As we come to the end of the tri season here in the Northeast I am thinking a lot about recovery.  There are a number of different elements to recovery, from immediate post race fueling to pre-season planning of your races. 

I recently ran the Maine Marathon Half Marathon. I was planning to run the full 26.2 and had been training for the distance as a sidebar to my Half Ironman training. About 2 weeks before the Half I started to think that my mileage was not where it needed to be to complete the marathon, factoring in taper time, recovery time and a mad 24 hour relay race between the two events, I reluctantly decided to switch to the Half Marathon. I have to say, it was hard on race day,  surrounded by friends doing the full I couldn't help but feel as though I was just being a bit lazy! Looking at that decision critically though - it was definitely a smart one and something that I might have foreseen had I planned my season more carefully.  I did not allow my body enough recovery time between my A race triathlon and another heavy hitting endurance event.

As volume increases through training for longer distance events, big miles become the norm. It can be tough to take rest time and reduce your training so substantially - but it is critical to recovery.  It can take up to 6 weeks to fully recover from a marathon, and for triathlon the estimate is 3-5 days for every hour you raced! While this differs for each individual, these numbers are something to keep in mind when you try and jump right back into training!
Here are a few tips to help your post race recovery:
  1. Recovery starts immediately when the race ends, walk around slowly, collect hugs and medals and use this time to let your body re-adjust.
  2. Replenish.  The body absorbs and utilizes fuel best within 30-60 minutes of exercise, look for something with a balance of protein, carbs and sodium. PB&J, bananas, pretzles, bagels and cream cheese - PIZZA..... and yes, chocolate milk is a great recovery food!
  3. Keep drinking, all day! Check your pee - if it's pale yellow you're hydrating properly, if it's dark keep drinking! While a post race beer is great - balance it with an electrolyte drink and water.
  4. Massage. Schedule a massage for the day after to help process the remaining lactic acid in your muscles. Use a foam roller or The Stick to keep blood flowing through your muscles.
  5. Put your feet up! Elevating your legs lets gravity do the work . Elevate them for 3 minutes for every hour of exercise.
  6. Cold therapy. An ice bath, soak in a lake or the ocean, even just a cooler than normal bath can help decrease inflamation and speed muscle recovery.
  7. SLEEP!!!!
After the inital recovery, that is once your body is pain free and you have regained energy levels, you can think about how to resume physical activity. The best plan for the 3 weeks post race is a reverse taper. Where you slowly reduced the volume of training as your race approached, now you slowly increase as your body recovers.  Swimming and cycling are good active recovery workouts as they are lower impact than running, Running can be resumed in shorter amounts with very low intensity. Raising your heart rate slightly will help blood move around the body - think zone 1-2.

With proper recovery you will emerge from your event strong and healthy, ready to tackle the next race.

10/09/2009 09:08

I'll throw in there the use of compression wear. I was a skeptic at first but am now a firm believer in the attributes of compression clothing. I have socks and tights and if I wear them after a hard race or workout I feel noticeably better than if I do not. Just a thought.

10/14/2010 18:57

Great tips, but I can't imagine jumping in an ice bath - I'll stick with a cold shower!

03/16/2011 23:12

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