For a long time I thought the key to strength and speed was training. More and more of it – harder and faster. No gain without pain. That sort of thing…
Now I know that the REAL key to ROWING success is RECOVERY.
The rowers that win BIG races feel fresh and rested during competition.
Training per se does not make you stronger, faster or fitter. Those benefits only come afterwards, during recovery, when adaptation takes place. No matter how hard you train, without adequate recovery you not only destroy your hard training effort – you also struggle to recuperate for your next session.
And the harder and more frequently you train, the more vital recovery becomes.
So you neglect recovery at your risk. And I’m not referring to the extreme problems of ‘over-reaching’ or even ‘over-training’. Many athletes, particularly those without the advantage of an expert coach to support and monitor their efforts, make the BIG MISTAKE of training too hard in the days leading up to competition.
A poor performance that, sadly, denies you the podium position you trained so hard to achieve. Or forces you to settle for Silver, even Bronze when, with a little more pre-competition recovery, you could have claimed Gold.
Talent alone is no longer enough to guarantee victory in the sporting arena. Athletes striving for high level success must push their bodies and minds to the limit. If you cannot adapt to and cope with the physical and mental demands of training, you will quickly become exhausted.
So how can we reach the limits of human performance without tipping over the edge?
The key lies in one of the simplest yet most neglected training principles: recovery. In the words of one who should know, the seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong: ‘Recovery.that’s the name of the game.Whoever recovers the fastest does the best.’
The simple physiological equation employed by most coaches is this: training + recovery = adaptation.
But while there are literally hundreds of ways of measuring training (e.g. sets, reps, load, volume, time and intensity) and a similar number for measuring adaptation (game performance, lactate threshold, heart rate, speed, power etc), how many coaches measure or prescribe a recovery program?
The evidence is that recovery is hugely important for athletes. Of 298 US athletes who participated in a survey after competing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, 35 (12%) said that the number one coaching decision that affected their performance was ‘overtraining/ not getting enough rest’.
In fact, it has been reported that athletes are often fitter on the plane home than en route to a competition, simply because of the rest days they have enjoyed after the event!
Recovery is not just the absence of activity; it can also mean an enhancement of activity, such as stretching, or a change of activity, such as swimming instead of running. A coach may assume that if an athlete is not training he or she is recovering. But this may not be the case, and athletes may need a specific program to help accelerate the recovery process.
The problem is that athletes prefer to focus on what they do best – training – and getting them to focus on recovery can be difficult.