Purple Patch Recovery Bible August 17, 2019 00:27 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. Table of Contents (Click The Link To Jump To A Section) Part 1: Introduction & Recovery Concepts Recovery as a Pillar of Performance Be an Active Participant Integration is Key Goals of Recovery Part 2: Types Of Recovery Global & Lifestyle Recovery Sports Specific Recovery Recovery Techniques and Tools Part 3: Managing Recovery Consequences of Inadequate Recovery Part 4: Summary Tying it Together Recovery is Not a Short Cut Part #1: INTRODUCTION & RECOVERY CONCEPTS Recovery As A Pillar Of Performance No matter what the situation, I normally find myself talking about recovery; so much so that I have heard myself referred to as 'the recovery coach'. There is nothing revolutionary about what I say when I speak about recovery. Coaches have long understood that all of the adaptations that occur from training take place during rest; however, as I have coached athletes and observed others, it seems that recovery is often relegated to an afterthought. My words and discussions are simply a way to push it back into the forefront of the minds of coaches and athletes. As I often say, performance arrives out of a smart and effective training plan, but it doesn't matter how good that training plan is if it is not supported with proper nutrition and fueling, as well as integrated recovery. I encourage my coached athletes to view recovery as an integral component of their plan. For this reason, Purple Patch philosophically values recovery as much as we do the actual endurance training you complete. This isn't a call for you to be as lazy as possible, but rather a call for you to ensure you integrate enough recovery to allow you to train really hard and optimize results. Recovery is not a short-cut or a magic elixir. The route to getting faster is not any easier because your training includes recovery. Recovery is what keeps you healthy, training consistently and over time allows the big gains to occur. Be An Active Participant We want to educate you on the principles and strategies behind our programs so you understand why you are doing the things we ask of you. Every athlete responds to training and life stresses differently. Every athlete has different life circumstances and constraints. There are common principles and strategies that ring true across the board, but the specific tactics and doses for certain activities that each athlete applies for optimal results can vary athlete to athlete. We want to arm you with as many tools and tactics as possible to help you optimize your chances of success. Furthermore, one schedule does not fit all, and Purple Patch encourages you to think and become an active participant in your training program. We don't expect you to do this alone, we'll be right there with you every step of the way with support, guidance, and education. But I urge you to become an active participant, learn about yourself as an athlete, embrace the education process, and take an intelligent approach to training. You will truly evolve. Integration Is Key The various components of performance in endurance sports, as outlined in the Purple Patch Pillars of Performance, are not mutually exclusive. The reason we have four Pillars is that they all play a critical role in your success as an endurance athlete. To make it easier for you to digest the information, we will break it down and present specific topics and components of performance in an isolated fashion. Presenting a single topic also allows us to explore and gain depth in those specific areas, but always remember that you cannot isolate one component of performance to the exclusion of all others. You will need to succeed across all four Pillars consistently to reach your optimal performance potential. We will do our best to remind you of the overall context and big picture, but as you engage with the educational material, remember to take a step back, place it in the overall big-picture view of what you want out of the sport, and how the topic being discussed can help you achieve optimal performance. Goals of Recovery Training is a hard thing, it will impact your immune system, hormonal balance, metabolic state, not to mention the more obvious strain on muscle and other tissues. Before we dig into the specific methods of recovery, it is important you understand why we integrate recovery into your training programs, as well as its applications. Properly employed recovery sessions and tools will help accomplish the following: Restore The Immune System & Hormonal Balance: Our immune system becomes suppressed during training blocks (or weeks), and it takes a while to fully restore and rejuvenate our immune system. This is one reason athletes often succumb to frequent sickness if they under-recover. Restoring the immune system occurs within sleep, daily rest and low-intensity training sessions. Replenish Your Caloric Deficit, Hydrate, & Consume Electrolytes: If you have a heavy training load this can actually be a challenge. A few lighter sessions or days will provide the opportunity to restock these essential components of performance and health. This is one reason why we don't suggest restricting calories on lighter days. Repair Muscle Damage: Training can create very real muscular damage, which can take time to heal. Recovery sessions, sleep and rest facilitate muscle fiber repair. Maintain Emotional Balance: A more subjective, but critical component, is the pursuit of emotional balance and motivation. The old saying that 'fatigue makes cowards of us all' is very true. It is hard to put forth your best effort when you are truly fatigued. Enable Consistency: This may only be a summary of what the above items unlock, but it's worth discussing. If there is a magic bullet in endurance sports, it is the ability to train consistently over many, many, weeks, months, and even years to evolve to your optimal level of performance. You cannot achieve this level of consistency without properly integrated recovery. Physiological Adaptations: Underpinning