By Teemu Virtanen
The summer and fall, or dryland season as it’s often called in the skiing circuit, are very important time periods for skiers to build their aerobic base and train effectively for the winter when the racing season kicks off. They naturally need to focus on endurance, interval, speed and strength training, but as important as our individual workouts are, the recovery is perhaps the greatest asset an athlete can have. When one trains hard, he or she also needs to remember to take time to rest.
In the world of sports, we often talk about the so-called Recovery Principle, which dictates that athletes need adequate time to recuperate from training and competition. This principle applies to both immediate rest needed between workouts as well as to longer time periods of rest.
It is during these rest periods that our bodies adapt to the stress placed upon them during intense workout sessions and competitions. Rest also provides time for a mental preparation and reflection. The term "metabolic recovery" describes what takes place after you exercise as your body returns to homeostasis, its normal stable resting state.
Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise, or any other physical work, causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.
Exercise intensity more profoundly affects recovery than does the duration of exercise, and your metabolic rate or oxygen consumption can be elevated for hours after you stop exercising. Active recovery, or short-term recovery, consisting of light-to-moderate cardio activity decreases blood lactic acid significantly faster than complete rest or passive recovery.
That’s why you should make a habit of having active recovery exercise bouts where you keep your lactic acid levels at about 30-60 % of your threshold level. This activity after your core exercise maintains circulation to the heart, liver and inactive muscles that are able to use lactic acid to synthesize glycogen – you keep your metabolism going and hasten your recovery.
Active recovery works often much better than a complete day-off from training for the reasons described above. Some elite athletes don’t really take any days off during their hard training regime and some do. The ones with rest days in their training program often feel that a full recovery day takes your mind off from the constant exercise routine and thus relieves stress and gives you a mental break from the physically demanding training.
Naturally, sleep, proper nutrition, and healthy lifestyle habits after intensive training periods are also critical when you are recuperating from your workout. This is often called long-term recovery referring to those techniques that are built into a seasonal training program. You also need to be able to balance your training and everyday life so that your extracurricular activities don’t burden you too much.
So, whenever you are training, you should keep in mind that the rest afterwards really brings the desired results. Of course, this is easier said than done, and even so many professional athletes tend to forget about this principle and “overtrain”. To avoid this state of physical over-activity and lack of rest, you should have regular recovery days, that can be easy workouts as well as described above, in your training program and monitor your daily activity. And if you feel tired or mentally exhausted, it’s better to skip your scheduled workout and let your body rest.