The Knowledge by Wahoo

Getting Stronger Through Rest and Recovery

Episode Summary

Wahoo sports scientists Neal Henderson and Jeff Hoobler break down everything you need to know about both active and passive recovery.

Episode Notes

You can only get stronger through rest and recovery. Wahoo sports scientists Neal Henderson and Jeff Hoobler break down everything you need to know about both active and passive recovery. You'll learn about why a little R&R is so critical for performance, how to do it properly, and some key strategies to help you get the most out of your days off the bike.

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Episode Transcription

Neal  0:00  

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the knowledge podcast brought to you by the Oahu sports science team in Boulder, Colorado. I'm Neil Henderson, head of Wahoo Sports Science.


Jeff Hoobler  0:09  

And I'm Jeff Kugler Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Oahu Sports Science. Today we're going to talk about a couple of different aspects of recovery, specifically, passive recovery and active recovery.


Neal  0:21  

Well, Jeff, we know that proper recovery is a critical part of being able to perform well. And we often think about training as this kind of like the equation of stress plus rest yields adaptation, the stress that we're talking about is effectively the training that we do is a fancy definition of recovery that could use a multifactorial series of processes that when coupled with proper training leads to allowing the body to adapt to the training that we do and effectively get better. But recovery is really just the balance of not training, its time, and potentially even things that we can do to allow our body's natural process to recover, adapt and improve.


Jeff Hoobler  1:03  

Yeah. Wow, that was a mouthful, but I get it. So we're talking about passive recovery and active recovery. So would you say that passive recovery is essentially rest? Neil?


Neal  1:15  

Yeah, that's kind of it, it's, it's fairly simple. In a way, there's, there are different things that we can consider. When we think about that, that passive aspect and rest, one of the big ones are sleep, nearly a third of our lives are spent sleeping. And during sleep, there are a lot of things that are going on, within the body from a hormonal perspective that allows our body physically as well as even from a mental perspective to recover from the day from what we've done just daily life, as well as then the training stresses that we're placing on our body. So sleep is probably the most critical aspect of passive recovery. And when we think about sleep, which we're going to talk about sleep and an entirely different episode, sometime down the line, but sleep, we think of both the quantity of sleep, so how much we sleep, how many hours, you know, on average, adults need somewhere between six and 10 hours a night, pretty big range. But then also the quality of that sleep, those two things are really important,


Jeff Hoobler  2:17  

You know, would you include napping in there, or of course, you'd include napping in there.


Neal  2:21  

Definitely. So naps are part of that sleep total. And if you are relying on daily naps, to supplement a lack of kind of nighttime sleep, you're probably definitely selling yourself short on the amount of actual nighttime sleep that you need. The kind of rhythm, the sleep cycles, again, a whole nother episode. mean that a longer nighttime sleep is definitely better than doing a short nighttime sleep and then a longer nap during the day. Generally speaking, you're going to be way better off emphasizing that nighttime sleep for sure, is very important. But on occasion, if you have a little bit of time, and you are tired, you have some fatigue, a little quick nap definitely is beneficial. So you know, it's not that those naps aren't good, it's just that you shouldn't be relying on them consistently to try to get your sleep total though,


Jeff Hoobler  3:12  

Talking about a few more things with passive recovery, you know, one of the things that we might do is, is literally not doing anything different, just go about daily activities.


Neal  3:21  

Definitely some just downtime, you know, kind of not doing something not being active, not standing, walking around. That could be just, you know, quietly reading a book consuming, you know, some media, whether it's listening to music, or watching the show, watching a movie, that's kind of also in the realm of passive recovery, that allows your body to be taking care of things. Now, if what you're doing in that passive time is really more stressful from a mental perspective or strenuous. You might get a little bit of physical recovery happening there. But there's actually still a potential to slow down recovery. If we are getting stressed out. If you're, if you're poring over, you know, really intense work or something in that vein that's quite straining on your mental cognition. Well, that's actually not that recovery anymore.


Jeff Hoobler  4:09  

Right? Right. We're adding stress instead of taking the stress away. So if we flip the script here a little bit and look at active recovery, there's a lot of different things we could do. Let's talk about those a little bit, you know, what's the relevance so to speak of recovery, one and then active recovery specifically.


