Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech, and much more to help you get fitter, faster and stronger in and out of your sport. Giving you expert insights, talking with other leading experts. Now your host, world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.
Hi everybody and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. Today is episode 42, and we’re going to jump back to the athlete focus. After the last couple of weeks where we’ve heard from Eric Malzone and Joe Bauer, helping you coaches out there be able to either start your online coaching business, refine it or help it grow. This week, we are going to talk about recovery and you’ll notice that this week’s episode is short and to the point, much as your recovery should be as well. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a very big growth in the amount of supplements, the amount of tech, as well as the amount of clothing that you can and should be wearing if you want to fully recover like a real athlete.
Well, the problem with this is, is that if you go through and use different types of recovery methods over time, they’re going to lose their effectiveness. That is right. They will be less effective. This is very important for us to understand as coaches, and especially as athletes, as it seems like every single triathlete nowadays has a pair of NormaTec boots. Now, this is not a knock against NormaTec at all. There is definitely a time and a place for those types of compression boots to be used. However, for the vast majority of the training that you’re going to do as an amateur or a professional or budding professional, those are going to be few and far between.
So for the athletes that I coach, most frequently, essentially, we would be looking at using that type of recovery only for after their long training camps and that’s going to be about it. We’re not really going to be looking to use a whole lot of their different, that’s right, their different approaches for recovery. Why is this? This is because as you go through, we want to have some of the inflammation process as well as have you come on and be able to recover on your own as you go through your training.
Now, what do I mean by come on and recover on your own? Well, when you’re using something like compression boots, essentially, you are giving a shortcut for the body to be able to remove some of the processes, as well as get some of the blood out of the deeper tissues of the muscle. Now, some of you out there know much more about this than I do, and I would love to have on the show to talk about the details and the minutia that come into this, but that’s the rough and dirty of it, right? That if you had to explain it in a five second blurb, that will be it, the compression boots help by moving the blood, removing the waste products and pushing all of it out of the muscle.
Well, what happens with this, as well as when you go out and just douse yourself with antioxidants from green tea to orange juice to acai berries and everything else where you want to get all the antioxidants in, essentially what you’re doing is you’re blunting the adaptations that the body is going through. In order for you to get stronger, fitter and faster from all of the training you’ve been doing, you need to have those adaptations triggered by different types of cell signaling, as well as… That stems rather from different types of damage and metabolic wastes that occur because of the training. This is a big problem nowadays. We are sold very much so on recovery.
You got to eat this antioxidant mix after your workout. You have to eat within an hour of your workout. Well, for women and the luteal phase, we know that’s very true. In fact, it’s a half an hour or else you’re going to have worse recovery. So it’s not an antioxidant effect, it’s changing or maintaining an anabolic status in the body hormonally in order to be able to progress and feel normal-ish the next day instead of like a slug. When we get into recovery itself, something that’s not talked about and is so neglected because we’ve moved to making it mechanical and supplement-based is the mindset and the breathing. These are two things that not only are going to help you improve as an athlete and as a coach, but are going to help make you a better person and help you be able to manage the stress that occurs naturally throughout your day to day life.
As you go through and you think about recovery, as you’re thinking about checking the box and putting on those NormaTecs and congratulating yourself on a job well done, what about putting down the phone and not getting stressed out because of what you’re reading on Facebook or Instagram or getting riled up because of something that happened at work? Yes, stress from your life and how you interpret events around you is going to have a huge impact on your adaptations or misadaptations or missed adaptations to your training, and it will also be retraining your brain to respond negatively and change the hormonal status of the body.
In fact, with a lot of the professional basketball players, development basketball players, Brazilian jujitsu, and mixed martial artists that I work with, this is a large part of their training. We look at their mentality, their mindset, as they come into their training. We look at the setting that they’re going to go through for the different types of training. In fact, when I was working with a competitive CrossFitter a number of years ago, one of the things that we did is we tried to emulate the type of setting that she was going to be in in the open air stadium in the sun. We had some of our trainings at midday at hottest the times at the box, kept the air conditioner off and had her go through a heat stress accumulation. as well as having different types of music that may or may not be played.