all of this is the fact that physiological adaptations (improvements) happen during recovery. It's critical to have an approach that integrates training AND recovery into the program to optimize the performance gains you can make. If you are always emotionally spent, or constantly fatigued, or consistently fighting illness, it's unlikely you'll be having any fun. This will eventually compound and you won't have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to train hard. Very quickly, you'll stop enjoying the sport, and why would you continue if you were in this state? It requires a lot of hard work to reach your goals; therefore, the mission is to integrate enough recovery to support the 'whole system'. We want you to have a long and enjoyable career, pursuing your goals and pushing your boundaries, and we know it's going to take hard work over many weeks, months and possibly years to achieve your dreams. In order to execute, you need a balanced training program that allows you to stay healthy, injury-free, and consistently doing training specific to your needs. Integrated recovery will allow you to stay on the journey to optimize your performance and enjoy the process along the way. Part #2: Types of Recovery #1 - Global & Lifestyle Recovery You can think of global recovery as getting back to overall physiological wellness in addition to recovery from daily life. This is the foundation of an effective recovery approach. In general, doing more to improve your global recovery will have the biggest benefit in realizing the gains from your training. Here are a few of the global recovery strategies: Sleep: Quite simply, the most important and critical piece of recovery there is. Yes, above all else. Sleep is where the majority of recovery occurs. We need sleep in terms of both quality and quantity, yet (along with under-fueling) this is the most ignored factor in performance for most endurance athletes. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 6-7 hours of sleep during training phases. Ideally, to ensure 2 complete REM cycles, you should aim for 8+ hours per night. If you value recovery as an integrated part of training, and if you recognize sleep as the most critical part of recovery, then you cannot continually or chronically minimize sleep in pursuit of training. For some athletes, they will need to get up earlier than they'd like, but sleeping 3, 4 or 5 hours a night to provide enough time to cram everything in is not a sustainable practice. If you consistently (always) minimize sleep, you simply cannot get the returns and gains on your training in the long term. It may work for short bursts, but long-term negative effects will occur. Sleep Optimization Tip If you suffer from low sleep, try to optimize 2 or 3 times a week where you can sleep an additional 1-2 hour(s) or up to 8 or 9 hours a night. Try to get as much of the most restorative phase of life that you can. Once you get into this routine, you will feel the difference. Power Naps & Meditation: If you are so lucky eh? We understand naps may be a bit of a challenge to fit in, but there are big benefits when you get it right. It's important to recognize that deep sleep is not needed, but rest and relaxation are. We are talking about power naps or catnaps (short breaks of 10 - 25 minutes) where you can calm down, relax, close your eyes, maybe even doze off. The key is to avoid entering a normal sleep cycle, which will leave you with that terrible groggy feeling. Brief naps, even those as short as 6-10 minutes, can restore wakefulness, promote alertness and improve retention. If you are unable to doze off, you might like to meditate instead of nap, which can provide similar benefits. In general, we don't suggest long naps (60+ minutes) as they can disrupt evening sleep patterns, which should be a priority. Nap Tip If you feel groggy after your naps, it's a sign you are napping too long. Try shortening them and see how you feel. Remember, sleep is not needed, but rest and relaxation are. Quality Nutrition: Nutrition, Fueling, and Hydration are all part of one Pillar, so I won't discuss the topic here in any depth, but it is important to know that quality nutrition is a crucial element to helping the body recover and adapt to the stresses of exercise. Please refer to Pillar Education and read the articles below for more in-depth information. Nailing Your Nutrition & Hydration Strategies Nutrition Vs. Fueling Your Workouts Consequences of Poor Fueling #2 - Sports Specific Recovery Sport specific recovery practices are something that you will apply to your training life as an athlete and may be integrated as a part of your specific training plan. Training recovery is not simply 'rest days' from activity, but can include lighter activity that is designed to facilitate blood flow around the body without stresses to your metabolic health. The focus of sport specific recovery comes down to how you build your training week, your training plan, and training season. We encourage you to recognize how these recovery areas have been integrated into your plan and how you can use them to consistently train hard for many months in a row. Athlete Misconception: "Recovery Means Do Nothing" Occasional complete rest may be part of the overall approach, but more often than not, your recovery sessions will include some activity that induces blood flow. Sports-specific recovery activities include: Proper Fueling: It is important to know that nailing your fueling window gives you a head start in helping the body recover from the metabolic and hormonal stresses of training. Please refer to Nailing Your Nutrition & Hydration Strategies for more depth here. Light Activity: This means lighter intensity and shorter duration training sessions. The goal of these sessions is not to build fitness, power, speed or endurance. Instead, they 'move blood' around the body to enable recovery processes to occur and maximize rejuvenation. A general rule of thumb would be to keep these sessions under 1 hour and closer to 40 minutes. Interestingly, these sessions