The Importance of Active Recovery in Winter Indoor Rowing Training
Today is the 14th of December. When I left the house this morning to go to my workout, the sun was up but the temperature was in the single digits. A crunchy layer of icy snow covered the path to the car. Ugh...winter training in Maine. But, I knew there were three other women also heading out into the frigid air for our Thursday morning erg session. Accountability, right?
I've been erging 4-5 times a week for about a month now with an awesome group of dedicated master women. We usually we do a short warmup followed by a longer, more intense workout, building endurance at this stage of our winter training. Due to time constraints from jobs, family commitments and other life stuff, we tend to depart fairly quickly after the session.
Today, we did 3 x 15 minutes but this time we added another 15 minutes to the session for a real cool down. It made an enormous difference in how I felt both after the row and the rest of the day. It got me thinking. Making time for a good cool down - like stretching - is one of those things we rowers know we "should" do, but often neglect.
I have never really understood why the cool down is so important so after a good stretch ( a new habit I'm building), a hot shower and a big breakfast, I decided to do a little research. I came across this great article by Sam Loch, posted on Concept2, on the "why" behind the concept. For me, understanding the physiological benefit behind the activity makes incorporating something new into my routine a bit easier. I hope you enjoy it.
Read the full article here.
By Sam Loch
May 24, 2011
As part of our training, we are provided with simple explanations of why we do what we do and what purpose it serves. From my understanding, training serves as a stimulus for the body in the form of stress. This stress encourages the body to adapt and the subsequent adaption is fitness. This adaption can only occur whilst the body is recovering. Like a broken bone that grows back together and calcifies, a body responding to training stimulus will come back stronger, but only if it is allowed to repair first. Because an athlete can train more intensely and often will have more physical capacity, we place a premium on recovery. If we can enhance and accelerate our recovery, our coaches can add a lot more volume and intensity of work. We use numerous strategies to enhance the recovery process. These strategies function primarily in the 1–2 hour period immediately after training or racing or in the 24-hour period following training or racing.
After racing or intense training, the first strategy employed is active recovery. The purpose of active recovery is to flush accumulated lactic acid away from, and fresh blood into, the muscles. This process is crucial in the recovery process and is the end goal of many of our recovery strategies. This is particularly true after intense sessions or racing and less so after steady state. Active recovery could be used, for example, on a day with a race in the morning and then again in the afternoon. After a 100% race effort the obvious tendency is sit or lie inertly, doing as little activity as possible because presumably the athlete isn’t feeling too fantastic. The important thing to do is to push past that feeling and keep moving. At first, it might just be walking around, but as you feel better, get back on the Concept2 Indoor Rower. You might not be able to “pull the skin off a custard” at this point, but it’s important to grab the handle and start taking some strokes. Keep moving. It can be really light (I’m usually 40+ seconds per 500m slower than 2k race pace to begin with) and as you feel better, gradually increase your intensity to somewhere closer to 20–30 seconds slower than your racing 500m split. This may take 10+ minutes and that’s fine. You should aim to complete 10–20 minutes of active recovery at this intensity. Towards the end you’ll start feeling much better than when you began and this is part of the strategy. Whether you’re racing in an hour, five hours or 24 hours later, this method will only enhance your subsequent performances. There are only two times a year I don’t use this strategy—after the last race of our selections and after the World Championships.