Written by Coach Chris White -
Whether you are an elite athlete, a junior who is up and coming or an age grouper who loves to race, recovery should be a key consideration in how you go about your training.
We are all about producing consistency over a longer period of time at MEC, and that absolutely requires you to consider your recovery. If you don't recover properly from one session, you jeapordise the next session and so on, digging an ever deeper hole that usually ends in injury and a spell on the sidelines. Amateur athletes all over the world are happy to prioritise their physical training but not the recovery habits that allow them to do the training such as sleep, nutrition and massage.
If we think about habits more generally, I'm reminded of a great quote that we like to use at MEC, "You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your habits.” It’s one of those quotes that is worth reading a couple of times and thinking about.
Why? Because most of us are great at the ‘goals’ part of this equation, but not the crucial ‘habits' part.
Everyone has goals, the things they set every few months or at the beginning of the year, the things they want to achieve, the race they want to run, the things that get them out of bed in the morning. But no matter how much you want to achieve your goals, if you don’t have strong habits in place, you will default back to doing things that don’t help you move towards your goals. Recovery habits are no different.
Let’s think about our own recovery for a second. We all know that getting enough sleep is important, that a good diet will help with fuelling our training, and that recovery is important. Almost every triathlon magazine article or blog can tell us that bit. That’s the goals bit. But do we actually take the actions and create the habits to get the right amount of sleep, improve our fueling or take our recovery seriously?
If you’re answering ‘YES!’ to the above question, well done to you. If you are a ‘sometimes I do that’ person, then read on to learn the fundamentals of habit creation.
So, how do you create great recovery habits?
- Make it Obvious It pays to be specific here. For example, ‘I want to get 9hrs sleep each night’ becomes, ‘I want to get 9 hours sleep each night and I need to get up at 0600 each morning, therefore I must be in bed by 2100.’
- Make it Attractive. If we stick with the sleep example, it's about making going to bed on time something that you WANT to do. Think about what might help you want to go to bed. Is it take a warm shower? Listen to music you enjoy? Read a book? The more you enjoy it the more likely you are to do it consistently.
- Make it Easy. Aim for small and simple wins. Habits are formed through repetition. The easier and more simple the task, the more likely you will do it. Make it easier for the things you want more of and harder for the things you want less of. A great example is using our phones before bed. It’s a habit that many of us have developed, that isn’t helping us with our goal of getting a solid 9 hours of sleep. If you find yourself on your phone in bed and staying awake, make it harder to do that thing. Set up an app to limit screen time, keep your phone outside the bedroom, buy an alarm clock so you don’t need your phone to wake up. Get creative, you know yourself best!
- Make it Satisfying. What you do well and are rewarded for, you will do more of. Think about how you would work with your kids or your pets. Rewarding good behaviour works. So with sleep, if you wake up feeling rested, have energy and can do your training, that has all can come from you getting to bed when you said you would. Seeing that link between your actions and your outcomes (your performance in training or racing) will cement the habit and help you see that if you get to bed on time, you are helping yourself become a better athlete.
If you can make your good recovery habits obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying, then they are more likely to stick. If they stick, you have a great chance of improving beyond what you thought was possible initially. Almost all of the elite athletes who graced our screens in Tokyo at the Olympics worked every day on making the right recovery choices, the easy choices and cementing habits that help them recover and move towards their goals over years and years. That all sounds a little daunting and out of reach, but don’t be discouraged. That mindset is a learnt skill and can be worked on, which gives us all the opportunity to get started today.
What recovery habit could you build that will get you closer to your goals?