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Nutrition

This “milk” is great if you feel tired, a bit run down or if your are getting a cold or are already sick. It’s a very alkaline rich drink that provides your body with a lot of nutrients to fight of any inflammation in your body. Ginger and Turmeric herbs are probably one of the best herbs and spices in nature for treating inflammatory conditions and gut problems. Mixed with the other powerful ingredients, this drink is also great to promote digestion, treatment of colds, intestinal gas and other respiratory conditions.

Ginger and Turmeric are my go to herbs when it comes to recovery and fighting inflammation or gut issues. Read up more on these two herbs and make sure they become fix ingredients in your diet.

 

 

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Blog, Recovery

Quite often when people hear the word recovery in sports, they jump to the conclusion that it’s just an excuse to make training easier.
In fact, recovery is not a shortcut to improve your performance in any way and it’s not making your journey to become a better athlete any easier. What I have learned is that recovery is an enabler to train more consistently and harder. Consistent and hard training is the fundamental element for better performance, so recovery is your key to unlock that door.

There are different elements that make up recovery in your training.

The first one is your training plan and how it incorporates recovery. A smart training plan will allow enough room to integrate recovery on a weekly, monthly and whole season basis.

Another important element is your lifestyle. Some things are out of your control to change or influence so you want to look at two aspects that you can control. Sleep and nutrition. They are key elements and should never be neglected. Get enough and good quality sleep, make it a priority and make sure you eat enough and healthy.

The next one are recovery modalities that we can use on a regular basis and incorporate into our training program.

Here is a list of my preferred methods that I use on a regular basis.

  • Massages: Get a massage on a regular basis. I prefer frequency over duration. So once every 2 weeks. Try different ones such as remedial deep tissue, trigger point, thai, sports massage etc…
  • Acupuncture: A good alternative to a massage, good for pain relief and also good to clear energy blockages.
  • Hot and Cold therapies: Big fan of this, I use both quite regularly. Having cold showers on a daily basis and sitting in a hot dry sauna after a workout. Great way to wind down.
  • Compression gear: I use it after a big workout, usually not during racing. Always a must wear when travelling on a plane.
  • Foam rolling: I use foam rolling rather than stretching to release muscle tension. At least once a week I do a longer foam rolling session.
  • Trigger point balls: Mainly use it to treat specific areas such as glutes, upper back and neck to release stiffness and knots
  • Kinesiotape: Good in combination with compression gear post workout to increase the blood flow and reduce inflammation
  • Massage stick rollers: A very handy tool to have in your bag when travelling. Can’t get as deep as a foam roller but good for calves, forearms, necks and hips.
  • Yoga and meditation: Both are great ways for stress relief. Should be part of every training program or life in general 🙂

If you are serious about endurance sports and performance, recovery should be high up on your list and not just an add-on to your regular training. Make it a priority!

There is a lot of good information out there on the web and for me personally it’s a lot of trial and error. You need to find out what work best for you. A very good resource that I refer to quite often when I want to try out new things and geek out a little bit is Ben Greenfield’s Recovery guide. It’s worth checking out as it gives a very broad overview of recovery methods, even though some of the methods described might be a bit too extraordinary or simply too expensive to afford.

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Recovery, Training

A while ago while researching different topics on training stress, fatigue and recovery, I stumbled across HRV  (Heart Rate Variability) and how it is used to enhance athletic performance. This got my attention and I wanted to find out more about it.

When it comes to recovery, most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to improve fitness and performance, still many of us over train and feel guilty when taking a day off. Rest is as important as training and necessary so that the muscles can repair and strengthen. If that part is neglected, continuous training can actually weaken the athlete. Not what we really want right.

Coaches tell us to listen to our body, check our RHR (Resting Heart Rate) to decide when it’s necessary to take a day off or skip a session. We have training plans which incorporate easy workouts and recovery days to avoid over training. That’s all good and important but in the end it is an individual decision when recovery is needed. For example there are genetic factors, age, gender and baseline fitness which are determinants of individual differences. That makes it difficult to draw a general approach to recovery. I have often wondered when I felt a bit flat, if it’s fatigue or just a lack of motivation. To get optimal adaptions from your training, fatigue is an important aspect that needs to be considered.

Hence I was looking into something more reliable, a method or tool that gives me more insight into my body and how it reacts to training. I was looking for a way to control my training load in a better way in order to achieve better outcomes! That’s when I learned more about the power of HRV.

So what is HRV?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_variability

From a fitness standpoint, we know that the heart rate increases when we exercise, because the heart needs to pump faster to deliver oxygen to our muscles. The autonomic nervous system plays a role in speeding up and slowing down HR. There are basically two branches to the ANS that influences heart rate:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
    speeds up the heart rate
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
    responsible for slowing the heart rate

SNS is often referred to “Fight or Flight”, and PNS to “Rest and Repair”. These 2 branches can now be measured using HRV analysis and permit insight into this control mechanism.The way I see it, these 2 components need to work well together, we need the SNS to accelerate and PNS to break, like with a car. If these two are not in balance or working properly we run into problems.

I have added some links at the bottom of the post if you are interested in the science behind it in more depth. I am no expert by any means in this field but find the science behind it incredibly interesting. Nowadays modern technology offers us an easy and very convenient way to measure HRV.

What do you need to measure your own HRV?