maintain neuromuscular firing and prevent athletes from feeling 'flat' or tired. Note: The pace of these sessions should be conversational. That is, you should have no problems carrying on a conversation at any point during the session. Common Training Mistake Going too hard during recovery sessions, trying to turn it into a 'quality' training session. Hard work will come in your plan, BUT we want to make sure you are ready to give those hard efforts when they are called for. If you have accumulated too much fatigue you won't be able to give what is needed. Have confidence in your training plan, and enjoy your recovery sessions when you can. Complete Rest Days: Sometimes it is needed to take a day or two away from the sport, even if only for a mental or emotional break. Avoid filling these rest days with other duties or crazy stressful activities because you want to make your day away from the sport as restorative as possible. One negative aspect of a complete rest day is that athletes often feel very flat with heavy legs the day following a complete rest, which can negatively impact your performance. Rest Day Tip Avoid taking a complete rest day prior to a key session as we want to maximize our performance during these key sessions. If you do, then ensure you complete an extensive ramping warm up to maximize the opportunity to perform well in your key session. Recovery Blocks: Recovery blocks are programmed blocks of consecutive days of rest or lighter activity to allow restoration and rejuvenation following a build-up of higher effort days, and is probably what is most commonly referred to when folks say recovery. The traditional recovery block is 1 week out of every 4, so 3 weeks of building efforts, followed by 1 week of lighter work. Through my experience, I have found 3 weeks of continuous building efforts tends to accumulate too much fatigue over the long term, and doesn't enable the consistency we are looking for. At Purple Patch, we practice 10-14 days of building efforts followed by 2-5 days of lighter activity. Our recovery blocks are more frequent but of shorter duration, and I've found are more effective in reaching our goal of long-term consistency and health. Note: There is no single recipe for building work to lighter work that will be appropriate for all athletes. Every athlete is different, some are more resilient and can handle more work with less recovery, other athletes may need additional recovery. This does not make one athlete superior to another, it only means a different recovery recipe is required for optimal performances. Extended Breaks: Taking a birds-eye view of your journey as an endurance athlete, particularly for those who train year-round, we strongly recommend once or twice a year taking 10 days to 3 weeks away from structured training. While you can remain active, avoid structured training! The goal is rejuvenation, be your own guide to find what is right for you, we want you to resume training refreshed and motivated. If you have a multi-year vision for the athlete you want to become, this is a critical component to enable consistency season after season. Tip: Avoiding Burn-Out It's rare to see an athlete who excludes extended breaks succeed season after season. At some point in subsequent seasons [after the skipped breaks] performances tend to suffer, and in the worst case, the athlete completely burns-out or suffers chronic injuries, leading them to move away from the sport entirely. Taking A Seasonal Approach: This is the whole different proportion of activity during different times of the year thing. For most athletes, this would be using the post-season or early-season months to increase the load of swimming relative to the other sports, reducing running and cycling. Running is a sport with much higher stress on the musculoskeletal system than biking or swimming, so being swim heavy in the post and pre-seasons allows for some of the tissues that absorb the most strain with running to recover. This is only a general rule of thumb, and if there is a specific weakness in your swim, bike or run then the post-season and pre-season are ideal times to improve as an athlete and focus on improving your weaknesses. The off-season is also a great time to 'cross-train', where a cyclist might mountain bike or do cyclocross in the fall and winter, or runners may snowshoe or cross-country ski. #3 - Recovery Techniques & Tools This is a very popular area for recovery due to all the gadgets and tools on the market. I like to frame recovery techniques and tools as supplemental and an add-on to Global and Training Recovery (covered above), providing benefit in facilitating recovery, particularly from acute sessions. Although they may be of lesser importance, they are certainly worthy of mention and consideration as a component of your recovery program. Compression: While compression clothing doesn't have much validation for performance within training, they do have a fairly accepted positive influence on recovery following, and these include tights, calf guards etc. I would recommend their use in air travel and following tough workouts. Heat: For most situations, I prefer heat over ice for recovery. The literature on ice for recovery is inconclusive, and I am not a fan of the resulting tightness of joints that occurs because of it. However, if you have an injury, ice is an accepted treatment for an acute injury. I am just not recommending it as an aid for recovery. As a smart coach said; 'don't mess with inflammation too much'. Trigger Point & Foam Roller: Foam rollers and trigger point treatments can be very effective, albeit occasionally painful. They are very effective at releasing the insertion points of muscles, allowing the main body of the muscle to release. We have a quick 10-minute foam roller protocol you can follow. Please click here if you have not seen it. Static Stretching: In general, I do not advocate static stretching. There is limited evidence that it helps endurance athletes perform better or improves recovery. So the classic, touch your toes and