Blog

Professional Coaching Services for Endurance Sport Athletes

OPTIMAL RACE RECOVERY

0

road-to-recoveryHard training and racing put tremendous stress on your body. Racing shorter distances, such as sprint and Olympics distance, can impact your body more than a hard workout. Proper race recovery gets you back to action quicker, and helps you reap the fitness benefits of a good racing effort.
The impact of racing on your body:
During your race you will push your body for a longer time than in some of your training efforts. This race effort will put a good amount of stress on your system. Within a triathlon athletes experience a lot of repetitive movements in swimming, cycling and running. These movements will produce a lot of mechanical stress on the athlete’s muscular/skeletal system. Your working muscles have to go through a lot of eccentric contractions in all three sports and these movements will lead to muscular injuries. The injuries are often not felt directly by the athletes through pain but current research has shown that muscle protein will leak into the main blood plasma and blood values change significantly. Muscle protein is an important component to rebuild fibres and the strength of your muscles after long of intense exercise loads. The athlete’s body will experience muscle inflammations which will lead to increased leucocyte counts (white blood cells) and lymphocytes.

Next to the mechanical stress, the athlete’s body is experiencing a high amount of metabolic stress after a race. Throughout and after a competition the body responds with an increase or decrease of different hormone levels in your blood. Cortisol, a stress hormone, will increase significantly during and after a competition and testosterone, a hormone crucial for recovery, will decrease after the competition. Both steroid hormones are important for your body to recover and rebuild muscle damage after training efforts and races. An elevated cortisol and decreased testosterone level will inhibit the body’s ability to rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

Due to these changes in your blood parameters, inflammations in your body, changed steroid hormone levels and the added emotional stress, athletes will be more prone to illness and injury within the first part of the recovery process. For Ironman, this is the first week, for short course triathlon, this is day one and two. It is important to find the proper balance between racing, training and life schedules. The ultimate goal is to decrease the recovery time after races by following recovery schedules and using recovery methods and to minimize the chances of infections and chronic fatigue.

Nutrition and Recovery:
Nutritional protocol not only increases performance, but also facilitates faster post race recovery.
Timing on race day is crucial. A familiar pre-race snack high in carbohydrates, coupled with about 1 liter of electrolyte drink 2-3 hours before your event gives you time to digest. Just before your race you may have a PowerGel to top up blood glycogen levels, the readily available muscle energy in your blood. Consuming simple carbohydrate calories on a schedule through the event (i.e. 50-75 calories every 15 minutes) helps you maintain energy, and save your stored muscle glycogen fuel supplies.
This helps sustain your ability to hold efficient biomechanics. Athletes who maintain their “form” tend to recover quicker. Athletes who bonk and resort to new and untrained biomechanics will typically require longer to recovery as the pull in unfamiliar muscles to stabilize and try and do the work.

Post-race and post-workout timing is critical. Have some water on hand. Another Gel within half an hour of finishing will provide quick replenishment, along with some fruit, and something salty for electrolytes, which will help you absorb the fluids you drink. Many athletes like chocolate milk for the combination of fluids for hydration, carbohydrate and protein. Between 30minutes and 2hours of finishing, have some more complex carbs and protein. Having a protein bar or a sport recovery drink on hand is a handy way to get what you need in a timely manner. Proper timing of nutrition during and after your race event fuels your body to race more efficiently, faster and helps to recover quickly.

Race Recovery timelines and tips:

