September
26

Recovery tracking: The forgotten side of the results equation

Sometimes we get a little overzealous in our quest to become a better mountain biker. We spend a lot of time and effort picking the right workout, hitting the gym and logging our intervals yet we forget why we are doing it. The truth is that we don’t train for the sake of training – we train because we want to ride harder and faster on the trail.

Being able to ride harder and faster is the result of training. Training breaks us down and we only get better when we recover from that training. In other words…

Training + Recovery = Faster Rider

Now, look at that equation and tell me how much time you spend on the results side of it. If you are like most riders you’ve probably never considered it. I’d be willing to bet that some of you are thinking that the more your ride and the harder you train the faster you will be.

In fact, most people don’t think about rest and recovery until they have to. If you just keep training hard and ignore the recovery side of things you will eventually start to over train and burn out. Constantly being tired and sore, lacking the willingness to train hard, becoming sick and seeing your riding results go backwards are all signs of overtraining…and all could be avoided if you employed a simple Recovery Tracking strategy.

By keeping a daily log that charts a few key indicators of your recovery status, it becomes relatively easy to tell when fatigue is building up and overtraining is on the horizon, allowing for adjustments to be made well before it can set in. It all revolves around your Recovery Number. This is determined by grading each of the following things on a 5 point scale and getting their average number:

-Appetite – Use a five point scale with one being no appetite, three being average and five being ready to eat everything in sight.

-Sleep Quality – Use a five point scale with one being very restless, three being average and five being very deep and restful.

-Muscle Soreness – Use a five point scale with one being extremely sore, three being a little sore and five being no soreness at all.

-Training Willingness – Use a five point scale where one means dreading your next training session, three being average, and five being ready to rip the freakin’ squat rack off the ground.

After you have ranked these things on a five point scale take their average to see what your current Recovery Number is. People ask me all the time if they should add in an extra training day or an extra set of intervals and my answer is always the same – it all depends on what that number is. Here is my advice based on it…

If you are averaging above a 4 then you may actually be under training a bit. You could probably add in something extra and be fine.

If your average is between 3-4 then things are right on track. Your training and recovery are relatively balanced and you can keep right on training with your current plan.

However, if you notice that your Recovery Number is between 2-3 then you may be starting to over train a bit and may want to consider cutting back slightly on your planned workout and making sure that you get enough sleep and food to help you recover better. The closer that average number is to 2 the more you should consider this option.

Lastly, if your Recovery Number is below 2 you should skip your planned workout and really concentrate on your recovery tactics. Remember that consistently training while not fully recovering from your previous workouts will end up doing far more harm than good in the long run. If you don’t recognize this and plan accordingly you will end up getting injured or mentally burned out, neither of which is desirable for long term progress.

Some other things you can log as well are:

– Bodyweight: By weighing yourself each morning you can get a good idea of how effective your diet is. If you suddenly lose 2 or more pounds in 1 day you may be under eating. If you gain 2 or more pounds in 1 day you may be eating too much.

– Waking Pulse: Knowing your resting heart rate can be very helpful. Lowering your resting heart rate is a good sign of cardio fitness gains. Seeing your heart rate go up by more than a few beats per minute and stay there for a few days may mean that you are not fully recovering from the workouts.

The important thing is to be consistent and log your information daily so you can make observations based on previous records. It only takes about 60 seconds a day to step on a scale, take your pulse and log these things. Only by looking at weeks and months of these readings can you get an idea of how you truly respond to various training programs and make any personalized adjustments needed to see the best results possible from your program.

All too often our answer to lagging results is to work harder. Sometimes, though, what we need to do is take our foot of the brakes and let our body recover from what we are already doing. Our goal is to gain the results from our efforts so make sure that your recovery and training are balanced.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Phil says:

    A couple of questions:

    Appetite-is this like a general daily appetite? I mean, i’m always hungry in the morning but usually after a big ride or maybe a hard workout I don’t have much of an appetite. How does this come into play?

    Training willingness-would this include lack of willingness because of something like a long workday or just a lack of willingness because of still being tired or sore from previous workouts or rides only. Combination of both?

    Reply • September 26 at 4:32 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Both of them are based on what you would consider “average”. That will differ from person to person. What you want to do is just start recording this stuff for a few weeks and you’ll start to get an idea of what your baseline is and be able to see trends with stuff.

      Reply • September 27 at 10:46 am
  2. Sketch says:

    Great post James,
    Having been on your UMWP programme for over a year now, I have under-estimated the importance of recovery.
    I’ll will definitely be monitoring my vitals in the future to better manager my training-riding-living routine.
    Thanks again and keep up the awesome work

    Reply • September 29 at 12:25 am

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