Recover Like: Olympic Gold Medalist Gwen Jorgensen
By the Recover-Zone Team
Original article here
What can be more impressive than being the best in the world? How about being the best in the world 3 years in a row, switching sports, and still remaining at the top! Gwen Jorgensen surprised everyone when she transitioned from triathlon to marathon soon after becoming a two-time world champion and Olympic champion. Now, with looming success in the marathon, there is no question why Gwen the “Queen of Triathlon” switched. When you are one of the best in the world, you just got the “it factor”.
Everyone is always searching for the secret technique, food, or supplement that make the world’s best so good. Instead try the clique, “Eat, Sleep, Train” that’s Gwen Jorgensen’s strategy. As most would assume the norm for success continues to push people towards, go, go, go. Gwen, makes you think twice about spending every minute working. Despite, not only training but being a mom also, Gwen makes sure to prioritize time in her day for one important thing…relaxing.
What does a typical recovery/training day look like for you?
Typically I will start my training day in the morning by having a hearty breakfast. The real work starts just after that with a variety of warm-up activities to get my body ready for training. Those last for around an hour and a half. Once I am warmed up, I will start my first training session. When I finish my workout I take a break until later in the day when I do another run anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. It is in between those two sessions where it is important for me to do my recovery. I always think, “Okay, if I can put my feet up, that is the best thing.” Usually, I will lay down in my Sleep Number bed which will actually allow me to elevate my feet. A lot of times I take naps and use one of the Sleep Number’s features to put up my feet and flush my legs out. This way I can make sure that I am getting a full recovery.
How essential is recovery to your training?
I easily prioritize recovery as much as training. So much so I even pay extra money to have a massage therapist to come to my house to avoid traveling anywhere. I place tons of focus on recovery and in my mind, recovery is just as important as training. Obviously, I need the training but I also need recovery to perform.
How has switching from Triathlon to Marathon changed your recovery?
The specifics of my recovery routine have definitely changed however, I would say the principles remain similar. My philosophy is, “It is always better to sit down then stand, and it is better to lay down than sit.” Creating environments where I can recover throughout the day is huge and I began to focus on this when I first started my professional career. Before I turned pro I was a big busy body and wanted to go, go, go. Once I was able to force myself into recovery I realized how important it was. That is when I saw the benefits of my training and racing flourish.
Do you organize recovery with your team the Bowerman Babes?
When I am at altitude camp with my team the Bowerman Babes everyone lives together so we all stick to similar schedules. Most dinners we will share cooking duties by rotating who cooks. Switching who cooks is a big part of helping everyone get adequate recovery nutrition. When I am not at camp I am lucky that my husband cooks for me. Being able to take a break from going shopping and cooking on a daily basis definitely helps with my recovery. That extra time I spend resting and putting my feet up really adds up over time. Pooling together as a team for meals when at training camp helps to make sure we are all recovering and performing our best.
Does the Bowerman Babe’s coach Jerry prescribe your team’s recovery?
My coach Jerry knows that we are all professionals. If he saw something that he did not approve he would say something. We know the importance of recovery and talk about it. Honestly, it is up to each individual to hone in on their own recovery regime. Jerry is not knocking on our door checking if we are resting on a daily basis. It will definitely show in workouts if we are not recovering. Jerry mainly sticks to how many miles we run per a week as well as guides us through workouts.
What is your opinion on “easy” days?
In my training, easy days are meant to be easy so that hard days can be harder. I remember and still encounter people who think, “Oh, you should go do something on easy days.” Instead, I prefer to keep those days all about recovery. When certain days are less training heavy I want to make sure that I am recovering and getting everything I need to rebuild. If I am spending time on other things I feel like I am wasting energy. It may not be a glamorous life but that way I am able to keep my focus on recovery. That is why I try and stay away from all the extra activities that are unneeded. One thought I have as an athlete is that everything I do within the day is part of my job. When I eat, what I eat, how much I recover, all of that is part of the job. A lot of times it is focusing on little things and making sure that I am getting a full recovery so that I am able to perform on bigger days.
