The Art of Recovery
The delicate balance between hard training and recovery

By Tim Crowley BS CSCS

The delicate balance between hard training and recovery is the difference between optimal performance and chronic injury. The science of recovery is well documented, but the art of applying it is much more complex.

Your ability to assimilate or "absorb" training will make you stronger and faster. Too much volume and/or too much intensity, can send you into a negative spiral which at best will leave you stale and tired, and at worst, will leave you injured and contemplating taking up golf.

Rest is not a four-letter word. Well, it is a four-letter word, but a good one. Most multi sport athletes get into the sport because they like to train. The "more is better" scenario is still alive and well. Add intensity and racing to the mix, and you may have a problem. Early spring is a prime time to overdo it. Combine warmer weather, and the need to build up the mileage, with the start of a new season and race paced intensity, and you have all the ingredients of overtraining.

Rest comes in 2 forms. The first is total rest. Many athletes I coach benefit from having one total rest day a week. This allows them to assimilate the weeks training, and to tend to other issues in their life like family, errands etc. This keeps enthusiasm high. Getting enough sleep, and napping if possible will help you recover from your training sessions.

Active recovery is the other form of rest. In this case, the athlete or coach needs to set specific parameters to allow recovery to take place. Personally, I prefer a nice easy 45 minute trail run at a low heart rate , or a swim focusing on technique, or an easy spin on the trainer while reading, or watching TV. The best way to achieve the desired result is to assign a heart rate ceiling to which the athlete will not exceed. This will usually be approximately 60% or less of max HR, or 15 to 20 beats below current lactate threshold.

Active recovery allows for an increase blood flow, as well as an accelerated rate of glycogen repletion. For those used to daily activity, active rest does wonders for the head.

Here are some ways to incorporate active rest into your training. 1. Use a heart rate ceiling for the workout 2. On the bike, restrict gears to the small ring 3. Use your mountain bike to run errands 4. Go for a walk on the trails 5. Swim easy using only breast and back stroke 6. Easy 15-20 min deep water running

There are some basic principles to keep in mind when it comes to recovery. 1. Take in calories during your training session, and immediately after. Glycogen synthesis is highest in the first hour after training. This will assist in preventing chronic glycogen depletion, a common problem for athletes training multiple times each day. 2. Make sure to allow plenty of time for warming up and cooling down from training sessions. Lack of adequate WU/ CD can diminish the training effects. 3. Lack of proper hydration can lead to dramatic decreases in performance.

It is important to try different methods of recovery. What works for one person, will not necessarily work for another. Hard training without the proper restoration and recovery methods only leads to regular doses of pain management without reaping the benefits of your training in races. Like most things in life, balance is critical. You must balance quality training along with quality rest.

Tim Crowley is a coach for Carmichael Training Systems, and the Dir. of strength and Conditioning at the Longfellow Club. For coaching or consultations, he can be reached at