It’s actually quite, we can use an app on our smart phones to do that.There are huge number of different apps available that you can choose from. I personally use the Sweet Beat HRV app on my iPhone (it’s not a free app but can be purchased for $9.99, sorry only for iPhone). Other apps which I personally haven’t used are e.g. iThleteBioForce HRV, HRV beta, Elite HRV

The other equipment you need is a heart rate monitor that is Bluetooth compatible. Here is a list of compatible devices. I currently use the Polar H7 monitor.

How to measure your daily HRV

There are a few important variables measuring your HRV such as: Time of the day, movement, mood, food and sleep. I measure my HRV at the same time every day to get more useful results over a longer period of time. It’s right after I wake up. So my usual routine looks like this.

  1. After I wake up I put my heart rate monitor on
  2. I lay down on my back and start the app
  3. I breathe normally in and out through my nose and let the app run. I keep my eyes shut and concentrate on my breathing
  4. The app will run for about 3 minutes. Once it’s finished you can check your numbers on the screen. The higher the HRV score the better it is.

It will take a few days of measuring until the numbers make sense and will be more meaningful. I add my HRV numbers into my training plan to be able to compare and find correlations between my workout days.

Lately I have experimented a little bit to see if I can increase my HRV. The following things seem to help improving it

  1. Meditation and Yoga – Measuring HRV after a yoga or mediation session has a positive effect. Especially on the Parasympathetic Nervous System
  2. Cold Showers – Straight out of bed and into the shower. Shower with cold water for a few minutes, go back to bed and measure. I was surprised how much my HRV improves by taking ice cold showers.

Here are a few screenshots of some of my HRV readings with an explanation beneath:

image1image3

image2

image4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screenshot #1 – This shows the HRV, Heart Rate and Stress level over a period of time. (blue line = HRV, orange = Stress level, green = HR)

Screenshot #2 – These are the power frequency readings (SNS, PNS) over a period of time. This was during the lead up to a big race. As the chart shows, in the last week which was the race week, my power readings sky rocketed. That is a good indicator that I was fully rested and recovered come race day.

Screenshot #3 – HRV reading a day before a big race. Both LF, which is the power frequency of my Sympathetic Nervous system and HF which represents the Parasympathetic Nervous System  are well balanced. The LF/HF ratio is almost 1, which is a good indicator that your nervous system is well balanced. HRV score is 97 which is a very high score for me.

Screenshot #4 – Compared to the reading in the previous screenshot, this one clearly indicates that I am in a fatigue state. Both LF and HF are low and more importantly the ratio LF/HF is way out of balance. HRV is 68 which is quite low. I had low HRV readings for 2 days in a row and the app suggested to take a day off to recover. Even though my heart rate is in normal range which would not raise a concern by itself. Most likely I would have continued training if I just considered my HR but looking at the HRV it’s a clear sign to take some rest and recover.

Conclusion

It’s really interesting to see how sleep, food, stress and training can affect your heart rate variability and your overall fatigue level. In my opinion recovery is a crucial component in endurance sports and thanks to modern technology it’s very easy and affordable to measure it. So why not making use of it?! It’s a relatively simple measure that you can use to tract how well you are recovering. It helps you to prevent over training, reduces your risk of getting sick and in the long run makes you are stronger, healthier and fitter athlete.


 

References

Further articles to read

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Training

After finishing my last race end of August I decided to take a few weeks off training for a mental and physical break before I go into the next season. I wouldn’t call it an off season, as I still keep active and don’t turn into a coach potato or cookie monster eating junk food all day. It’s actually a very good time to reset your body and shift your mind a little bit away from swim, bike and run

The first 2 weeks after the race I cut back on physical training but spent some time reflecting how the season and the races went. I also started to make decisions in preparation for the upcoming new season and the races I want to do. Reflecting is definitely a good way to overcome post-race depression.

The hardest thing for sure is to let go of your peak fitness. After spending so much time and effort to reach your peak fitness it is a hard thing to do. But a few weeks of rest won’t do you any harm in the long run and the fitness will come back in no time after you start into the new training season fully recovered and rested.

To make sure I am able to gain back my fitness pretty quickly I put focus on the following things:

Strengthening the body – I do a lot of yoga and start to hit the weight room more often than usual. I use this time to improve my flexibility, balance and strength. For me this is fundamental to prevent injuries and to keep my body in good shape. I also get some massages to loosen up any stiffness or go and see a physio or chiropractitioner for a general check-up.

Nutrition – I keep fueling my body with rich and nutrient dense food. I make sure to get enough vitamins and minerals into my body. Due to the lack of physical activity gaining a bit of extra weight is normal and not of a big deal. I also use this time to get some blood tests done to see if I have any deficiencies that I need to be aware off.

Light physical activities – Apart from yoga and weight training I engage in some very light jogging and swimming once a week. This has to be very light and without any time or pace constrains. I  leave my watch and heart rate monitor at home and go out for a nice and easy jog after work, followed by a swim in the ocean. Any other light activities such as walking, riding the bike along the beach or playing golf are good too. The main thing is to move your body and get the blood flowing.

The preparation block
After a couple of weeks off from regular training, I start my preparation block which lasts for another few weeks. This is where I gradually get back into normal but easy training. The training in this block will be short and not very demanding. The aim is to start developing your aerobic endurance and speed skills again and to focus on weight training and injury prevention.

It’s also a good time to do some field tests for swim, bike and run to work out your heart rate zones and your LT (lactate threshold) which I use for setting up my workouts in the following weeks of training.

Once the Preparation block is over, I am back into full swing training where the heaving lifting starts to build a strong base fitness level.

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