Recovery and sleep

Posted by James Greenwood | 3:07 PM | , , , , | View Comments

We all know the importance of recovery in our training programs, and we all know that we need to include recovery days to assist the body to adapt to the training stimuli and avoid overtraining.

What many people struggle with is HOW to recover from their training.

It is a very complicated and intensive regimen, so read closely!

The easiest way is to ensure you are allowing the body a good opportunity to recover from the stressors of the day (Work, Training, living etc.) is by ensuring you are getting sufficient sleep, and ensuring that the sleep you are getting is of a high quality.

That's it - that simple!

Let's start by looking at what is considered to be "sufficient sleep"?

It has been shown time and again (and we all know this), that getting a good 8 hours of sleep every night is the ideal.

Many of us choose to get our training out of the way in the morning, and this can mean getting up and at it, before 5am. Thus a 9pm bedtime would be the ideal.

The second component that needs to be kept in mind is the quality of the sleep you are getting.

The best quality of sleep is gained before midnight, and not being interrupted through the course of your sleep further enhances the quality.

During the sleeping process, the body and the mind is given the opportunity to recover from, and adapt to, the many stressors that it had to deal with throughout the course of the day.

From an Exercise perspective, the body uses this "down time" to regenerate body tissues damaged by exercise. Muscle fibers, for example, are given the opportunity to adapt, and thus become more resilient and stronger, fatigue resistant, flexible etc to the stress and strain it will have to deal with come tommorows training session.

It also allows us to regroup mentally for the new days challenges, allowing us to perform at our best in all the activities we take part in through the day.

Consider swimming for a moment. A very technical sport, with an enormous premium on movement quality over movement quantity, the attention and concentration required to master the stroke is pretty large.

Attempting to master a new skill to improve your stroke in a fatigued state, at 5am, is not going to pay any large dividends i.e. time wasted.

There is an inverse relationship between our ability to deal with stress and the amount of sleep we get.
Ultimately, we can expect some breakdown to occur, usually in the form of illness, injury or emotional breakdown.

As an athlete, we might experience this breakdown as Overtraining Syndrome, or we might become ill because our immune systems have become depressed. We might even have to deal with injury or some form of physical pain.

All of this because we had to stay up late watching television, or because we fought off sleep to watch some infomercial about a knife that can cut through running shoes without becoming blunt.

Go to sleep already - your body will thank you in the morning.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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