by Sonja Uys

My biggest mistake: When the neuro surgeon told me my recovery would take two years my first reaction was shock and disbelief. Then I said silently to myself: I’ll show them I’ll do it in less.

Recovery Training from illness, injury or surgery, is not just about finding a balance between over training and under training. Your body is already under stress as it tries to restore homeostasis as measured by your ithlete HRV. I searched for months for articles to guide me and found very little. The following few points were the only ones of value:

  1. Don’t train for more than 30min and not harder than Zone Two – but for how long it did not say
  2. Never increase either frequency, intensity or duration (not all three) by more than 10% a week.
  3. A base training programme for fit athletes takes 12 to 16 months so don’t expect recovery any sooner. And it’s only after full recovery that you should begin your base training. That is long, easy rides at Zone Two.

As with any data collected, the value lies in the interpretation. We are fortunate that Simon Wegerif still publishes research and shares this with us. It is important to read as much as possible of these articles to keep up with the latest research and to better understand your own heart rate variability (HRV) data.

As a mountain biker who raced every month I was used to pushing my body, as many athletes are. To tone down your training is the most difficult part if you still want to see improvement. It’s the difference between your body listening to you and you listening to your body. Thankfully we have ithlete to do the listening for us.

I decided to use my HRV reading as a strict guide, but very conservatively, i.e. training only on green days and adapting the intensity to my HRV. According to ithlete research a higher HRV reading indicates your body is ready for a more intense session, while a lower green reading should guide you to an easier training session. There is one proviso: if the reading is too high, i.e. not near your base line, then be cautious as it might be the parasympathetic nervous system over compensating. This is shown in the ithlete app with an orange colour coding. Also per ithlete research, doing intervals puts more stress on the body than I had realised and should not be done more than twice a week. And it is important, I have learned, to keep an eye on the weekly and monthly indicators. They effectively measure your training load.

Many coaches believe strongly in recovery training, i.e. training at a reduced level of Zone 2 after a heavy workout has you suffering from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). One of the best bits of advice I read was: if you cannot stick to this level on recovery days then follow the old guidelines of: don’t stand if you can sit and don’t sit if you can lie down. The fundamental purpose of any recovery technique is to increase blood flow to the effected area so that the body can repair itself. I have reverted to the old RICE recovery method. That is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation after trying the myriad bits of recovery techniques floating around. I was completely unaware of the impact of medication on recovery. Although providing relief, anti-inflammatories and paracetamol, can retard protein synthesis in the muscle. I now avoid taking these whenever the pain is bearable.

Personally, my biggest problem is when I’m on my bike and the endorphins kick in I feel good and go for broke. Time and time again I have paid the price for this. Warming up on a Wattbike for just ten minutes on a day when I got an amber reading, resulted in agony for a week afterwards. Rather err on the side of caution. It’s not easy, but it works.

In the diagram below you can clearly see how my blue fitness line (HRV baseline) was going down when I was using ithlete the conventional way. When I began using it more conservatively my blue line began edging up slowly. Ignore the bit in the middle. That comes from using a Mio Fuse for measuring my HR against the advice of Simon, who in his article (that I missed) clearly states that readings would be up to 50% lower. I am including this for those who did not see that item.


The bottom line here is to give your body a chance to heal itself before you put even more strain on it!