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Recovery Training

by Coach Seiji

The Training Cycle done right!

The Training Cycle
Recovery is exactly half of training. You have probably heard this over and over but have you really spent half your time, effort and thought into your recovery process? Most motocross athletes have no problem getting motivated to ride and train hard. It is obvious when you are actively training that you are advancing your program but it's not so obvious when you are sitting around “doing nothing” that you are actually benefiting. The purpose of this article is to explain what happens physically during the training and recovery process and what I like to call the three stages of recovery. Hopefully a bit of understanding and knowledge will motivate you to give your recovery the attention and planning it deserves.

Training is really a cycle of breakdown and recovery: the physical training activities you do breaks down muscle tissue, depletes fuel and enzyme sources, causes nervous system and central fatigue just to name a few negative things. That's right, I said negative. Actual physical training makes you weaker and makes you slower. It's common sense really; you are slower and weaker at the end of a track day than you were at the beginning. That's OK though! When you allow your weakened body to recover it supercompensates and comes back stronger and more fit than before to better handle your continued stresses of training. Then you take that new, higher ability to handle training stresses and apply even more stress than before and the process starts over:

Stress >> Breakdown >> Recovery >> Supercompensation >> Higher Fitness

More Stress >> Breakdown >> Recovery >> Supercompensation  >> Even Higher Fitness
Repeat to the podium!!

That is what is supposed to happen. That is what happens continually during a season if you actually plan your recovery just like you plan your training.

What happens if you don’t properly plan and execute a recovery plan? You apply training stress and breakdown happens as usual but this time you only partially recover which means your body cannot supercompensate. You thus start the next training bout at a lower level of fitness than before. This is called overreaching and if you catch yourself there and do extra recovery, you can get back into the correct process in a week or two.

If you don’t catch it and apply the training stress to your lowered level of fitness you breakdown again to an even lower level of fitness. Partial recovery happens again so you only get up to a lower level of fitness than when you started the entire cycle. Continue this degradation and you will get into overtraining, which can ruin a season:

Stress >> Breakdown >> Partial Recovery >> Lower Fitness (overreaching)
More Stress >> Breakdown >> Partial Recovery >> Even Lower Fitness

Repeat to the back of the pack and overtraining!

The Training Cycle Done Wrong!

Overtraining is actually the lack of recovery in relation to the training stress. It is not simply too much training. It is more accurately described as not enough recovery.

It is important to realize that recovery takes energy, just like training. The rebuilding and adding of tissue, the replenishing of energy stores, all the bodily functions that have to take place to make your body refuel and repair itself requires a tremendous amount of energy. Your body’s metabolism is raised for hours after you exercise as your body goes about this work. In all reality, true “recovery” starts after this refueling and immediate repairing because until all this is over, you are still in a negative energy balance. Recovery actually starts when you start a positive energy balance.

The Three Stages of Recovery
Now that you understand the importance of sufficient recovery in the training cycle, it’s time to describe what I like the call the three stages of recovery.

Stage 1: Post Workout and Daily Recovery

Recovery starts immediately following a workout. These four things should be the first things on your mind when you take your helmet off: protect your immunity, rehydrate, replace muscle glycogen and provide protein for muscle and tissue repair. This means get out of your sweaty, wet clothes (when it is cold) and get dry. Your immune response is lowered after strenuous exercise and you are much more prone to get an infection in the few hours afterwards. Being even slightly cold makes it even worse. Stay warm and dry!  Then wash your hands!! Repeat: wash your hands. Seems like a no brainer to me but nobody ever does it after they ride! Your immunity is in a weakened state so don’t take any chances.

Next you should begin putting back what your body lost in training. You need to rehydrate, replenish your muscle glycogen stores by consuming carbohydrates and provide some building blocks to rebuild muscles and other tissues by consuming quality proteins. All this needs to happen within 30 minutes and the easiest way to do this correctly every time is to use a recovery drink. This is an after workout specific drink that contains simple and complex carbohydrates along with some quality protein such as whey protein. There are several commercially available recovery drinks such as Endurox, Cytomax Recovery, Clif Shot and Fluid. These drinks have the carbohydrate and protein in ratios that are more quickly and completely absorbed post exercise. Of course you could also go with the juice, fruit, nuts, etc. mixture but the recovery drink sure makes it quick and convenient. Continue to drink plain water until you are completely rehydrated (back to pre exercise body weight) and eat a balanced meal within two hours.

Beyond this, the smart athlete goes out of his or her way to recover as much as possible the remainder of the day. I know it is not realistic to sit around all day and do nothing but at least try to conserve energy. The less energy you burn outside of training, the more is available for recovery. The more recovery you get, the more training you can absorb and still make gains.

