It is easy to overlook the fact that training affects recovery more than bodywork, cold baths, compression, electrical muscle stimulation, napping, nutrition, stretching and whatever else you might do to enhance recovery—combined. Don’t believe it? Then stop training completely and see how that affects your recovery.
By far and away, the most important thing you can do to maximize your recovery is to balance training stress and rest appropriately. The name of the game is to apply training stress and in doing so stimulate a need for recovery, and then rest enough to allow that recovery to occur. It is through the physiological recovery processes, after all, that fitness increases. When training stress and rest are balanced appropriately, the body does not merely return to its previous equilibrium between workouts, it bounces back stronger, achieving what exercise scientists call “supercompensation.”
The art of training is all about planning and executing workouts and rest to achieve ongoing supercompensation. It sounds simple enough, but athletes botch it all the time, as Tollakson did in taking on too much training before the 2008 Ironman World Championship.
TrainingPeaks is an online training application that Tollakson now uses to avoid repeating this mistake. By inputting all of his training into his TrainingPeaks account, Tollakson is able to continuously graph his “training stress balance,” which is the difference between his recent training stress and his long-term training stress. This variable provides a reliable indication of his recovery status. Through experience in using TrainingPeaks, Tollakson has learned the training stress balance window he needs to stay within to gain fitness without overtraining.