The best way to get a competitive edge might not mean buying supplements, a pricey power meter or a bike setup that costs as much as a small car.
Triathletes can waste time attempting to research and calculate the minute differences between certain aero helmets when the most valuable performance-boosting action would be shutting down the computer and getting a good night's sleep.
It turns out that some of the top performance boosters are free. Get more out of your training time and the gear you already have with these top—free and legal—ways to boost performance.
"Logically, everyone knows they have to train to get better," Matt Dixon says, owner and founder of Purplepatch Fitness. "But it doesn't matter how good your training plan is if it isn't supported by recovery and good nutrition. And in my experience, the first thing people will relegate in importance is recovery."
That's not smart. When you cheat your recovery, you cheat your performance. That's because training adaptations don't happen while you're working out; they happen while you're recovering.
"You have to value recovery to be as vital as any training you're doing," says Dixon, who's an elite coach to American record holders and some of the leading endurance athletes in the world, including Ironman champions Chris Lieto, Rasmus Henning and Linsey Corbin. "People skimp on sleep and cram in workouts even though their system is suppressed from that schedule or from events such as flying across the country. At every level of athlete I work with, we have to integrate more recovery."
A new online subscription-based tool called RestWise takes into account objective (including resting heart rate and blood oxygen saturation) and subjective measures (including appetite, sleep quality, mood, presence of muscle soreness and more) of recovery and gives you a recovery score based on today's data and trends over time.
A low score means you're not well recovered and going out for a hard session on that day may not make you a better athlete in the end. "If you miss that optimal ratio of stress load to recovery load, you're not optimizing your training," says Matthew Weatherley-White, co-founder of the company that created RestWise.
Adjusting your workouts according to your recovery score may take your training load down but don't panic. It may take your performance up, Weatherley-White says. "A byproduct of this system may be helping people learn to define their success more by performance than training load."