Now, this may sound a little bit funny. Going through heat stress, okay, I get that. But the music and the sounds? Why would you do that? Why would you work out in the middle of the day? These are all things that you need to think about if you want to be able to stress the body and to recover properly. The music we listened to was not hers, it was mine. The music we listened to was not her favorite, nor was it mine. The music we listened to was aggravating. Why? Because you’re going to have lots of different things. What happens in the middle of a CrossFit competition, if a song you actually really don’t like comes on, it can distract you from your workout and performing.
Granted, you should be focused on the moment. Some of us rely on that ambient noise to help us be able to focus. In fact, if you go over to Instagram and you watch my post from May 12th or 13th, I can’t remember which day, with the four, zero, four, zero tempo goblet squats, I make a note of the music changing over at the end of the set when I needed it most. I was doing my whole set subconsciously to the beats of the song when you first click into the video. That lasted for about a minute and then it changed. That has a big impact. When it comes to our recovery, what we’re putting in our ambient background in our minds is going to have the same effect of the music that you’re going to be listening to during your workouts.
But we don’t pay that much attention to it. It’s not like we select the soundtrack. In our minds, we tend to go automatically to whatever our natural setting is. We can be optimistic. We can be pessimistic. We can get knocked out of balance easily by small things throughout the day. The mail didn’t come on time. The street cleaner is coming by in the middle of the day, instead of at 8 AM, or the vice versa, the street cleaner is coming through at 6 AM instead of 9 AM and is waking you up. All of these things have a huge impact on our stress levels and thus on our recovery. This is not talked about very often in the endurance sport world and it is a shame.
We are putting off mental coaching and mental recovery and we are not allowing our athletes to be able to tap into their full potential because we’re not teaching them how to recover and program their bodies and minds properly. Sure, there are pieces of equipment out there such as the Halo, which you can put on, but you’re making recovery very mechanical. That’s not how we work as human beings. We have a lot of software. What makes some of the best athletes in the world is their mentality. If you’re watching The Last Dance on Netflix about Michael Jordan and Bulls in ’94 and ’98, it is a huge insight to be able to see what Michael was thinking, how he was going through dealing with all the adversity, as well as how they talk about his energy, how he was looking tired, how he looking worn down in ’93, ’94.
These are all things that affect your athletes and how they’re going to perform. Michael Jordan decided to retire from basketball. There were a myriad of reasons, but in part he was tired, in part he wanted a break from the hoopla at all, as well as the passing of his father, very suddenly and tragically certainly had an effect on him on changing sports. While our athletes may and hopefully don’t go through something that extreme, it is going to have an impact. What’s their stress at work? Right now, we’re going through Corona.
How are they dealing with it? How is their family life? How are they being stuck at home? Are they an extrovert who’s going crazy because they can’t go out and meet with their cycling friends or do their master swim? Or are they more introvert and they’re relatives the time to be at home and to slow down? Or maybe they’re an introvert who’s getting tired of being stuck at home and wants to finally get out? All of this is going to impact your athlete’s ability to recover, and as a coach, it is important that you start to lay the foundations in each of your conversations to allow your athlete to tune in when they need to, tune out when they need to, and to balance the two as they go through.
Simply making recovery something as mechanical as put this on and you’ll recover faster is doing our athletes and you a disservice. If you look back at some of the training books that were written in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by the Soviet Bloc coaches and scientists, you’ll see that they look at using the environment for different types of treatment and recovery from different types of over-training. No, I’m not talking about the amount of rest or the type of activities you can do. I’m talking about something called climate therapy. This is research that was done back in the 1970s, mid-1970s based off of what was being done in the Eastern Bloc. If you tended to have a little bit more Basedowic over-training, the climate therapy would involve getting you to what’s called a moderate ultraviolet irradiation, a stay in the mountains. Whereas if you were suffering from Addisonic over-training, the climate therapy be to stay at the seaside.
Each of these different climates offers different barometric pressures, different effects on the body, as well as different types of waves, both of light as well as sound and wind. All of these things affect us. So when you think about recovery, don’t just think about being home, sitting on the sofa with your compression boots or your compression stockings, drinking your antioxidant rich, vitamin C effervescence shake. No, we need to think about actually the area around us, the mentality that we have as we go into this. If you go into the mentality, if I really need to recover because I have a big training block coming up, versus wow, I did a really great job and I really need to think about how to turn my brain off and turn my body down ,this can have a dramatic effect on the ability of the athlete to recover, not just between this training block and the next one, but also over the course of their time and to deal with stressful situations well.
