August 6, 2021

Recovery Strategies for Long Workouts (> hour)

Now, I’m focused on longevity. Longevity means not tearing my body down. Push a little to stress the body, but don’t go too much. There are a lot of negative hormonal consequences for working out too hard for long periods. Consequently, most of your exercises should be about 20-30 minutes long.

And, as much as I advocate not working out for longer than 20-30 minutes, sometimes I just can’t help myself and go farther. To recover from these longer workouts, I definitely recommend keeping an eye on your level of effort. Your pulse is great indicator of your level of effort.

I recommend getting a heart rate monitor. I have two of them, both by Garmin. My regular watch is a Garmin Vivio-3 and my training watch is an old Garmin Forerunner 405CX. I used to use a Garmin Forerunner 205. It was big and clunky but you could buy a strap and attach it to the handlebars of my bike. For that it was pretty cool because I could get double use from it.

Garmin Forerunner 205 Running Watch GPS Fitness
Garmin Forerunner 205

The only problem with the 205 was I didn’t have a way to measure my pulse. So I got a Garmin 405 CX with a chest strap to measure my pulse. Then my brother gave me a Garmin Vivio-3 with a built-in heart rate monitor. The Vivio-3 is smaller and sleeker, but I’m not 100% confident in the pulse meter. The only one you can buy now is the Vivio-3. The others I got used from Ebay or Craigslist. (See my blog of getting cheaper shoes to find out how I do this. )

Anyway, on Sundays, I usually go for a 10-mile hike. It takes me about 2.5 hours. I keep an eye on my pulse. The goal is to get used to working out at a relatively low-level for an extended period of time.

(Actually, I’m training for the Mt. Evans Ascent in June. Mt. Evans is a race (actually not for me) up Mt. Evans located south of Idaho Springs, Colorado. I do it for fun. I try to climb one fourteener (local jargon for any mountain over 14,000′ high) each summer because I live in Colorado. )

A simple rule-of-thumb to determine an optimal heart rate is to determine your maximal heart rate. It is generally bad for you to spend a lot of time above your maximal heart rate. Bad meaning you can die.

There are a lot of clever methods now to determine your optimal heart rate, but they’re pretty complicated and actually end up being the same at the one I use. I learned this formula decades ago.

Calculate your maximal heart rate by taking: 220 – age, i.e., if you’re 60 years old, you get a value of 220 – 60 = 160.

Your aerobic threshold is about 80% of your maximal heart rate or in this example: 128. You probably want to stay below that number unless you’re doing sprints, etc. Use this formula to determine your own optimal heart rate.

For longer workouts, to ease recovery, try and keep your pulse 60% or less, or in this instance, around 96 bpm. If you keep your pulse around the 60% mark you’ll find that you recover pretty quickly.

After your workout, cool down for 5-10 minutes. Take an easy walk, stretch, etc. You want to get the cortisol to level off.

Before, during and after your workout drink some fluids. One thing that works pretty well post-recovery is chocolate milk because it has a little sugar and you get fat from the milk. The fat interferes with the sugar uptake.

The other thing I’ve found over the years is that I need potassium. I get it with gatorade (or any ade drink,) or Coconut water. What started happening was I’d do the Pikes Peak Ascent (13.2 miles with a 6,000′ elevation gain,) when I got above tree-line my legs would start cramping. Sometimes so much that I had to lay down and enjoy the scenery for a while. Technically, this wasn’t good because sometimes we’d have lightening above tree-line. Anyway, the cramps were really bad, so I’ve taken to make sure prior to the race (and during the event,) I made sure that I consumed drinks with lots of potassium.

You may find that you have certain dietary requirements, too. This changes with age. Pay attention, train smartly, and be willing to go slower.