Mind and Matter - There's
More to Recovery Than Nutrition By Kevin Purcell
I spend a good deal of time speaking with
athletes on a daily basis who are interested in learning to become more
competitive competitive with themselves and/or competitive with other age
groupers, elites or professionals.
Becoming a faster athlete occurs in two
2. Recovery from
Both are as necessary as the other. This
article deals with recovery from training.
Workouts are only as powerful as our
bodys ability to absorb and recover from them. A great session is wasted
if we cannot recover properly before the next training stimulus.
For this reason we should be interested in
utilizing all of our available resources that enable recovery. Most of us know
that these resources include pre-existing fitness, sleep, limiting stress,
total rest, active recovery workouts and scheduling nuances.
I have found two more areas that often are
underdeveloped when it comes to recovery. They are nutrition and mental
attitude. Perhaps the underdevelopment is because at first glance nutrition and
mental attitude can appear so challenging. In reality, the majority of us can
simply choose to improve both, with great success.
Nutrition is a topic that can be
controversial. It is a personal issue. As such, the topic can polarize a
I am not going to go into the science of
nutrition or the specifics of fueling for racing. It has been done very well in
previous columns. You can read more by Dr Cordain (http://www.thepaleodiet.com/), Joe
Friel (Triathlete's Training Bible and www.ultrafit.com), and Gordo Byrn
(www.coachgordo.com). They have shared studies as well as personal experiences
that can improve an athletes performance.
Large amounts of evidence have been
presented to support the correlation between proper nutrition, fueling and race
performance. Still, I know athletes who do not use nutrition as a means to
improve body composition and speed recovery.
I believe that excellent nutrition
translates to increased speed. A good performance while practicing poor
nutrition tells me that an athlete may have not yet reached his or her
As an athlete I follow a
Paleo plan that employs
veggies, fruits and lean protein at every meal and uses higher glycemic foods
to aid recovery following long sessions. I have largely eliminated processed
As a coach, I recommend my athletes eat to
ensure good training sessions, correct body composition and proper recovery.
You can learn more about the Paleo diet modified for endurance athletes by
I became more serious about my nutrition
when I began working one-on-one with Gordo Byrn. Adding more fuel to my quest
for knowledge was when my older daughter became ill in January. I began
studying nutritional ways to treat her problems stemming from cancer.
I wanted to use nutrition as an adjunct to
chemotherapy and radiation and to speed recovery. I bought books and I studied.
Funny thing, all the anti-cancer diets are
essentially Paleo. I had already been eating the way much of the literature was
suggesting that my daughter should eat, to maximize her return to health.
So here was my 116-pound, 14-year-old girl
beginning chemo and getting hit hard. We altered her diet to have her eat in a
Paleo manner and increase her protein intake. She began working this program
like her life depended on it, because it did.
We discussed the importance of her attitude
and that it was essential that she remain positive. We worked with her mental
strength and she brought her mind and a positive attitude into the fight. It
was all about her recovering as best and as quickly as possible.
Initially, I was worried that she might lose
weight with this nutritional strategy, but she has gained lean body mass over
the last 11 months. I bring this up for a good reason: not just to tout Paleo,
but to support lifestyle changes that develop overall health and a lack of
disease (dis-ease) in both mind and body.
My daughter now eats as well as I do. In
addition, she has gained lean body mass while I am losing weight. This is
important to note because if we eat well we don't "diet." Our bodies
naturally find the correct weight for us as individuals. That may be a slight
body type. It may be a larger more solid one. But it is the correct weight for
As endurance athletes, we compromise our
skills if we place specific weight and caloric intake above common sense and
recovery. The body must be fueled before, during and after training or we may
be wasting some benefits, while risking injury and sickness.
What did I mean when I said my daughter
brought her mind and a positive attitude along for the ride? Recovery is
healing. The mind is responsible for a great part of our recovery. Plato was
quoted 2,300 years ago as saying, "Mental fitness and physical fitness go hand
It does not matter whether we are recovering
from sessions on a bike or run, or sessions in chemotherapy we need all
of our resources to be our best. This includes a positive attitude and mental
I deal with people interested in bettering
their fitness as a coach and as a chiropractor. Some folks rarely, if ever, get
sick. These people are invariably happy, positive people. There is a healing
force in the body that is enhanced by positive attitudes.
This healing force is something no one can
dispute, no one can say is philosophical rhetoric.
When you boil recovery down to a healing art
and science it becomes easily clear to see how powerful our choices are.
Kevin Purcell, D.C., is a USAT Level 1
certified coach for elite and age-group triathletes who compete at both Ironman
and short-course distances. "KP" has completed 7 IM's and has qualified for the
2003 IM Hawaii. Dr. Purcell practices chiropractic with an emphasis on sports
medicine in San Diego, Calif., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.