Neal  4:29  

When you think about active recovery, it's doing something to help speed up or improve the quality of your recovery process. You're doing something on purpose, either some sort of activity or potentially using some sort of modality and this could range from you know, just going for an easy walk or taking a nice bath to use some sort of compression boots or getting a massage. It's something that you have to plan and actively do something that's really why we call active recovery.


Jeff Hoobler  4:59  

Right on! Some of the things that we're trying to accomplish with recovery, whether it's passive or active, would be, say refueling


Neal  5:07  

and rehydrating


Jeff Hoobler  5:08  

and rehydrating, absolutely critical.


Neal  5:11  

And so on the refueling, it's, you know, getting those energy stores back up, especially carbohydrate, the rehydration is getting that fluid balance back up, when we think about then a repair, reducing inflammation, and some of that actually increase blood flow to these areas that help speed that recovery process, bringing in again, some of the nutrients but also clearing out some of the inflammatory response. And so that's really what we're thinking about on that, that repair side of things. And it just does take a little bit of time for that to occur. But you can accelerate it with some of these things that we'll talk about.


Jeff Hoobler  5:42  

Yeah. And that's a critical point that you make, you know, a lot of times we think, you know, I've had think of repairing tissue, or we'd get injured, and people say, Oh, well, that's ice that down, right. And that would seem to decrease blood flow, and reduce pain and soreness. But when we take that away, again, we actually increase blood flow. So it speeds up that circulation.


Neal  6:06  

Absolutely. So So you know, using specifically like cooling in that respect, yep, as you said, you have a reduction first and inflammation. But when you take that cooling off, then you get reactive hyperemia, you have a big increase in blood flow. So that's then going to speed that repair from whatever damage and stressor you had in the area,


Jeff Hoobler  6:30  

Right. And so you already mentioned a couple of things that we might do there, like an ice bath, or


Neal  6:36  

Getting a massage


Jeff Hoobler  6:37  

Or getting a massage, that kind of thing. So...


Neal  6:39  

you can do an ice massage, right, nice little


Little Dixie cup half-filled with water, put it in the freezer and tear off, and there you go, you can do a little ice massage, yeah, two and one almost


Jeff Hoobler  6:49  

Perfect, you know, some of the other things that are relevant, we talked about restoring balance, or


Neal  6:55  

specifically that nervous system, the nervous is going on. So we have sympathetic and parasympathetic responses for our bodies. So sympathetic is kind of that fight or flight. And when we do training, when we do an activity, we have an upregulation. In that sympathetic system, if we keep that turned on too long, that's when we start to have a problem. So we want to do things that kind of get that parasympathetic system going, that's kind of your rest and digest side of things that kind of down-regulates and slows, then that upregulation of the sympathetic. So that's where some of this kind of relaxation, types of things, being mindful, beneficial, listening to music, those are things that could all be part of that,


Jeff Hoobler  7:38  

You know, or any other thing that is a key component of recovery, whether it's passive or active is to build confidence in the fact that you're doing the things that you need to do to perform at a high level, again, whether it's in the next day or the next week,


Neal  7:53  

There are parts of this that you know, in some cases can be considered almost a placebo effect that is taking time and energy to address something that you think is going to help speed up your recovery, you have better competence, and there's a greater likelihood that then you will feel better in the following day or days after by having done those things. Again, there are those structural things like sleep and refueling rehydrating that are critically necessary. But some of these other adjunct activities that we might do in the kind of active recovery realm might be more a little bit of a placebo, and just helping us build confidence that we have addressed, we've taken some time and energy to help put ourselves in the best potential place to recover from the work that we've done.


Jeff Hoobler  8:38  

Let's shift gears here a little bit, let's talk about a recovery drink or meal and that kind of thing, would you call that a passive or active recovery,


Neal  8:46  

That's, that's in the active realm, you have to actively be eating and drinking. Once that's in your system, then possibly your body is going to be able to use that so put the right things in at the right time. Again, a whole nother episode on some of our fueling after training, how to get the best benefits but clearly addressing those will clearly have significant impacts on our


Jeff Hoobler  9:10  

And would you call it active because you have to plan it like you have to plan it? I mean, the time it I don't know about you,


Neal  9:17  

I don't know about you, but nobody is acting like putting my food and fuel in my bag or preparing my lunch. For me. I'm not in that. That fortunate state of being like a professional athlete who might have somebody a nutritionist who puts together their meal and gives it right to them, right when they're done training and then, you know, prepares dinner for them, you know, a couple of hours later and all those things, you know, the regular person out there, we have to put a lot more time and energy into planning and having those things available. But just as an athlete, like having a few things, having a little packet of recovery drink, having a couple you know bars, things like that in your training bag is really something that you can do to help accelerate that and just have access to some of those foods and fuels right after you're done with training.


