BASE Performance - The Art of Recovery BASE Performance - The Art of Recovery

The Art of Recovery

It’s that time of year again. Spring is happening everywhere. And with spring comes better weather and the itch to get outside to ride or run long miles. It’s also race season. Time to plan your race and race your plan. A lot of people think going hard and training 7 days a week is a sure fire way to success. But that really isn’t the case. What is the least thought of aspect of training? You might be surprised (or not) to find that it is recovery.

Recovery is a cornerstone to any good training plan. Without it, athletes would just run their bodies to the ground. Injuries would be rampant. Focus would be lost. Motivation would be lacking. It might seem counterproductive to the beginner athlete, but proper recovery will actually improve your race times and get you to that goal. Let’s break down what recovery means and what happens during that time.

To begin with, recovery is not the same for every athlete. Someone training for a 5K will have a shorter recovery times than someone training for an Ironman. Every training session an athlete has results in the breaking down of muscle fibers. It is during recovery that these small muscle tears repair themselves and grow bigger and stronger. In addition, there are various types of recovery. Active
recovery could be a 15-20 minute walk in the afternoon after your long run on Sunday morning. Long term recovery is built into your workout plan. For example, you might do a build for 4 weeks during
Ironman training but then do a recovery week where your training load is significantly less. Passive recovery are days where you literally do nothing except maybe take a nap on the couch while golf is playing in the background.

Keep in mind that recovery is not just about sleeping. An example: you go for a tempo run for about 3-4 miles. You feel good, had a great workout. At the end of the workout, you should take some time to
stretch and ease your body into the “rest and digest” mode or your parasympathetic systems. Doing some long, easy stretches and
possibly lying in shivasana (or corpse pose, literally the best yoga pose ever) for 5 minutes will give your body the cues it needs to start to calm down.

An often overlooked aspect of recovery are your nutritional needs. Keep in mind that when you increase your training load, your nutritional needs also increase. Consuming the right foods after workouts helps speed the recovery process. Downing a dozen cookies and a glass of milk might seem like a good idea if you feel you are crashing after a long run or ride, but there are better options. Maybe step away from the Chips Ahoy and try some greek yogurt with granola and berries or
throw on some chocolate chips for that cookie fix. Or use some BASE greens and make yourself a smoothie!

It is also imperative that you listen to your body. Not the “oh I don’t feel like running today” voice in your head that will derail you from your goals. Watch for signs of over training and needing an actual rest day. Some of the those sign are: feelings of fatigue beyond normal tiredness, lack of motivation or desire for your chosen sport, decrease in performance, elevated heart rate during the night, general aches and pains. When these symptoms hit, it’s time to take a rest day.

Remember that rest makes you stronger. It will help you maximize your fitness and athletic goals. It rejuvenates your cardiovascular and muscular systems to take on more load. It also prevents burnout. So take that nap. Try implementing a yin yoga class into your training weeks. Or maybe even take a leisurely bike ride with your kids or spouse. Your body, and your training, will thank you.

From the Expert: Short Course Focused Repeats For Long Course Athletes

We at BASE Performance strive to help you achieve your goals, which extends beyond nailing your nutrition and supplementation regimen. As such, we reached out to QT2 Systems Founder & Coach Jesse Kropelnicki to generously shares with us some of his training wisdom!

Every decision that you make as an athlete or coach, from the perspective of training stress, is typically based on some balance between race specificity and what is physiologically best to continue progress. Sometimes the most race-specific workouts, may not be the best for long term physiological development. Conversely, sometimes these objectives align well and make the athlete's planning a bit easier. Consider the athlete who is extremely aerobic in nature, either having been born as such, or having developed that way after many years of aerobic training (more than 8,000 hours!!!). Many times, this type of athlete will respond best to short, highly intense intervals. In fact, it is often these very athletes who require this type of training, in order to continue any significant long-term aerobic development. These are the athletes who, when given the option to do a 20-minute all out effort or a three-minute all out effort, will choose the 20-minute effort without even a thought, otherwise. Typically, the maximum average pace that these athletes can sustain over only three minutes, is very similar (on a relative basis) to that which they can sustain over a full 20 minutes. This is the same athlete whose Olympic distance race pace is only minimally faster than their 70.3 race pace. Simply put, they lack that extra gear! Continued aerobic work would be the athletic equivalent of trying to get water from stone, so it calls for a little change of pace early in the season to get those gears back!

In the battle of race specificity and physiology, these athletes will typically be best served to side with the physiological component, when between 16 and 30 weeks out from race day. But, as race day draws closer and closer, be it a sprint race or full Ironman, it is absolutely essential to include as much race specific training as possible (aerobic in this case). Even if early season short intensity work is required, aerobic efficiency will still be needed for any long course event. However, due to the Ironman‚ very long duration, the aerobic physiology of most athletes simply does not meet its demands. As a result, this type of short repeat work should only be done after a solid period of aerobic development, and fall during the final 12 weeks before race day where it is still useful for sharpening.

Traditionally, long course athletes have avoided high intensity intervals opting for more race specific, longer aerobic workouts. But, higher intensity intervals provide a more efficient and powerful anaerobic energy system; the ability to operate at intensities beyond anaerobic threshold! This is a tool, not necessarily required for good Ironman racing, but sometimes required to continue aerobic development over the long haul. Also, many times an athlete‚ race day power distribution may contain points that exceed anaerobic threshold, even at the Ironman distance. Having some robustness in this area will help those athletes reduce the impact that these "match-burning" power surges have on run performance. Shorter repeats also help promote efficiency of sport mechanics by improving neuro-muscular connections. All valuable considerations for the long course athlete.

Additionally, the recent research by Dr. Jens Bangsbo of the University of Copenhagen has shown that if you want to run, cycle or swim faster, at any distance, you have to train at a pace that is almost as fast as you can physically move (Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2009). He has shown in this study that the potassium pump partially responsible for creating the electrical potential between sodium and potassium for muscle contraction may play a role in long endurance race fatigue; the efficiency of this process begins to breakdown. The same research has shown that certain types of workouts can improve the efficiency of this process and avoid this breakdown. This type of training can be termed "Potassium Pump Training", or as I like to call the specific session we use at QT2 Systems, PPTs. These workouts consist of 10 repeats of 30 seconds all out, each followed by 2 to 3 minutes of rest. The key is to be completely rested before each 30 second sprint, so that maximum intensity can be used, and to promote good mechanics, as it can be very difficult to maintain form when in a fatigued state. PPTs can be implemented once each week, per sport, and are most safely implemented in the water, and on the bike. Only those who have shown a terrific resilience to injury should attempt PPTs while running, as the risk associated with an all out 30 second sprint can have unfortunate consequences.

So, as you prepare for your 2016 long course racing season, consider adding PPTs to your toolbox. They may help you to rediscover some of those long lost missing gears and help continue aerobic progress over the long haul.


Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite/pro level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, LLC, a leading provider of personal triathlon coaching;, a leading provider of sports nutrition; and Your 26.2 a marathon training company. He is the triathlon coach of professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Ethan Brown, and Jacqui Gordon among others. His interests lie in coaching professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. You can track his other coaching comments/ideas via his blog at

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