Does training on Nike’s Campus in Portland, Oregon provide any recovery benefits?
Nike’s campus is amazing. Since I live within biking distance I can reach there in less than ten minutes. Being so close to where I train is something that helps in recovery. Not having to waste my time driving or stressing over parking spaces is key. Once I am at Nike’s facility they provide everything from treadmills, saunas, and ice baths to any tool you could ever imagine. Nike is a one-stop shop for my recovery and training. When I am there I like to use things like ice baths because making one at home takes longer, and using Nike’s saves time.
How has having your son Stanley affected your recovery?
The first couple of months after Stanley was born made it difficult on my recovery. This was before he was on a routine of napping. My husband Patrick and I did not have a system yet. Once we figured out a routine I was able to continue my recovery in the manner I needed. Now we have a great process. Stanley naps anywhere from two to four hours every day. During that time I am able to recover and nap as well. I always try to immediately go to bed once Stanley lays down for a nap. A lot of times people believe that when you have a kid the only time to get stuff done is while they are napping, however, I know recovery is important, and if he lays down I go and lay down as well. When I am awake Stanley and I will play and read books. What is unique about Stanley is his sense to know when I need recovery. After I come home from training he will only want me to read and not my husband. We will sit down for an hour and simply read together. I will put my feet up and cuddle with him, it is a great way that I can multitask by recovering and also getting quality time with my son. This system has helped me create a great recovery environment. I have also come to realize that Stanley is a huge stress reliever for me. If I come home from a workout and something did no go well or an injury popped up Stanley is able to bring me joy so that I am not stressing out and wasting energy worrying about little things. Once I see my son I forget about everything and feel that in and of itself has helped tremendously in my recovery. Stress is something that affects recovery. People do not give stress enough credit on how much it takes out of our body. If I am stressing out my body is not able to heal or recover.
What is the most important tool in your recovery routine?
My Sleep Number bed is huge. Being able to lay down in bed and recover is something that has been big for me. Another feature I love about my bed is its ability to track both my naps and overnight sleep. It will monitor a bunch of great things like, how restless I am, my resting heart rate, breathing rate, and recovery. The Sleep IQ app is what connects to my bed and shows me all this data. I like the ability that I have to look at the data and check my resting heart rate to see if it jumps up significantly. If this happens I know I need to back off in my training to fully recover. I check the Sleep IQ app every day and is a major factor for my recovery.
What habits do you use to optimize your recovery as you sleep?
I learned that creating a routine before bed is something helps me sleep better. Often times, when I am not training enough or I, am training too much sleep is difficult to achieve. Sticking to the same routine before bed has helped me to remain consistent. Every night I am normally in bed by eight o’clock. My husband and I usually watch TV for about an hour and a half and then we read. By 9:30 the lights are off and we are actively trying to sleep. Even if I am struggling to fall asleep by 9:30 I am shutting my eyes and relaxing. Doing this has helped with recovery since I aim to get nine hours of sleep and never set an alarm unless I have to. I let my body wake up in the morning when it wants to. This is important, especially as a professional athlete when giving your body as much sleep as it needs is essential. Not setting an alarm is something that has been key in my recovery, unless I have a massage appointment or some other activity. On a similar note in the daytime, I actually lay in bed for quite a while, maybe two to three hours. Normally my naps only last about 15 to 20 minutes. I have found that naturally, my body wakes up after 15 to 20 minutes feeling ready to go for the next session of the day. One problem I see in others is that sleep is the first thing people cut when they feel like their day is too busy for rest. People in this world are overachievers and when they want to achieve something they think if they do more in the day they will achieve more. What I have found is you can be your best and achieve more if you are able to get quality sleep.
What recovery techniques do you use most frequently?