Jeff Hoobler  10:00  

Yeah, so what I'm hearing you say is premeditated recovery techniques, things that are available in a timely manner in a practical manner. Like, you know, if you're not at home, what can you get access to?


Neal  10:12  

Exactly in a perfect world? Yeah, I'd love to have you know, real fruit and food and do a smoothie and have all this kind of thing? Well, in reality, you know, I had 30 minutes, I did 25 minutes of exercise, I got five minutes to change and chug, you know, a little something. And so that's what it is. So perfect world versus real world, you know, make sure you just have access to something that you can do that, again, maybe get 90% of the benefit from just that quick bar, you know, or something you have in your bag.


Jeff Hoobler  10:38  

If we talk about when do you actually need to do an active or passive recovery? Would it be, you know, every day would it be after an intense race or


Neal  10:49  

No, most importantly, after your most intense sessions and your longest sessions, those are kind of the two areas that are going to be the most important for kind of recovery and applying these different things?


Jeff Hoobler  11:02  

Should I stress out if I don't get particular?


Neal  11:05  

Yeah, so if you don't do what you had planned, is that going to make you feel worse? Well, geez, if you stress out about it, well, it's gonna make that potentially, you know, less optimal adaptation be even more negative or have a bigger negative impact. So do what you can but don't stress when you can, would be another key thing. Some of the other activities and things that we think about active recovery are just doing a little easy movement, easy spin, easy swim. Some people can do an easy jog. But if you're not a real runner and run with a lot of frequency, it's hard to do a truly easy run just because of you know, every step is an eccentric muscle action, there's a little bit more impact there. So for most folks, especially most of our cyclists out there, we don't recommend easy runs. But true runners can do it.


Jeff Hoobler  11:47  

Yeah, if I got off my bike and went for an easy recovery run, I would be out for a few days.


Neal  11:53  

Yeah, slow the recovery process for you. So not the way to go.


Just keep the intensity nice and low. When you do those easy activities. It doesn't have to belong, it can be 1020 30 minutes could be up to an hour again, you might see a pro athlete that they do a recovery ride that's an hour and a half or two hours. Well, that is relatively speaking easy if there used to be used to doing four or five, six-hour rides. So it's all relative.


Jeff Hoobler  12:13  

Yeah. And so what we're trying to do is just increase that circulation and delivery of nutrients.


Neal  12:20  

Yep, some other things that do that. Yeah, massage, foam rolling, you know, even like a percussive massage tool. There are a few different brands out there a lot of different brands out there these days. But, you know, generally speaking, using those things can feel good. You can target an area that you might feel a little bit of, of tightness or soreness. It's really about kind of increasing circulation. Are there any negatives to some of those tools that you've seen? Yeah,


Jeff Hoobler  12:45  

You know, with those massage things, you can overdo it right? You can do too much in an area in stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, which doesn't let you calm down and you can actually do some muscle damage if you're not used to it. Or if you do it too hard. Kind of even goes with getting a massage if somebody is a little too aggressive. That's not really what you want for recovery.


Neal  13:06  

Yep, definitely a little bit more of a flush. We often call that this is that lighter massage.


Jeff Hoobler  13:10  



Neal  13:11  

A couple of other things that we think in the active realm you have compression and that can be either like progressive like pneumatic compression boots or even just something as simple as like compression socks there. There are some benefits here, especially if you're doing a training session or race and you're jumping in a car and you're going to be in a car for a long time or jumping on a plane you know, compression socks actually can be just a safety thing and help you reduce the potential for getting clots. So that that alone but like those, those boots, what do you see there?


Jeff Hoobler  13:40  

Well, I think they're, they're the great ones they get you to sit still, right? You can't be doing dishes or doing laundry while you're in the booth so they get you off your feet and help you you know, just take a few minutes to close your eyes. And of course, there's the benefit of increasing circulation increasing that blood flow and


Neal  14:01  

Yeah, interestingly before Evelyn Stephens our record she did a warm-up, and then she did about 15 minutes in the booths at a lower setting than normal so not a post, not like a post-session recovery but just a light compression before then getting ready for a final little warm-up and getting on for setting in our record down in Colorado Springs. So again, some of these things can be used in different ways, and for heroes again just mentally she was shut down laying down and just kind of doing some some some mental training.


