Fast recovery after race-day

From racing an Ironman 70.3 to climbing 6 mountains on 4 days in the French Pyrenees 2 weeks later. With the help of these periods I managed to recover quickly and smile to conquer the mountains. 

Recovery after a triathlon or marathon is an essential part of a training plan. However, many athletes ignore this period.

Too bad, because if you ignore this period you risk injuries and increase the total recovery time of your triathlon or marathon. It also leads to stagnation of your progression and overtraining in the long run

Use these periods to help you recover properly.

Why?

The physical stress during a race is great for your body. All your systems run at maximum power. This actually causes damage to your body. It affects your muscles, it causes damage to your cells and it is an attack on your immune system.

The most obvious damage is of course to your muscles. This damage is not only caused by the race, but also by the period of training prior to the race. In a study both before and after the race inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis were measured in the calf muscles of marathon runners. Result: only 14 days after the race your muscles are back at full strength. 

The impact on your immune system is great. Your resilience is reduced for a period of time after the race. During this period you are more susceptible to diseases or a cold. According to various studies among athletes, the immune system has been compromised for about 3 days.

The damage to your cells is mainly oxidation damage, increased production of creatinine kinase, and increased myoglobin level in your blood.

  • Oxidation damage
  • Creatine kinase is an enzyme that mainly occurs in organs that use a lot of energy. It plays a role in the production of ATP, the universal fuel of body cells. Research concludes that the increased production of creatinine kinase lasts 7 days.
  • Myoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein that transports oxygen. Myoglobin is produced in case of damage to muscle tissue. Your body needs 3 to 4 days to get the myoglobin out of the blood.

How?

Through these 3 phases of recovery you promote the recovery of your body in the days and weeks after a race. This way you are not only physically rested but also mentally ready for a new training period.

  • 1-2/3 days after race

No training or cross training. Your body must first restore your blood values to normal. Support your body by drinking enough water and eating healthily. Take plant-based foods with sufficient carbohydrates and proteins to promote your recovery. Green vegetables, legumes and fruit are good foods.

  • 2/3 days – 14 days after the race

<Now that your blood values slowly return to normal and your resilience improves, you can quietly resume your workouts. Listen carefully to your body, because you don’t want to go into red. All at a low intensity. Each day you will see what you can handle. During this period you gradually rebuild the sense and strength to start a new training block.

  • 1 – 3 weeks after the race

You’re in the mood for it again. The race is behind you. The lessons of the previous race have been discussed with your coach. Let the new training schedule begin. But beware! Build up the intensity of your new schedule slowly. You’ve been training more quietly for a few weeks, so don’t expect miracles. The first weeks of your new schedule focus on getting used to the intensity of training again.

Keep in mind that the above periods depend on the length of your race. For a complete Ironman the periods are a bit longer, while a sprint triathlon requires less long recovery periods.

Fit and fresh

Recovery is essential for future performance and to prevent injuries. But also to be mentally fresh at the beginning of a training period. The duration of recovery from damage to your muscles, recovery of your immune system and damage to your body cells is different. Respect these periods and give yourself the chance to recharge your batteries for upcoming races!

I always like to do some coffee rides with friends during these periods. A quiet round with a nice stop for a cup of coffee on the way. Just not paying attention to heartbeats, intervals and distances.

I am curious how you recover from a race. Let me know in the comments!

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