As we look at the training itself, one of the mistakes a lot of athletes and coaches make is they do just a very basic recovery week. All right, we’ve done all this training. We’re going to take you down to just two recovery rides of 60 minutes each and lay at home and rest the rest of the time. Well, the problem with this is it may work at the beginning because your training level is very low, but for many of you out there, we actually need to keep some type of training stress on. The way we could do this is to shorten the rides, increase the rest periods between the intervals or to shorten the intervals as well.
This could look something like a cafe ride, which is a true recovery ride on Monday, which would be in alignment with what you’d normally do between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on your time of year and your training level. Over the course of the week, instead of going through two efforts of let’s say steady state, the middle of the week we might take a little bit of a tempo, maybe a 20 minute tempo effort within a ride of an hour long. Do it as you are able or as you feel. Then on the weekend, instead of doing four hours of long riding, we would do two and a half hours on your own and include three to four sprints of 15 seconds in length that are maximum in their output.
What that does is allow the athlete to have control and they know they need to get a little bit of training stress in, have control over most of the rides, so no group riding for this endurance ride, because we all know how that’s going to end, and they have a couple of sprints in there to help them feel better. Now, if you’re an athlete and you’ve been doing the recovery the other way we’ve been speaking about, moving to this is going to be a very refreshing look at things. What will happen is you will want to push. You’ll feel better. You’ll say, “Oh, I actually don’t need that much recovery.” Great. It means you’re doing it well. Stick with the plan and let it go.
The second and last mistake we’re going to discuss here on this recovery episode, which is short, sweet and to the point and just enough to keep you going, is going to be that you don’t need to do every workout as written in your recovery week. What I mean by that is if you’ve written in seven days for your recovery, you don’t have to do the workouts exactly as written. If you finish the seven days and you feel like you need a little bit more, go ahead and push it out to 10 days. But make sure you’re starting to add a little bit of training stress. A good rule of thumb that I found tends to work most of the time, but not all of the time with the athletes here at HVT, is that we want to drop off about 30% of the total chronic training load for the individual during that recovery week to 14 days. Some of you may be thinking, “14 days? You said 10.” Well, it all depends on what’s going on in you, your life and how you’re responding to your training.
There are some athletes, we get them to a point where they have the fitness that they need. We have a recovery week, which turns into two weeks because of life events. Something happens at work. They have a couple nights of not so great sleep. Fitness does not happen on a bus stop schedule. Dan John, to make you kind of acquaintance with this terminology, Dan John is a health and fitness writer, a strength and conditioning coach. Great coach. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you’ve heard of him now. Go check out any of his books. Absolutely fantastic. He’s got a great approach and I really think that as a coach and as an athlete, he will really help you be able to open your eyes to how to build longterm health and fitness.
Actually, one of the reviews I have for my book, The Vortex Method, the biggest compliment that I can think of of a fitness writer, someone says that the writing that I did in my book was like Dan John, and that’s the best compliment I can take, to be honest, because as you’ll read with Dan John, there’s a lot of layers to it. You read the book once, you get one thing. You read it again, you get four more things. You read it again, you get six more. So sorry, just a little bit of a tangent there, but that’s how impactful he is as a writer, as a coach and sharing his experiences. Now, Dan John talks about this concept of fitness being a park bench versus a bus stop bench. So what’s the difference between a park bench and a bus stop bench?
A bus stop bench, you come to it and you sit down and you expect at a certain time a specific bus is going to come taking you through a specific route to get to a specific destination by a certain time. This is how a lot of us tend to think of fitness year round. Maybe during the season this works. Certainly right now with Corona going on and race is being up in the air, that bus stop approach isn’t going to work. A lot of coaches, unfortunately, are struggling with that, as well as athletes, triathletes in specific because they don’t have any events coming up. They’re looking it as a bus stop. I need to be in this shape on this day at this time so I can do X and set this PR and do what?
However, when you change that and you start to look at fitness year to year, month to month as a park bench, you’re going to go to a park bench, probably going to be some trees, maybe not some trees, most definitely some birds of some kind may be around, probably pigeons, we’re going to say that, but we don’t know for a fact exactly when they’re going to come and if there’s actually going to be a tree. Maybe the park we meet at is going to be a modern art park. So there aren’t any trees, but there’s statues. We know that we go to a park, we’re going to sit there and we’re going with the mentality of we want to enjoy as we go along, and at some point we want to see some birds. Well, that’s what we’re looking for.
When you make that transition as a coach and you have that underlying theme of it being a park bench, I want my athlete, or as an athlete, you come to it and say, “As an athlete, I want to have a certain amount of fitness. There are certain things that I would like to be able to do. I don’t have to be in my best shape year round. I don’t have to find the best park bench, the most shaded tree where the birds come, tend to come in the morning or in the evening, exactly where I’m going to go. But I don’t know exactly when, but sometime between 5 and 7 AM or 6 and 8 PM. The birds are going to be there because they tend to congregate there.” That’s another way to look at it. It’s still a park bench. You’re still building towards enjoyment of that fitness, enjoyment of those abilities, and that’s really what we want out of our training as a whole.
We’re not just looking to build athletes that are going to go out and crush it and get off their bikes or get out of triathlon for the rest of their lives. I haven’t met a single endurance coach that says, “Oh yeah, I’m going to burn my athletes out. When they’re done, they’re done.” It’s not like basketball. It’s not like CrossFit. Even CrossFit has a little bit of a longer term view at this point. I mean, you think about Rich Froning. He’s still competing. It’s been what, 10 years? Same thing. As we go through and we look at our athletes, we need to remember that they’re professional in something else. As you look at your sport as an athlete, you need to remember recovery isn’t just about the training stress you put on. It’s about the mentality, the aspects of training that you put in are going to be greatly affected by your work, your family, your social life, your sleep, your nutrition, all of these other things are going to impact that.
The better you learn to recover, to shut your brain off, to have activities that you enjoy and get lost in, and I’ll admit it, I just played Nintendo Switch, it’s the brand new Nintendo for those of my genre, it’s Nintendo 64 or the Super NES of today. I lost myself in it in a good way. I was sitting there playing with my nephew and an hour and a half went by and that was the first time in three months since this Corona thing started, a little bit before, that my brain was not thinking work, work, work, work, work. Or, “Oh, I’m enjoying this. But when I’m done with this, I need to do X and Y.” That’s how most of us are with our training. Oh, well, I’m enjoying this, but I need to make sure my feet are up because I have a hard ride on Tuesday.
When you change your recovery, you pick up photography, you pick up model airplanes or whatever it is you want to, and you start getting lost in it, that’s when you’re going to begin to really unlock your potential as an athlete, because now you’re making the true recovery happen from an internal standpoint. What that is, you’re changing the internal homeostasis into a more relaxed atmosphere and those hormones affect everything in the body and will allow you to have a better return to your sport as well as be able to enjoy a little bit of training stress sprinkled in in your rides, because you’re now looking at it as enjoyment of the process and the downtime, as opposed to, well, I have to rest now in order to get the fitness that I need later.
So that’s it for today. If you found today to be useful, you can pick up my new book, my first book, The Vortex Method over on Amazon. Or if you’re interested, if you’re a triathlete, on Sunday, May 17th, we are going to start a 60 day body weight home workout challenge that is going to be focused to triathletes using only your body weight and things you have around the house to be able to gain strength, fitness, and help make you fitter, faster and stronger and to be able to break the Corona blues, to get moving, to feel better two days a week, maybe three if you want, with 30 to 45 minute home workouts.
That’s it for today. Make sure you are giving us a five-star review on whichever find podcast purveyor you are listening. We look forward to hearing from you over the next couple of days, and we’ll see you next week with another great interview here on The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. Till next time. Remember, train smarter, not harder because it is all about you.
That’s it for this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode. Hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com or get the latest expert videos from Coach Brodie on the HVT YouTube channel at HVTraining. Until next time. Remember to train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you.