Jeff Hoobler  14:30  

Yeah, kind of a quick charge on the battery before exactly


Neal  14:34  

Get ready. A couple of other things that are pretty common out there are hydrotherapy, especially a contrast bath. So sometimes we think of just an ice bath, which ice baths alone. One of the big benefits there we can see especially for those when we're in like an in the summer and it's pretty hot and you get overheated on you get better sleep quality for doing a nice bath. Before going to bed. It lowers your core temperature And that sleep quality goes up now whether there are a lot of other additional benefits from you know what happens with that, that cooling down the temperature of the muscles and changes in blood flow reduction and increase, then those are still maybe a little bit questionable, but for sure, if you sleep better I can tell you, that's, uh, yeah, I think when


Jeff Hoobler  15:20  

And just like you said earlier, that placebo effect if you think that that's going to help you sleep better, it's probably going to help you sleep better.


Neal  15:28  

In addition to some of the other movements, we talked about, like the, you know, endurance, you know, easy light, low intensity, you could think of stretching and yoga as both being some sort of movements out there. Stretching is probably anecdotally the thing that everyone accepts as recovery, which, you know, there's not a ton of evidence that says, you know, in terms of scientific evidence, it says stretching absolutely is great for recovery. But there's not a lot of negatives if you're doing it after the activity.


Jeff Hoobler  15:55  

That's a really good point. And there's, you know, we go back to the nervous system, and doing static, low-intensity stretching is one way to upregulate that person, pathetic nervous system, which is going to calm things down, as long as you don't overdo it.


Neal  16:09  

Yep. And so again, thinking about calming things down, that meditation, mindfulness, mental training, those things just really, really important. And that's a great time, you can even do some of your mental training in a way, some self-talk, if you're using like positive imagery, that's good. If you're, if you're going through your imagery and thinking about the bad situations of race and how you're going to manage it, it may not be in that column. And it's going to be useful for mental training. But I wouldn't necessarily say that that fits in your meditation, mindfulness side of things that's going to down-regulate, it's almost amping you up, just to touch Yeah, and


Jeff Hoobler  16:43  

that's something you know, something we can expand on later in another topic. But it's almost like those having those snacks in your bags, right, and pre-planned pre-recorded mental activities that you can literally record your voice on, whether it's your phone, or you know if you're my age, it's a cassette tape. And, you know, just pop it in and take five minutes and have it free-loaded in your brain of being positive and restorative. And those are super powerful.


Neal  17:14  

Definitely, I thought you're gonna say eight-track tape. But they're just a little bit after that.


Jeff Hoobler  17:18  

I got some of those too. But yeah, I lost my recorder.


Neal  17:21  

Even just thinking in the app, you know, when we have, you know, if somebody is following a training plan, we have that ability to add mental training and some of those things like Breathe deeply as some of those and that's perfect, that's working on just getting that that mindful, reset. And that is a really useful part of training. And we build it into training schedules because we know that it helps people get better. So a couple of takeaways, big picture here, Jeff, we need both Sleeps, sleep quality, and we need some relaxation time, we need to Refuel and rehydrate. And then we also have to have a plan for what is practical that we can implement in our you know, having our arsenal something that takes a long time to set up and do it's probably not something you're going to do frequently. So yeah, some ease of use is part of that.


Jeff Hoobler  18:07  

Yeah, the only thing I think that I would add to that is just having some premeditation about what's going to happen after your, you know, big training session. If it's at home. It's pretty easy to do these things. But if you're on the road, you might have to think about it ahead of time. where's that going to come in? And then how can I make it happen really easy, just like you said, what's practical, and what's simple is usually what's best.


Neal  18:29  

Yep, plan and purpose with that, and then use what you can and don't stress, right? It can't get it. If you can't, you know, do exactly what you wanted to do. Just breathe, let it roll, and rest recover.Get ready for the next one.


Jeff Hoobler  18:46  

Rinse and repeat.


Neal  18:48  

And that's it for another episode of the knowledge podcast by Wahoo. Hopefully, now you have learned a bit about active and passive recovery strategies that can help you be a better athlete