard to achieve your goals, don’t let the small things get in the way!