A typical training week this cycle consists of at least 40 miles per week with a timed interval session on Tuesday (some call them fartleks), a tempo-type run on Friday, and Long Run on Saturday. The rest of the week consists of easy running plus usually one rest day. I start my Spring racing season next Saturday, 2/13 at the LinksRun 5k at Cypresswood Golf Course.
I approach this season genuinely excited and fitter than in years past. Why? Well, I've managed to stay healthier for the most part and can string weeks of training in consistently. My mental state is also different; looking forward to my challenging runs and races this season instead of worrying about when the $#^! would hit the fan again.
This past January, I have seen some of the biggest improvements in my training and have largely felt amazing doing it-of course, the workouts Doug prescribes are plenty hard, but I am responding to them and seem to be showing improvement from week to week. I'm sleeping well, getting massages, eating plenty of good carbohydrates, but my recovery regime recently got a significant boost.
Enter Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) and Normatec Compression technology. Nina and Matt at Cryo Wellness Lab in The Woodlands offered me a sponsorship and of course I was willing to give the cryo thing a try. WBC first came onto the scene being utilized for recovery by (ahem) the Nike Oregon Project and over the past few years has become more accessible to amateur athletes as well. For those who still don't know, it's a sauna-type device that is cooled to an extreme low temp (-100 or colder) and the athlete is placed in a hollow enclosure with liquid nitrogen flowing in from the neck-shoulder area down. It's intense, but lasts just 2-3 minutes and you immediately feel good stepping out of the 'cryo tube'.
I had heard and seen other very accomplished athletes using WBC and Normatec boots (including Oiselle Olympic Trials Marathoner Andrea Duke and triathlete Craig Alexander for starters) and kept thinking how much I wanted to try both out. A typical session for me is 30 minutes within a few hours after my last workout if scheduling allows and I hit the Normatecs first then get in the tube. Different athletes may prefer a different sequence, but I like being squeezed before frozen.
So now I'm a month in of using both modalities at least twice a week (usually after a harder workout) and do notice a significant benefit. Fortunately I had a good month or so with some base under my belt so I could tell a difference between training with an extra recovery stimulus and training without. Before I get into science and stuff, I'll give my observations from month 1 at Cryo:
1. Generally speaking, I feel less 'beat up' on a day-day basis. I feel good at a range of paces and soreness is minimal. This is probably due to less junk in my legs and inflammation.
2. A reduced 'warming up' period on my runs, especially those after workout day. However, I still maintain the paces I am told to for that workout. Gotta train smart, even when you feel good!
3. This one's kinda weird.... I seem more optimistic and my mood is calmer. There are several possible factors at play there. One being an endorphin release from being placed in a chamber with nitrogen pouring in at -250 degrees! So I get endorphins from the challenge of running and the challenging of voluntarily freezing myself!
4. Performance improvement and seeming ability to handle an increasing load. As many readers already know, I've struggled with stringing things together over the past few years. A good example of training benefit is how I ran one workout at 6:29 pace one week and then repeated that workout at 6:15 7 days later. I found this pretty dang encouraging.
|Myself and fellow runner Misty B. getting some compression in.|
So what about science?
Given that use of both apparatus for athletic recovery vs. post-surgery or other medical reasons, research is still in progress. Some debate that there is little to no benefit from the recovery protocols, while others, including articles by Banfi and colleagues (2010) and Lubkowska (2011) show some interesting findings in the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (inflammation markers) after 20 treatments. Normatecs are believed to help circulate lymph and give a massage-like effect; think of them as deep-cleaning systems for your muscles.
Re. the inflammation factor-my understanding is less inflammation equals less muscle soreness and damage and can mean more quality training. Less inflammation also has an effect on mood and a general sense of well-being along with vulnerability to injury. Something to think about.
For me, voluntarily turning into a popsicle has been worth my time and will continue to be a part of my training regime for some time.
Those local to the Woodlands/Houston area, I will be doing a presentation on recovery as a mindset on February 15th at Cryo Wellness is anyone wants to come learn more and check out the Lab.
Thank you Nina, Matt, and the rest of the awesome staff for taking me on!
|Making fresh legs.|
Stay the course.