Ironman / Half Ironman 70.3 recovery schedule: Racing longer, particularly an Ironman, induces much more body breakdown and typically takes weeks to recover from.
Week One: The race is over and you are going to be very happy and feel good about it. If you can, sitting in the water and moving your legs lightly is a gentle way to use hydrotherapy to help blood flow with zero impact. The first days pass by and your main working should be relaxing. The biggest workout during week one should be walking and 1 to 2 short swims, or a short swim and short bike (i.e. 30 minutes). Running is weight bearing and increases chance of recovery set back and injury. A light flush massage later in the week, once muscle tissue starts healing, is a great idea.
Weeks Two and Three: You will start feeling better and stronger. It is common to have a post Ironman high, after all the hard training and the big day. Your mind will tell you to start working out again but you still should hold back. The key is to hold back and focus on easy recovery based exercises based on longer swims and easy bike rides. Keep walking in your program and include a few short jogs. Swimming usually can be 50-75% of normal volume in week 2. Cycling can increase slightly in week 2, and approach 50-75% of normal training volume in week 3. Massage, and contrast baths are helpful. A well trained Ironman 70.3 athlete may be ready to resume full training after two weeks.
Week Four +: You should have recovered well and will be very eager to start exercising again. Start building in some good aerobic training sessions and get slowly back into a regular training routine.
A very good and easy test to find out if you have recovered well is to do a 2h bike ride or a 60min run with some steady efforts incorporated. You should not feel much fatigue after 24 hours and be able to do another training session.
If you manage your recovery after the Ironman you will be able to start training for the next event fresh and motivated. You will also benefit from the amazing endurance you have built. Many athletes perform very well at shorter distances 10-12 weeks after an Ironman. Take the time and plan a post race recovery plan.

Short Course recovery schedule (Sprint and Olympic):

Day One -Two: Your event went well and you feel muscular fatigue. You have the option to just relax or often an easy swim or very light bike ride will help to increase the blood circulation and speed up the recovery time. On Day One or Two, it is common to experience DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Day Three-Four: Your body starts to feel strong and fresh again. You can implement some longer swims and aerobic bike riding, or a short aerobic run. You start to feel mentally ready for the next training block.

Day Five +: Typically your body and mind have recovered fully and you are back on your regular training schedule. Enjoy every workout again and look forward to the next race. If soreness and fatigue persist, you may wait till day 7 or 8 before fully returning to action.

Always consider alternative training methods. Have you ever gone water running, used the elliptical trainer or done Yoga? These are excellent workout tools to perform easy cardio work and will help you recover.

Remember, listen to your body. Your spirit may impel you to start training at a high volume or high intensity again before your body is ready to follow a structured, intense routine again.

Recovery Methods

Passive Rest

Relax and sleep to regain strength.

Active Rest

Light exercise to loosen up stiff muscles and increase the blood flow to remove toxins.

Food

Rebuild your muscles and energy with protein and CHOs.

Self-Myofacial Release and Active Release Techniques

Use the stick, foam rollers and trigger point tools to loosen up scare tissue and stimulate the muscles to increase blood flow.

Contrast Showers and Bath

Relax and excite your muscles through increased blood flow by ice baths or hot – cold showers. This which will shorten the restoration time.

Stretching

Relengthen your bodies muscles and ensure proper range of motion in all joints.

Hydration

Hydrating will help to remove toxins and keep the muscles loose.

Massage

Visit your RMT to relax your muscles and increase the oxygen and nutrient delivery to your muscles.

Electric muscle stimulation

Increase your blood circulation and work your muscles through a active contract-relaxation cycle.

5 Tips for Your Perfect Recovery Day.

How you handle your recovery day greatly affects your speed of recovery.
Here are a few tricks of the trade:road-to-recovery

Don’t fill your rest day with errands. Book in some relaxation time. Sit with your feet elevated reading a book or watching a video.
Hot-cold therapy, or contrast baths, assists blood flow to recovering
muscles. Fill you bathtub with warm water and a large plastic garbage bin next to the tub with cold water and ice if necessary (the goal is 13c temperature). Scientists from the Australian Ins
itute of Sports have now published guidelines specifically for the use of contrast water therapy after exercise. They suggest temperatures similar to those used in injury treatment but with differing durations for showers (1-2 min hot, 10-30s cold) and bath/spa (3-4 min hot, 30-60s cold), repeated three times.Massage: a light flush massage helps blood flow and flushing. A deep massage for muscle release and rehabilitation is best done the evening before your recovery day.
Also, do a light stretch or yoga so things don’t tighten up.Take a nap or go to bed early! Sleep is your body’s best opportunity to recover.
Go for a walk. 15-20 minutes will get blood circulating, to deliver nutrients and help remove toxins. It is low impact, so this duration will not inhibit recovery.

%d bloggers like this: