The Best Way to Recover After Training

Recovering from training sessions can be challenging for people pressed for time and have to juggle work and family.

Professional triathlete Chris McCormack and his strength and conditioning coach Mick Gilliam reveal what you need to do to take care of yourself after a workout.

Mick Gilliam: Recovery-wise, it’s 20-30 minutes after a workout and no longer than that, you’ve got to have a snack in that time. When you get in from a workout, 20- to 30-minute window. 30 is the extreme, 20 I’m happy with. It doesn’t have to be a major meal. Just a small roll, some meat, some salad. I’m not a real big fan of protein supplements. We live in a world where we can get natural foods quickly and easily enough. Should you be single and can’t do it, have a pre-prep, OK, protein supplements are good for you in that case. If you’re under pressure, and you’ve got to move onto the next job, or you gotta go somewhere with the family, and there’s restrictions, OK. But don’t rely on it. Don’t use it as your main thing. Keep it as a side bar. OK. I’m a big believer in that.

Protein, no problem. But once again, main thing really: Big meals, morning and lunch, and then tapering your meals off in the nighttime, once again. You need that food during the day, while you’re active.

"20-30 minutes after a workout and no longer than that, you've got to have a snack in that time."

Chris McCormack: The best way to recover for me is: coming back, I walk in the door and eat a light meal. A lot of times I’m grabbing fruit, ’cause it’s easy. OK berries, some of that.

Then I have a cold shower to bring the core temperature down. Bring the core temperature down as quickly as you possibly can, and then, as Mark Allen once told me and it’s stuck with me, take the time to absorb your sessions.

Many of us, we’re so time-constrained, we get home from training, grab something to eat, jump in the shower, jump in the car to go to work… Put your legs up the wall. If you’re pressed for time, cut the session by 10 minutes so you can take that 10 minutes to absorb the session. You don’t just rush through it.

I’m not a big protein shake guy. I’m not a big dairy guy. I do like my fruits. I find them easy to eat prior to a shower, and then I just absorb the session, hydrate. A lot of times I drink water, cold water. Simple stuff. A lot of times here in Australia, I’m riding early in the morning, so I come home just have a light breakfast, and then shower, and then come back and eat again. So I double-eat, if that makes sense. I eat some more.

"Bring the core temperature down as quickly as you possibly can, and then, as Mark Allen once told me and it's stuck with me, take the time to absorb your sessions."

MG: Frequency of food is a big thing. If you can keep up frequency of food during your training blocks – much greater advantage – better absorption ratios. And also, what you do, you’re pre-conditioning yourself to taking nourishment. If you’re moving up to the Ironman and you do that over an 8-hour period, taking nourishment during the race is challenging. Your body has a memory factor that you can rely on. So once again, going back to simulation, and just be considerate to your body. If you’re at party, and it’s been a heavy day in your training block, if there is a seat, then sit down. Take the opportunity to chill.

And always remember – morning heart rate. If it’s elevated, don’t get into the session. Go back to sleep. Or if you are a controlled athlete, and go out and turn over, don’t push. If you know your resting heart rate, you just wake up in the morning, have a look, check the heart rate. You’ll be able to assess how much of the session the day before you’ve absorbed.

"And always remember – morning heart rate. If it's elevated, don't get into the session. Go back to sleep."

Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer with eight years of experience in the field of fitness and wellness. She blogs at KikayRunner.com about endurance sport in the Philippines and beyond.