Research from Brook University found that rowers in a high volume, high intensity training weeks had significantly lower levels of OP6 (a protein that protects against bone loss) and higher levels of SOST (a protein that hinders new bone formation) in their blood tests when compared to lower volume training. Higher intensity training weeks are considered (an average 15-20hrs per week).
According to this research training really hard lead to higher levels of inflammation, which may increase SOST. Does that mean higher intensity training may damage your bones? More research is needed but for the average amateur athlete, no exercise will strengthen your bones, but what early research does indicate is that you should not lift heavy every day.
Recovery days are useful, they allow muscle and tissue repair after training. The regenerative phase is the final stage in the 4 pillars of training. Aim for active recovery or include a de-load week.
What is a de-load week?
Every 4-8 weeks you need to give your body a break so you can come back stronger. A de-load can be complete rest or cutting your volume, intensity and duration. Whatever method you chose, don’t underestimate the need to de-load and have a rest day.
How to use a break to boost performance
It’s ok to have time off from exercise, you won’t lose fitness, you won’t gain weight and it won’t affect your performance. Breaks might be unplanned – i.e. in injuries or illness or planned – i.e. natural breaks, like the end of competition seasons. Let focus on planned breaks:
Take a holiday and make the most of your break by:
- Leaving your phone at home, unwind, unplug. Choose an activity like camping or trekking so you are still physically active, but you’re not physically exhausting your body.
- Do some exercise – don’t go cold turkey, otherwise you’ll get back and injure yourself. Do some unstructured exercise, don’t even consider it training, a light jog, a moderate pace walk, that way your body stays active.
- Enjoy – sleep in, got to bed late, drink, eat, be merry.
Everyone needs recovery. You have trained, now you get to relax and cool down post exercise. But recovery isn’t just foam rolling and rest.
Think of recovery as active, e.g. for my middle distance athletes I build a three-week recovery plan into their program. Where they run shorter distances 2-3 times weekly, and then mix up training with other activities such as swimming and riding. This can be helpful in reducing aches and pains, but also rejuvenate the joy of running but adding some variety.
Recovery can have the stigma that you’ll lose fitness, gain weight and it will affect your performance. This stigma needs to change, recovery needs to be seen as performance enhancing it allows athletes to restore balance in their life, body and mind. So next time you look past a recovery session think about the musculoskeletal benefit but also the physiological impact it can have for your all round wellness.
So here are my favourite recovery day exercises:
- Bike 10 minutes gentle pedal
- Curtsy lunges
- Reverse lunges/walking lunges
- Calf raises
- Mountain climbers
Need to get over your DOMs? Andrew has some advice in his article here.
Andrew Ilieff has experience across cardio respiratory, rehabilitation, sports physiotherapy and aged care – spending an extensive period of time in private practice. For credible information on training and injury prevention check out Andrew’s Instagram page here and website and services here.