hold it for 30-60 seconds, with the occasional bounce, should go in the rubbish bin. I am strongly in favor of mobility exercises. If you are preparing to exercise, we much prefer a dynamic warm up, which takes your body through a series of joint mobility exercises that will loosen the joints and help prepare the muscles to work. After you workout, it's the same advice. I much prefer a cool-down, where you continue with motion and movement of your activity, but bring the intensity way down, as a way to help transition the body out of work-mode. Note: Please click here to view our dynamic warm up video. Warm Up & Cool Down Tip There can be a fair amount of muscle damage during exercises, so I don't encourage static stretching, which can cause micro-tears on top of already fatigued or damaged muscles. Part 3: Managing Recovery Consequences Of Inadequate Recovery We have a saying that we like to refer to when considering recovery, which is: "make sure you get in front of massive fatigue." Remember that performance arrives out of a long journey of consistent training, not any single session or week of training. When you simply train and train, without adequate easy sessions, or train consistently but ignore the value of nutrition and sleep, negative things are sure to occur. Here are just a few: Performance Decline: You will start to lose power, pace, and speed across all intensities. Training begins to feel like more of a chore. Unfortunately, poor performance normally elicits the reaction of the need to train harder, starting the cycle of failure. Disruption Of Energy Balance: When under-recovered, the system becomes greatly over-stressed. Many things can occur as a result of this, but common factors might be disruption of circadian rhythm (leading to sleepless nights and fatigue in the day) and disruption of optimal hormonal function. Retention of Fat or Loss of Weight: When the system becomes over-stressed - normally in conjunction with poor fueling - the body will have a harder time maintaining normal composition. Some people lose large amounts of body weight (mostly muscle loss) while, more commonly, you may experience retention of body fat. Frequent Sickness & Increased Risk of Injury: As mentioned earlier, recovery will support and rejuvenate your immune system, but if you fail to recover you get sick more often. Not only that, you have an impaired ability to get healthy from the sickness. Guess what, more lost training time...Starting to get it yet? Get in front of fatigue to ensure that you recover effectively, and allow you to maintain a consistent and steady long term dose of hard and effective training! Part #4: Summaries & Takeaways If you simply aim to follow everything we throw at you with no reflection on how you are adapting, following a blind 'more is better' approach, you are more susceptible to fatigue, injury, and failure. Your task should be to find what is optimal for you and your unique situation. Here are few more tips which may help you better execute on integrating proper recovery into your life. Know Thyself Recovery is the most important area for you to stay in tune with yourself. Only you know how you truly feel, and if you have gone too deep, too frequently, and have accumulated too much fatigue to hit your training goals. Or conversely, if you are holding back and are not really hitting the mark on the hard sessions. As you have learned today, proper recovery should help on both fronts. (See Be an Active Participant) Know The Intent Of The Plan Ensure you understand the goals of the training phase, the training week and use your training plan to connect with the focus of each training session. Then work to consistently hit the goals of each workout. Make sure you keep your light days light! Buy into the big picture. Utilize Your Weekly Schedule We don't want you to blindly follow every possible option we publish with a 'more is better' mindset. With your freshly acquired or renewed knowledge of recovery you should understand the purpose, goals, and techniques of integrating proper recovery into your work, then use your life constraints (work, family, travel), along with your training plan to find a weekly schedule that you can consistently follow. You can move sessions around to fit your life. Experiment with some different templates to find an optimal schedule or at least spend some time to reflect on how your recent training week schedule has been. How did you feel? Did you have enough recovery when training was integrated into the stresses of your daily life? Key Foundational Sessions Your training plan is structured around these sessions. These should be the cornerstones of your training week and are the priority. It is worth reinforcing that many athletes might ONLY be completing the key foundational sessions, yet others might be able to add the full complement of recommended and optional workouts. This is highly personal and is reflective of goals, racing and training experience, and your individual life demands. It is NOT indicative of how much you can or will improve. We're Here To Help Knowing when to ask for help is a skill itself. Use Plan Support. Use Meetings with Matt. Use the Purple Patch education materials. You are not on this journey alone, we are here to help. Don't hesitate to reach out to Plan Support any time you need. Recovery Is Not A Short-Cut Make no mistake about it, training for endurance sports is challenging and requires plenty of dedication, motivation, and commitment. Our goal of stressing recovery is to equip you with the tools and information required to make smart training decisions. We want to optimize your training load while maintaining positive adaptations over the long term. For you, the goal is to maximize training within both your physical abilities, as well as the overall stress accumulation of other activities (life). If you employ a long term view to integrating recovery into training and realize that it is a tool to help you train harder and more consistently, you quickly realize it is a road to your optimal performance.