I love massage and it is something that helps me stay ready to compete. I also do dry needling. Typically I will do both these things every other day. I actually do massage so much that we have a massage table in our house. I place focus on massage since it allows me to recover and maintain my health each and every day. Massage also helps loosen up my muscles when they get tight. I run so many miles things tighten up on me. Being able to keep my muscles loose helps mitigate injury. When it comes to dry needling I primarily use that for when I have a muscle feeling stuck. I find it interesting that dry needling will work well to loosen any muscle up quickly.
Do you like the feeling of massage and dry needling?
Whenever I see my dry needle-ist I think, “Oh man, I do not like this, but I will love how I feel the next day.” During the process, it is not pleasant. People think that a massage is pleasant but it is not. When I get a deep tissue muscle massage it hurts during the process, it is definitely not like a spa massage. What makes it all worth it is how good I feel the next day.
How do you fuel your recovery?
My husband actually cooks for me, so I call him my chef. He has done a lot of work with chefs and even has worked closely with Allen Lim who runs Skratch labs. Allen has come to our house, helped us cook, and has given us ideas of how to get in extra calories. Since I am running 120 miles a week, I burn a lot of calories. One thing that helps me fuel is sneaking in healthy fats without adding extra bulk. Usually, athletes fill up on the volume of food, so if I can add an extra tablespoon of butter to my oatmeal or a ton of healthy fats in my dressings, calories can add up without tons of volume. Another good way that I have learned to add calories is to make food liquid. Smoothies and other similar items make it easier to get the amount of nutrition that you need from fruits and vegetables without getting that full sensation.
What does your recovery nutrition look like?
Personally, I wish I knew more of the facts. Fortunately, my husband Patrick knows about the details after working with the right people. Now he can determine my ideal macros and ratios, things like carbs, protein, and fats. The way we go about portions is by estimates. We try to stay away from measuring things. As long as I know that I am eating my vegetables and organic proteins than I am on track. Organic grass-fed beef as well as Pete and Gerry’s organic eggs. Both of those are foods I use in my recovery frequently. Getting healthy fats and high-quality proteins in my diet take my attention over serving sizes. Although, when I am in the process of working out I defiantly have specifics. Like I mentioned before, Skratch Labs has worked with me directly by measuring my sweat loss ratio, how salty my sweat is, and other fueling markers along those lines. This allows me to consume the exact amount of electrolytes I need to replace all that I lost when training. I also consume a recovery mix after my workouts. At these times I measure serving to make sure I get enough protein and carbs for my training and recovery. One priority that I keep in mind when I have a training session over an hour is to drink my Skratch Labs Mix to boost my recovery. If I am able to keep fueled during workouts the next day I feel much more recovery.
How do you go about pre-workout fueling?
I have a really good stomach that can tolerate a lot which helps. I also have oatmeal every morning so my stomach gets used to the same breakfast every morning. However, normally I do not go straight into running. After getting up and eating the time I spend doing my activation and warm up drills gives me a nice buffer to digest before I begin training. Another key is Skratch Labs who I have worked directly with. They are a natural hydration and nutrition company that has developed a product to ease my stomach while supplying enough calories and the correct salt ratio for my individual needs.
What is your favorite recovery recipe?
One snack that I enjoy is Tortilla de Patatas. It is a great snack for on the go, which is always key. If I need food post-workout these are my go-to. Broken down they are a bunch of white potatoes that have been boiled in oil with lots of eggs. We use Pete and Gerry’s organic eggs which my husband whips up. It is not a Frittata, but it is similar. It gives me what I need, the carbs, proteins, and fats. They are easy to make ahead of time, and I could eat them all day.
Any last words for readers?
A couple of other tools that also help with my recovery are Training Peaks and my Polar watch. Training Peaks shows me my fitness/fatigue and my Polar watch tracks my training to indicate if I am overreaching, or in other words, maxing out on my training volume. Both of these tools are helpful. Obviously, my coach Jerry dictates my training, but he also gives me a lot of freedom in choosing my workouts. As my coach, Jerry is the one creating my workouts but on the easier days, he lets me choose what I want. That could be a long run in the morning or two equal runs, one in the morning and then in the afternoon. I base most of my decisions on how I am recovering. That is one piece of advice I recommend.