Mountain bike training recovery tips
What does recovery mean?
Training, racing or anything that places a mental and physical demand on your body will require some type of recovery. This type of stimulus is generally categorized as stress. Applying stress to the body during training is necessary for performance gains. Performance is gained by adapting and recovering from these “stresses” applied to the body.
So in a simplified statement. Recovery is receiving the benefits of training.
Remember your training is only as good as your recovery. With poor recovery habits you might not be yielding the total effect you could from training. If you spend hours upon hours training in a week why would you not want to get as much in return as possible from that!?
Structural recovery vs Neurological recovery
These are two fairly broad ways of categorizing components of the human body. It’s very important to consider them both. It is also important to consider that the blanket statement of “recovery” might not apply to both.
Recovery for structural components of the body
Muscles all recover similarly in the sense of eating, hydrating and allowing rest from activity and in 24, 36 or 48 hrs they have recovered. But there are more structural components than just muscles. Our bodys have:
- ligaments, as well..
Most of us have experienced muscle soreness. What you’re not experiencing is tendon soreness. Your muscles have more sensory input as well as more available blood flow than your tendons or other non contractile tissues of the body. Making their recovery time longer than your muscles. That’s something that should be taken into consideration when programing intensive exercising. I’ll expand on this topic in another blog. With this I wanted to focus on the neurological side of things.
Nervous system and recovery
Recovering from training stimulus structurally is very important. Rest, nutrition and therapeutic modalities are all very important and will help structural as well as neurological recovery. One thing I feel is often overlooked is developing recovery habits specific to the nervous system. The nervous system is probably the most important part of performance. In addition to generally living a happy life.
How well the nervous system works depends on 2 things
- how well you train it
- how well you recover from training/stress
Different parts of the nervous system
Sympathetic Nervous system
This is the hyper alert portion of your nervous system. When competing, vigorously training or problem solving. You are operating in your sympathetic nervous system. The hyper alert focus is very important when racing your bike. Reading and reacting to terrain as fast as your body can process information. But the hyper alert hyper focus can be addicting to your body consciously or subconsciously. Having the ability to turn this off is very important.
Why would you want to get out of a Hyper focus state?
Unfortunately operating in the sympathetic nervous system for extended periods of time too often, will produce neurological fatigue and decrease your potential performance. Reserve competitive mindsets for competition or competitive phased training.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
This is the almost complete opposite of the Sympathetic Nervous System. This is where neurological recovery happens. Where you are relaxed, get good sleep and allow your body to rebuild.
Both of these Systems are part of the Autonomic nervous system, that is essentially you body’s “automatic” response to stimulus.
Remember: Training stimulus = stress.
To understand the fundamental concept to training you can use the acronym SAID:
S – specific
A – Adaptation
I – to Imposed
D – Demands
Would be training stimulus, such as riding your bike and lifting weights in the gym.
Would be riding your bike longer or faster. As well as lifting heavier weights or moving them faster. These are adaptations to imposed training demands. This all equates potential performance.
Your job, your kids, your significant other; love them or hate them at some point they probably add to the stress category. Those would also be examples of environmental stress. This stress should also be considered in a training program. If you had a really rough week at work you may not be operating neurologically to your full potential. When your nervous system is not properly recovered you will not perform to your greatest ability. Which could negatively impact your ability to train hard or reap the benefits of training. Quality over quantity has never been more true than in training.
Breath work and recovery of the nervous system
This might be one of the easiest and most effective ways to aid in recovery from stress, training or environmental. Because both will have the same negative impact on performance. Realistically both stresses are unavoidable. Having tools to specifically address stress and help neurological recovery are key. Breath work is a great way to get the body out of the competitive mindset. As well as easy the body out of fight or flight responses to environmental stresses.
How to properly breath
Laying on your back is a great way to practice. I usually put my feet up on the couch or my bed because I find this to be more comfortable. Once laying down place your hand on your diaphram. Located directly under your sternum (front center of your rib cage). when you inhale you should feel this part of your abdomen expand first, once this part has fully expanded let the expansion move upwards into your rib cage but try to not shrug your shoulders.
Shrugging your shoulders will egauge your upper traps. These muscles can be misused as accessory breathing muscles. They can be associated with “stress breathing”.
All inhaling and exhaling should be done through your nose. Nasal Breathing and only nasal breathing increases your body’s natural production of Nitric Oxide (NO). Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator. Which means it can widen blood vessels increasing transport of oxygen throughout the body. In some cases leading to the increase of Oxygen saturation.
Box breathing breath exercise
Start out by:
- breathing in for 4 sec.
- hold for 4 sec.
- exhale for 4 sec.
- and hold breath out for 4 sec.
The focus here is to get comfortable, relaxed and to lower your heart rate. The next step is to lower your respiration rate. Try inseasing to 6sec inhale, 6 sec hold, 6 sec exhale and 6 sec hold breath out.
At 6sec “box breathing” you are taking in 1 breath every 24sec.
A normal respiration rate for an adult could be 12-20 breaths per min. At 12 per minute the would be 1 breath every 5 secs.
Decreasing your respiration rate has been linked to helping your body move from the Sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. Where neurological recovery is possible.
I will be updating the blog shortly with a video as well!
A little about me
For those who don’t know about me. I worked as a strength and conditioning coach for 15 years. Working full time with athletes (Red Bull, NFL, Olympic, NHL, Xgames, etc). As cool as that is a large part of my business was non professional athletes, weekend warriors grinding it out Monday through Friday at work. Then riding, surfing, hiking, running, or climbing on the weekends. It doesn’t matter the physical ability of the individual. Essentially the running back in the NFL or the person trying to run their first 5k should train the same way. That doesn’t mean someone who has never back squat before should squat 500lbs. It does mean that they should have some type of training program.
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