Sunday, October 22, 2017

Recovery for masters athletes

This week, I turn 50.

I'm very fortunate to be one of those people who feel better at 50 than I did in my 20's and 30's. Of course, I was a baby making machine in my 20's. So, there's that.

There are two things that I have lived by:

1.) Be nice to yourself. You're the only person you'll know your entire life. Make the relationship a good one.
2.) Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.

In one way or another, I've been an athlete and or very active (Richard Simmon's anyone?) since the early 80's.

This means I can look back and see different phases I've gone through.

Post baby body. Work travel body. Strength training body. Endurance athlete body. Speed body. Binge drinking college body.

There are probably a gazillion other things that I've forgotten.

Now, I'm at the masters athlete body stage.

Technically, we're considered masters athletes at 40. Honestly, I didn't really start feeling things until about 2 years ago. Those issues were/are directly related to peri-menopause symptoms. I've written about my symptoms many times over the years.

Even though, I'm still struggling. Those symptoms forced me to pay closer attention to my body and recovery. Because of that, I've been able to push harder.

I have a great Coach who has been wonderful at working with me through the really tough spots. I have an amazing RD to help me with my nutrition.

I, also, spend a lot of time doing my own research. And no, I don't get my "research" from popular magazines. I go digging for information.

I want to go over the things that really help me recover:

1.) SLEEP. On my list of recovery methods, this is the only one that is free. This is my priority. I will prioritize sleep over any workout. It doesn't happen very often. But there are times that I have told Liz, "I can't do this today". Because it doesn't happen often, she knows that I'm being completely honest. If you can't get through workouts because you are tired all the time, you might want to reassess your goals. Your body needs sleep to repair. Without sleep, you risk injury.

Training is hard.

2.) Nutrition/supplements: I have gone over the importance of nutrition ad naseum. I won't do it here. Instead, I will mention supplements that I take that help with recovery. One thing I would highly recommend is that you get a blood panel done to find out if you have any nutrient deficiencies.

Iron: I'm anemic. I have to take a very high does iron tablet every day. The particular supplement I'm on works for me and keeps me in the ranges I need to be.
You are likely anemic or have iron deficiency if:
1.) You are a woman.
2.) You are a peri-menopausal woman
3.) You follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
4.) You train/live at altitude.
5.) You are an endurance athlete.

Please note: You don't have to answer YES to all of those. Simply answering yes to ONE of those can mean you have iron deficiency.

Although, iron isn't part of my recovery process. It can hinder your training. (Do I even need to mention that iron deficiency is really bad for you?) I felt it was very important to mention.

L-glutamine and amino acids: My RD recommended that I take 3-5mg of L-glutamine post workout on long or intense days. I don't take L-glutamine every day unless I'm in the peak of my season because of the distances that I do. However, most people who read my blog are marathon runners, half ironman/ironman triathletes, ultra marathon runners, marathon swimmers, etc. People who do MUCH longer distances. If you are in that group consider adding L-glutamine to your post-workout regime.

Amino acids/Protein: I have a bottle of BiPro protein water first thing upon waking up. (You don't have to use BiPro. I use it because it's easy.) The body is ready to absorb nutrients at this time. Amino acids are necessary to repair and build muscles. 

We all want to be strong, right?

3.) Massage: Getting regular massages is so important. You cannot perform at your best if you have a bunch of tight soft tissue. In my off season or lighter training loads, I go once a month. In heavy training and build periods, I go twice a month.

A massage appointment will go like this. You meet with your therapist. You talk through any issues you are having. Your therapist might ask you to do certain poses or walk, etc. They will then give you an assessment of what they see right off the bat. At that point, they can give you an idea of what you'll need.

I have been going to my massage therapist for a little while. When I visit, I'll tell him where I'm hurting or have tightness or soreness, and he'll do a focused session on certain areas. If I'm not having any problems areas, we'll do a total body session with less focus.

If you have never gone to a massage session, you might not realize this. These people know their shit. After your massage, they will give you exercises and stretches to do at home to continue your work at home.

In the evenings when we are watching tv, I get out my bands and balls and start rolling and stretching. Since I do it when I would otherwise just be sitting, it's not something I feel has to be scheduled in my already busy day.

Range of motion and mobility are absolutely critical as we age. Pain is not a normal part of life. A massage therapist can work through those issues. In some cases, you might be experiencing pain that requires the help of a physical therapist. Mr. Tea is currently going to a PT in order to fix issues that were the result of accumulated neglect of his body.

4.) Equipment Besides balls, bands and rollers, there is a variety of equipment that help muscles recover.

Normatec Boots: These boots will help speed recovery by enhancing blood flow. They are not cheap. You can buy them online. You can buy them at Ironman races (and a variety of big marathons). I've found that when you buy them at a race venue, they tend to be a little cheaper. However, if you follow any pro-triathletes, like Miranda Carfrae, they will give out a coupon for a couple of hundred bucks off the system.

Put them on and chill out.

Muscle stimulation units like Compex.
A muscle stimulator sends electronic pulses to your nerve fibers in order to create involuntary muscle contractions.Muscle stimulators can help with building muscles, recovering, increasing blood flow, etc. There are a number of different programs depending on your goals. There are many different modes covering: strength building, endurance, recovery, and warm up. 

One quick note about muscle stimulation, this can cause you to be quite sore, but it's very effective.

The compex unit starts at $136 (Right now, it's on sale).

5.) For women: As you go through peri-menopause and get closer to menopause, things are going to get much much harder. Be nice to yourself. There will be days where it is hard to just get out of bed. I'm not talking about being tired. It's called adrenal fatigue and is the result of a severe hormonal drop....unlike any you will have when you are younger. There will be days when hot flashes might be absolutely debilitating. There will be nights when your sheets are soaked as if you just got out of the pool.Your period can and will be out of control. Your fueling will change as your hormones change. It's very important to have a fueling plan AND a back up plan. For no reason, out of nowhere, your body will reject something you've been using for months. Then, the next day, it will be ok.

Unfortunately even with all the tracking apps, there's no real way to predict it. I've had adrenal fatigue hit on two races this year. When it happens in training, no big deal.....cut the workout short. When it happens during a race, just go with it. Do the best you can and know that there are always other races. I've had people make critical comments about race times when I gave everything I had.

Ignore them.
We might all have different symptoms, but we are all going through it. I really believe that's why the women in the 45-49 and 50-54 age groups are some of the nicest athletes out there.

All of this sounds expensive, doesn't it? Much of what I said depends on where you are in your athletic pursuits. If you are striving for a podium, or a spot on Team USA or a qualification to a world championship, know that the age groupers that compete at that level are already doing this.

Something else to point out, recovery doesn't mean anything if you don't do the training. You won't magically qualify for Nationals by buying a ton of expensive equipment AND skipping out on those Bike/Run/Bike/Run/Bike/Run/Bike/Run workouts.

Likewise, you will not easily improve on your times without proper recovery.