The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax & Restore for Peak Performance by Sage Rountree (VeloPress)
“No one is going to get rich writing a triathlon book about rest,” Tom Rogers wrote in The Perfect Distance, and quoted in Sage Rountree’s new book. Sad but true. Most hardcore runners and triathletes don’t want to hear about having to rest or recover from anything. You could look at it as one-thirds ego, fear, and delusion: there’s an ego-fed image of indestructibility that many athletes feel they must maintain in order to perform, there’s a fear of taking a fitness hit if you skip a week or even a day of training, and there’s the delusion that rest is somewhat unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental.
Rountree quite clearly and sensibly deflates all of these assumptions and shows how rest, when properly measured and managed, can actually boost peak performance. Her book is a treasure trove of recovery information, with 20 chapters, 2 appendices and references for further reading. No topic is left uncovered: qualitative and quantitative measurements for recovery, active recovery, recovering from injury and illness, nutrition, hydration, meditation, cold and heat, supplements, stress reduction, restorative yoga, massage, self massage … it’s all there, and more. Marathoners, ultramarathoners, triathletes and even just plain stressed out average folk will find a wealth of useful information in The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.
At times it seems like almost too much information, on too many different (albeit related) subjects. There is simply not enough space and too many relevant topics to delve deeply on any specific aspect of recovery. Personally I felt the all-too-brief chapter on sleep was tantalizing more than satisfying and could easily be expanded into a book of its own, as could the chapter on meditation and breathing. It’s also a little regrettable that a few current “high tech” tools are described and pictured in the book instead of discussed in a more general fashion, since the devices shown will probably date the book within five years. (And as anyone knows who visits here on occasion, I don’t have a lot of faith in high tech solutions to organic problems anyway.) And knowing her deserved reputation as an expert on yoga for athletes, the chapter on restorative yoga was probably a given, although it seems a little cursory given her other yoga books.
But to say there’s not a lot of valuable information here would be very wrong. As a runner in distances up to 50K and a short-course triathlon competitor for the U.S national team, Rountree definitely knows her stuff, and she’s an excellent writer and organizer of information. There are just so many relevant topics covered that at times it feels like drinking from a fire hose. But hey, at least someone finally turned the spigot on. Rest and recovery have been almost taboo subjects in the racing community, something best avoided by popping a few tablets of “Vitamin I” (Ibuprofen) and getting on with more and more training until the wheels finally come off. Unfortunately, hobbling around in a leg cast equals “rest” for many runners. It’s to Rountree’s deep credit that she not only understood the necessity of dealing with this subject seriously, but to leave no stone unturned. And if you’re really interested in delving deeper, she lists a ton of supplemental reference material to get you going. Recommended.