Stage 2: Weekly Recovery

Weekly recovery starts with taking one day off per week; no training at all,  a pure recovery day. This is a day for mental relaxation, social events, getting errands done, etc. but no training should occur on this day. There are also days during the week where the workout is a recovery workout. How is a workout considered recovery? Low level activity, such as road cycling in the lowest of heart rate zones actually speeds recovery as the increased blood flow to muscles and the heightened overall metabolism that occurs both during and after exercise speeds the recovery processes in the body. This is called active recovery and when done properly at the right time, it is more productive than passive recovery (just sitting around doing absolutely nothing). Remember: the exercise bout must be short and very low intensity!

The smart athlete plans the day off and the active recovery days around his or her most intense, most important workouts of the week. The day off may come on Monday after the weekend’s two hard days in a row for instance, while the active recovery workouts may fall after your hard motocross day and your hard cycling day during the week. Remember the training cycle: stress, recovery, supercompensation…this happens not only in tiny cycles daily but in larger cycles weekly (called micro cycles).

Stage 3: Training Period Recovery

Smart athletes also plan their training into longer training periods, usually between three to four weeks. This is called a macro cycle and these larger cycles also have the same stress, recovery, supercompensation components as the shorter micro cycle. A “standard” macro cycle may have three building weeks of training (each week’s micro cycle having built in recovery periods) where each week the total volume and intensity progressively rises. These three progressive weeks of training are then followed by a rest week for recovery and supercompensation. A rest week is NOT a week off (although total weeks off called transition weeks are planned for the year). A rest week usually has about 50% less total training volume as a “normal” week of training and all this training is low intensity. Your body can then take the energy it would normally spend in training and use it to change your body, to become more fit and faster! This is arguably the most important week of training as this is where all the hard work actually produces results. This is also where riders, especially younger ones, mess it all up! You have to rest and you have to maintain the same level of energy input so that there is a surplus of energy so that it may be used to fuel bodily changes. This means you don’t take the extra time on a rest week to wakeboard 8 hours a day in the sun and it means you do eat the same amount of food as you normally would! You also need to take the same post workout and weekly recovery measures even though training intensity is much lower. All your daily recovery efforts stay the same; only the training volume and intensity are lowered. Don’t shortchange yourself or your training efforts! Get the rest week right!

Rest weeks are where you have to trust your training program. At first it may seem counter intuitive to back off your training but if you understand the training cycle, then you know that this is the week where it all pays off. Trust your training and your training plan and you will reap the rewards as your fitness soars. All it takes is for you to feel the effects of a properly executed training plan: the week after a rest week you will feel like a million bucks and you will become a believer!

Again: recovery is half of training. You can get all the training right in the world but without proper recovery the benefits of all that hard work will be lost. Plan your recovery just like you do your training. Give your body a chance to absorb and react to the training that you work so hard to accomplish. Balance the work with the right type and amount of recovery and you will be on the way to smarter, more consistent and more productive training. Smarter, balanced, faster!

About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of provides online coaching and personal training services to motorsports athletes. Coach Seiji has worked with both pros and elite amateurs including: Heath Voss, Ryan Clark, Austin Stroupe, PJ Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Drew Yenerch, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Short. Learn more at or contact Coach Seiji directly.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Krystyna Kubran February 03, 2010 at 12:05 am

    WOW... just WOW... The recovery article you have up for this week is truly a golden gem for me! This is the area I really, really struggle with! I think I may have overtrained myself into the ground. This one is getting printed and placed in my notebook with some key lines highlighted.

    My last race, in May, I completely bonked on Sunday. I had "nothing" left. I felt like I was going just as fast - the seat of the pants feel - but in the end I was as much as 6 seconds a lap off pace from Saturday!!!! It took me a week to recover from that weekend! I've been experiencing fatigue, being lethargic, weight gain, lack of appetite... all of it.... After reading this I realize I have truly overtrained myself into the ground.

    The other half of my problem is caloric intake - and how much.... I recently met with a personal trainer at my gym - a local college gal about to graduate with a degree in nutrition - she really set me down the right path. I keep a notebook, and realized (too late of course) that my net caloric intake, wasn't even enough to fuel my body if I simply laid in bed all day, let alone put in a big 1k+ calorie burning workout!

    I feel good that I'm on the right track now... thanks for the great article!

  2. Gravatar
    ACBR May 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Great article! In fact, I've seen in your tweets that some fridays before the race you do some workouts with your riders. Is it a recovery workout? Thanks

  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    ACBR - It really depends on the rider and a few other factors. But normally Friday is a day of very low volume and very high intensity. Check out this article for more.

  4. Gravatar
    Coach Seiji January 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I would consider this one of the most important articles I have ever written.

  5. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I agree with that guy ^^^^^^^^^^^^

  6. Gravatar
    Nico January 12, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Articles like these help alot for someone like me without a trainer.

  7. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 12, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Nico you are very welcome. Guys like you are the foundation of why this website was created. Thanks for reading!

  8. Gravatar
    Matt January 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    This article is great! I have always struggled with recovery myself in the past...and still do somewhat...but this website has really changed my view and opened my eyes. "Trust your program" really sums it up. Thanks guys!

  9. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

    You are very welcome, Matt. Glad to see the website is helping your reach your fitness goals.

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