R is for RecoveryJune 29, 2012
I learned about recovery workouts the hard way too.
You know how long I have been in this sport….. a year ago April at our QT2 Camp in Clermont…. I learned about recovery. I had Jesse riding on one side of me, and Wheeler riding on the other side of me.
“Don’t pass us.” They said to me. But guys…. I am riding like 12 miles an hour, my watts are about 80, my heart rate is less than 100!
Perfect. They promised me.
And then I got it.
I have been a coach since 2004 and I can’t think of any time off hand I have had to tell an athlete to go harder in a workout. Have I had to tell them to get workouts in? Occasionally, but when someone pays a coach to train them they usually don’t have an issue with that. 99.9% of the time I am slowing them down in training. Recovery workouts? forget it, it’s an all out battle. It takes time to learn. They are an ego blaster and let’s face it, triathletes carry a certain amount of ego around.
I will promise you this…… want to see surprising gains in your hard workouts? Learn to execute the recovery ones.
Before we get to our list of what recovery workouts are for….. here are two very important articles for you to read this week:
Sacrifices, Genetics and progress By Jesse Kropelnicki
Train like Crowie: The importance of slower sessions by Matt Fitzgerald
1. Recovery is not to gain fitness: At QT2 our “heart rate zones” in what we call Zone R are so low, they are below the point where fitness is actually gained. We are even considering dropping the bottom out of zone R. recovery workouts are not to help add to our fitness. recovery workouts are to help the body, recover. Hence the name. Our blood flows through our bodies and carries waste products to places to be deposited and excreted (very simple explanation, I know, even from a nurse). In a Zone R workout we speed that process up just a little bit and we help fresh blood flow bring nutrients (from our good nutrition in the core) to our worked muscles. We are simply recovering from the previous day’s efforts and preparing for the next. In our base phases we don’t have as many Zone R workouts as we do in our build and race phases.
2. The better the athlete, the bigger the gap: I can show you the data of elite triathletes…… triathletes who routinely run sub 3:15 off the bike in Kona. These athletes routinely and regularly…… and even last weekend executed their recovery runs slower than 11 minute miles. Again, these are athletes that run 6:XX off the bike.
Think about this. You are a 7 minute miler off the bike in an Ironman. Your training pace therefore should not be 7 minute miles. But many….. are. That only lasts for so long (see above article references, especially to the one by Jesse). The better the athlete the bigger the gap between race pace and recovery pace. That is a fact.
3. What about recovery on the bike? Lower than 100 watts is what we go by here at Qt2. We have heard all of the excuses…. but….. but….. but….. no. Lower than 100 watts. Sometimes you will see us on Twitter having a contest of how low can you go with wattage? Trust me I have heard every excuse in the book, and I have given every excuse in the book as to why I can’t execute a recovery ride. I need to go fast for stability, balance….. and let’s face it, the real reason is because I have a bike ego the size of Mars.
After this past weekend I don’t’ even buy the….. but it’s hilly. I rode an ENTIRE loop of Ironman Lake Placid at an average heart rate of 98 bpm, and wattage of 76. Cadence 95. Yes, even up the hills. If I can do it, anyone can. By the way because Zone R rides are at times difficult to execute outdoors, do them on the trainer. Boring? Yes, necessary…. absolutely.
4. Easy days easy, hard days hard. If you are good at executing recovery efforts, you will see gains in your tempo and best effort workouts. Many don’t see the correlation between the two, but trust me it’s there. At Qt2 we take the easy days easy and the hard days hard. If you work your efforts right you come to adore the Zone R days.
Recovery is one of the many things that sets QT2 apart. It is part of the reason we have such healthy athletes who are so consistent in their results.
Try this: your next recovery ride or run….. slow it down to the point that is embarrassingly slow. See what happens over a the course of a week. See how you feel.
I promise you that the only thing that suffers during Zone R….. is your ego.