Your feelings hold an important key to your training and recovery.
This series is presented by Arctic Ease
by Sage Rountree
Serious triathletes have a host of words to describe the way their legs are feeling. On the positive side, this includes fresh, snappy, springy, zippy and many more. The converse terms are dead legs, or legs that feel heavy, gunky, shot. These terms are a way to qualify the state of our fitness and recovery. When you are under-recovered, you have dead legs. When you are fit and rested at the same time, you have springy legs.
While I was writing The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, I spoke with many exercise physiologists and investigated many ways to quantify recovery (these will be the subject of the next column). But, perhaps surprisingly, all the scientists—even those who had worked to develop metrics to track training load—agreed that the state of an athlete’s mood would reflect under-recovery before it would show up on any physiological scale.
They also agree that your friends, family and coach will also be able to tell when you aren’t recovering properly. Your support network is actually a powerful tool, and will hold a mirror up to you if you are willing to look. The trick is to actually listen to them when they say, “You look tired,” or “Take a break.” They are providing useful feedback that you should respect, even if you don’t always listen.
To supplement this feedback, next time you find yourself with “dead legs,” take a look at your training log, specifically the notes about how you felt during recent workouts. What adjectives routinely appear? When did they creep into your log? Do they correspond to a jump in volume or intensity? Is there something happening in your life outside of training that might have contributed to the stress?
But wait. Maybe you don’t note such things in your log. Well, now’s the time to start. Even a sentence or two tracking how things went can provide useful information down the line. In addition, it helps to note the quality (and quantity) of your sleep, your mood, your soreness, as well as the internal and external stressors in your life. These could include your own expectations for yourself, as well as the demands of work, family, and other commitments.
When you see things coming off the rails, a preemptive recovery strike can be the stitch in time that saves nine. Intentionally dropping a workout or two, or even just dropping the intensity while maintaining the prescribed volume, can give your body a chance to recover its balance, moving you from dead to springy legs. The key is to pay attention to how you’re feeling.