Recovering from exhaustion

wooden rowing boat, swan upping on River Thames,

Sometimes athletes get very, very tired. Today we will talk about recovering from exhaustion and the power of napping.


01:00 Is it under recovery or over training?

Mike Spracklen described it as under-recovery. Marlene prefers this term because it affects your ability to train. You don’t have to be fully recovered to train effectively. You feel on “high alert” all the time.

Causes of exhaustion

04:00 Six causes of exhaustion noted by Elizabeth Avery, sport nutritionist.

  1. Inadequate sleep
  2. Depression or extreme stress
  3. Acute illness e.g. cold virus
  4. Inadequate nutrition especially carbohydrates
  5. Inadequate hydration
  6. Insufficient dietary iron – can affect vegans, vegetarians and women more.

What’s the reason? If your training has increased a lot recently, that could be a reason. You should be able to adapt to the new training load. Check your nutrition preferably post training.

06:00 There can be an accumulation of fatigue from session to session. After a heavy training day you may need an active rest day. How to balance your training. Emphasise quality over quantity.

07:45 Adapting to a new training load.

Going from 5 x per week to 6x per week. Is a 12% increase in training. Keep to a 5% increase. After a big jump you may feel OK for a day or two, but it will catch up with you.

As masters, your cause of exhaustion may not be rowing-related. It all kicks off the same cortisol hormones

Sleep as recovery

10:00 What about naps?

Elliza McGrand naps heavily after a heavy training day. She asked the Masters Rowing International group if others had the same outcomes. Listen to your body and respect what it’s telling you. Your best recovery method is sleep. People are different with naps – some do it every day.

Lie down and close your eyes. Set an alarm so you wake up in time. Bodily stimulation comes in through your eyes – rest your nervous system by closing your eyes.

13:00 What is restorative for you?

Some people find a daytime nap affects their night time sleep. If you don’t tolerate daytime naps, find another thing that rests you. Cooking or gardening, yoga. what do you enjoy? Even walking for 10 minutes has a positive effect to your nervous system. As we age our bodies change – you may need naps now and not in the future.

15:00 Leaden legs can happen after a nap. A good way to revive is to wake up slowly, move slowly, do a bit of stretching, walk gently for a couple of minutes. Even 5 minutes of repetitive activity gives you the same dopamine hit as a workout. Rowing repetitive cycles are restorative activities to the nervous system.

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Hello again Reader
Across the world there are events at different times of year. When Marlene and I started this business we researched the major events for masters rowers in English-speaking countries. We designed the training programmes to cater for the majority using our standard training plans. Sometimes, these don’t exactly align with races you want to do.
We got this question from Michael
Do you by any chance have a training program for a single sculler taking part in a 16km head race?…