A few weeks ago, I started looking at how my life has changed now that I'm a "full time" athlete focusing on training/racing without many distractions or potential excuses. I examined different aspects of coaching and this week I'll look at recovery and diet. These two aspects of training have always been my strong points, and it 's been interesting to see how I've evolved in the last few months.
1. Diet. I've always been aware of what I put in my body. In high school, my only allowance was a monthly OK from my parents to buy vitamins and recovery products from GNC. In college, my first email to our strength coach after receiving the pre-season workout book was to get his advice on what I should eat before/during/after workouts. I really felt like I'd nailed my diet plan over the years.
Fast forward to today and I'm finding more subtleties to explore than ever before. Of course, I've been fortunate enough to connect with First Endurance and use their products as recommended for training and have eliminated the guess work that comes with training. This has not changed now that I've got more time and energy to focus on training. What has changed is how/when/what I eat when I'm not swimming/biking/running. It's not rocket science. I eat fruits and veggies, lean meats, and nuts. Nothing extreme. I eat enough to fuel my body but not enough to gain weight. I can't remember my last fast-food stop and cook almost all of my food, but there's nothing wrong with a pizza and beer every so often. However, I've changed my eating pattern more based on rational thought rather than feelings/stress/etc. I never eat a huge meal then hop into bed like I had to in the past. I don't drink coffee past 4pm (which was a huge necessity in the past). If I am craving food or sweets, I will take a nap instead of shoving my face. With reduced stress, I don't have the urge to eat my feelings like a middle aged woman coming off a break up (no offense to any of you out there!). The little things that I never noticed are the little things that have changed and I feel will add up to making me a better athlete.
2. Recovery. Basically the same story as above. I've never been as diligent on recovery as I have been about diet, but my mom can tell you that I needed 10 hours of sleep in high school to avoid being a royal pain in the ass. Working early practices with coffee and late night practices, again with coffee, affected my sleep patterns more than I realized over the past 4 years. This was obvious to me, but not as obvious as it is now that I consider 8 hours a rough night and hardly ever go through the day without a nap. Sleep is important. Find a way to get it!
The second part of recovery is taking it easy in the days between hard workouts. I've heard it before many times, but most age groupers train too hard on ez days and too ez on hard days. I can comment that many pros do the same! I didn't have the confidence to go ez because I didn't feel I was ever fresh enough to have good workouts. Now that the excuses have been stripped away, I find myself able to go EASY on base runs and ride between the hard stuff. I just finished a swim workout where the last 1k took me over 20 minutes... and I didn't stop! Tomorrow's ride and run are that important and today's workout has served it's purpose. Now I'm sitting with my feet up NOT exhausted and ready to tear tomorrow apart. Hopefully any athlete reading this has felt the same way lately!!!
Next week, I'll look at the intangibles that go into racing at the highest level....