Staying Healthy –  Fitness and Recovery

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of fitness relates to recovery. What quickly helps with this understanding is when you become unwell, which is what happened in our sporty household over the course of April. To elaborate, Kerri (co-Solo Bike manager) became quite unwell with pneumonia. Kerri is a keen and competitively fit masters swimmer – quite accustomed to being able to endure 4-5km swimming sessions blended with some nasty interval sets. To compound matters further I cracked with influenza!! And yes staying true to stereotypes (man flu!) I don’t handle the limitations, particularly physical limitations that come with getting the flu.

Anyway our disappointing April has bought about a renewed focus and efforts to stay healthy. You could say there is a health renaissance going on at Solo Bike! I guess for me one of the main things I am now paying more attention too is the ‘Ying and Yang’ of fitness – that is Stress and Recovery. Basically Stress constitutes all our training; work; family commitments; social commitments; study and professional/personal developments. Pretty much it wires into everything – including holidays!! This is why many professional sportspeople live an almost Spartan existence (i.e. professional cyclists) – deliberately avoiding stresses outside of the specific training requirements of the sport so as to optimize the possibilities of training.

Assuming Stress is the ‘Ying’ and ‘Yang’ is recovery. Recovery is the key to health as much as it is the key to performance. A wise coach once stated that in addressing training plans and goals it is best to start with the recovery needs rather than the training (activity) needs. In other words “how much sleep are you currently getting?” Are you having time to read; listen to music; take a long soaking hot back; meditate? These examples (and there certainly not limited to these – far from it) are considered important for recovery, helping offset or alleviate issues that arise from our daily stresses.

So what if the training ‘Ying and Yang’ get out of whack? Well before going there lets focus on what if we get the training ‘Ying and Yang’ (stress and recovery) right? Assuming you are able to support your riding (training) with adequate recovery you will get positive adaptation (fitness gains/and health). Not exactly rocket science but it is what it is. Certainly it is important – if improvement is the goal – to challenge the body. But the challenge needn’t be excessive (in fact in shouldn’t) and recovery needs to be factored into the equation. The example training plans I have been offering demonstrate how overloads can be build into a program for effective training. See this month program (May Maratona Training)

OK – so now knowing how stress and recovery can work together to give us fitness gains and health what happens when the relationship is out of whack? Basically you are manufacturing the perfect conditions to send your performance and health south!! Early signs of this may be average sleep with interrupted sleep patterns/ insomnia; feelings of moodiness and generally flat; niggles (injuries); not as motivated to ride; and even lacking appetite. Likewise you may feel your riding is losing its edge. And these are the early warning signs – neglected – fitness and health can potentially take a real hit. At the extreme end of the spectrum you can be showing symptoms identifiable with Over-training Syndrome. At this point extended time off the bike becomes necessary for a full recovery. Certainly a situation I would not be overly happy about – particularly if it is self-inflicted!!

So to be clear, you don’t have to be on Ritchie Porte’s training regime to get run-down and over-cooked. And I use Ritchie Porte as an example as last year he, like Kerri, developed pneumonia (during Le Tour de France). Whilst France’s great race is obviously extreme, so too can the accumulative day to day demands be on all of us: riding early for a ride in the dark; getting kids to school; dealing with work challenges; homework; dinner preparations etc. etc. Yes its easy to over-cook – even for those of us who can’t ride like Ritchie Porte.