Endurance race recovery – some valuable observations

recovery, race recovery, endurance sport, stretching, mobility, cycling

Enjoy the process of recovery, it’s an opportunity to pay your body back for it’s hard work!

It always fascinates me listening and watching our bodies recover from endurance events. There seems to be distinct differences in the abilities of athletes to recuperate from races.

Usually elite athletes recover the quickest from these long and demanding exertions, and often show remarkable powers to perform soon after big races.

Two athletes who spring to mind in this regard are Raynard Tissink and the late great Benny Vansteelant. I count myself very fortunate to have trained with both athletes.

Somehow, both could produce top class performances within a very short space of time. Benny always said it was due to conditioning.

While I feel he was correct to some extent, I think certain genetic disposition also plays a role. Benny could race two Powerman Duathlons in consecutive weekends and win them comfortably. Raynard did similar feats last year when he raced two IRONMAN races within three weeks and managed to get a top finish in the first race and win the second one.

We cannot all follow their examples though and expect to keep recording top results. If you eat all the cookies close together there is indeed a chance you may feel ill. So here’s first point about racing and recovery.

recovery, race recovery, endurance sport, stretching, mobility

Take this race recovery time to stretch and work on your mobility. There’s nothing quite as empowering as coming back stronger than before!

Watch your immune system carefully after endurance races

Too many too close together does ask a fair amount of your immune system.

In the USA, some research shows the five weeks after an IRONMAN is when athletes often develop Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI ).

To address this potential slowdown of activity, keep your Vitamin C levels high for at least a week after a long endurance event.

Other things to include are Vitamin B, Selenium, Glutamine and N Acetyl Cysteine.

recovery, race recovery, endurance sport, stretching, mobility, cycling

The first few weeks after an endurance race should include low impact and low intensity training like walking and cycling.

Race recovery is like a loan system

I often use the example of loaning money from the bank as akin to racing endurance events close together and not taking enough rest in between and after.

If you keep borrowing from the bank, there comes a day when the bank says payback time. I feel our bodies work similarly. If you keeping ‘drawing from your savings’ (or your training foundation) then soon you may receive that slip from the bank that reads: Insufficient funds!

Furthermore, our bodies just begin to slow down after a pile of races.

Even while you may stay healthy, if you do not rest adequately between events, you may end up with a case of the plods (training a little too hard for a little too long). Many of us experience a feeling of heavy legs not responding to training.

More: The Haywire Heart – too much exercise can kill you

It is at those times, we need to listen carefully and back off on the volume and give your body permission to come back to you.

Allow your body to rebuild after an event and you will reap the benefits. This may mean complete rest for a day or so or simply a reduction in your usual volume until you can feel your legs being lighter and responsive.

Racing to our fullest potential builds self confidence. Racing on tired legs seldom shows too much of your ability and simply tells us you’re tired.

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What to expect in the next few weeks

The pattern is quite predictable, and ACTIVE.com outlines the first month of recovery quite simply:

Week one of race recovery won’t be about exercise at all. As much as you’re experiencing that high after an IRONMAN finish, you’re unlikely to be up to any vigorous activity. And that’s great! After a couple of days, your biggest workouts should be quality walking or light swimming.

You’ll start to feel good enough to work out in week two and three, but really shouldn’t be pushing yourself. Your muscles may still be fatigued at this stage, and will most likely run out of power after an hour anyway.

Exercise in this period should be done at a very light intensity. Overdoing it here can set you back!

From week four onward you’ll experience the transition phase. If you have been recovering well and have felt good enough to include some consistent aerobic activity, then you could be ready to transition back to your regular training. It would make sense to start with less impact training like cycling or swimming first.

Take your race recovery as seriously as your preparation. Enjoy this period, there’s nothing quite as empowering as a comeback!

Other articles you’ll find interesting

Injury, the toughest race to win 

The Haywire Heart – how too much exercise can kill you


Written by Glenn Macnamara, who is an elite triathlete that also loves running trails. He competes internationally and he has numerous top five finishes to his name. He coaches kids and adults. His love of writing is inspired by the sports he competes in.



Other articles posted in this period

About Glenn Macnamara

Glenn is an elite triathlete who also loves running trails. He competes internationally and he has numerous top five finishes to his name. He coaches kids and adults. His love of writing is inspired by the sports he competes in.

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