Book Review: The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery

Sage Rountree has created a truly essential resource for endurance athletes.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

Recovery is one of those things that every athlete believes is important in his head, but not in his heart. You won’t find many athletes who say that recovery is not critical to fitness and performance. But you also won’t find many serious endurance athletes who do the basic things they should do to maximize recovery. It’s the sports equivalent of teeth flossing.

In the terms of Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are out of balance in the life of the typical endurance athlete. The yang side of the circle, representing hard work, is overinflated, while the yin side, representing regeneration, is anemic. Yoga-for-athletes guru Sage Rountree is one of the few strong champions of yin in endurance sports. Leave it to her, then, to write The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, & Restore for Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2011). The fact that it took until 2011 for anyone to write this book is further evidence of the yin/yang imbalance in endurance sports.

I’m glad no one beat Sage Rountree to it. She did a better job than anyone else would have done. Her style and her entire way of being are strongly yin, and so the presentation and content of her book are a perfect match for her subject. Rountree has a doctorate in something completely non-sports-related and is smarter than you and me put together, but she doesn’t beat readers over the head with her smarts and erudition in her writing. The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga is as accessible as a book of this type can be. You can easily read it in two sittings and the presentation is so straightforward that you will remember just about everything. It’s actually a relaxing book to read.

There is a great deal of confusion concerning which recovery techniques work best, which are least effective, and how those that do work yield benefits. Rountree does a terrific job of clearing up the confusion, explaining the how in terms you don’t need a PhD yourself to understand and providing just the right amount of scientific and real-world support for her judgments on the effectiveness of each recovery technique discussed.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I discusses the importance of recovery and how it contributes to fitness and performance. In Part II, Rountree devotes a chapter to each of 12 recovery methods: active recovery, stress reduction, sleep, nutrition and hydration, supplements, cold and heat, home remedies, technological aids, massage, self-massage, restorative yoga, and meditation and breathing. At the front of each of these chapters is a handy little tool called Sage’s Gauge, which rates the time burden, cost, accessibility, and confidence (or effectiveness) of each recovery method on five-point scales.

Part III presents specific recovery protocols. Rountree walks the reader step by step through the integration of recovery into the overall training cycle and through the process of recovering from both shorter and longer races.

Reviewers overuse the word “essential” in advocating for books they like. The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery is one book that truly deserves this designation. Most competitive endurance athletes do not do enough for recovery and this book is the only comprehensive and credible resource for athletes who seek to address their yin/yang imbalance. Buy it. And start flossing your teeth!

[sgi:MattFitzgerald]

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