There are many different recovery methods that are often discussed as options for endurance athletes, and many companies benefit from products related to these. But which ones actually work, and are any a waste of your time, and money? In this article, we discuss the basic recovery techniques, that can be done without too much extra equipment. Part 2 focuses on techniques that require a little more effort, investment and time.

Sleep

Now, this is one recovery method that no coach or health professional will let you leave out! Sleep is crucial to normal functioning but also plays a huge role in allowing athletes to recover effectively. Basically, you can do all of the techniques listed below, but if you are not getting enough sleep, you won’t recover. It is that simple! So make sure you get 8-10 hours of sleep per night and, if you can fit it into your day, a 30 minute afternoon nap has also been suggested as beneficial for athletes.

How to: Getting enough sleep and getting enough good-quality sleep are two different things – the key is to ensure your ‘sleep hygiene’ is on point. This means a quiet, dark room for sleeping, using your bed exclusively for sleep, maintaining a regular bedtime and turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed. For more info, check out our article ‘Sleeping your way to success’ by head coach and Founder Amy Johnson

Nutrition

Most triathletes make a huge effort to manage their hydration and nutrition while racing, but did you know that what you eat and drink after training or racing is extremely important in your recovery? And the longer the session, the more crucial correct nutrition is. This is a huge topic that can’t be addressed in a brief summary, however, there is plenty of advice available to athletes on when and what to eat.

The aim is to replenish fuel supplies, which are required to train effectively, as quickly as possible to allow the next session to be of the highest quality. Carbohydrates and protein assist in replenishing muscle fuel and repairing the structure of fatigued muscles [1]. Both should be eaten within 30 minutes of finishing a training session, as well as drinking sufficient water to restore whatever has been sweated out. Recovery nutrition strategies continue throughout the day, so athletes should aim to eat a balanced diet that delivers a range of nutrients, and sufficient energy to fuel activity.

How to:Consulting with a sports dietitian or nutritionist is the best way to ensure your nutrition plan is personalised and therefore most effective. Preparation is also key to ensure you have the food and drinks available in the correct time frames after your training sessions – which often means packing the night before!

Post-Exercise Stretching

Almost everyone that has ever gone for a run, played a team sport or gone to a gym class has been told to stretch after exercise, right? Well, interestingly there is very little evidence to support the role of stretching in aiding recovery [2]. The aim of stretching is to increase muscle length and flexibility, and research shows that for this to occur the stretch must be held for 30-60 seconds, three times for each muscle.

Many people do find stretching helps prevent injuries, allows them to train for longer and just generally feels good. Studies have yet to find any detrimental effects on performance, so if this is you then keep on stretching and make sure you are meeting the time frames suggested.

However if you don’t really notice any positive changes after stretching, maybe another recovery technique is better suited to you.

How to: There are many articles online that can guide you on stretching, or chat with a health professional (physiotherapist, personal trainer, exercise physiologist) in your area. We also have a stack of instructional videos in the TriChicks Hub to help you with some recovery stretches and foam rolling.

Foam Rolling

A foam roller is a handy tool for athletes that allows them to self-massage whenever, and wherever they like! A range of studies have shown that foam rolling can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and allow for an increased range of motion around joints [3,4]. These improvements will allow the athlete to get back into exercise sooner, with a lower risk of injuring themselves.

How to: It is important to foam roll effectively to gain the benefits, so search for a foam rolling guide online or talk to your physiotherapist. If you’re a member of the TriChicks Hub, don’t forget you have access to our TriChicks Foam Rolling Guide!

Stress Management

Stress has lots of negative impacts on our health, including the potential to delay recovery. Not only does stress reduce our sleep quality (see above), but it increases certain hormones in our body that keep our body in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. While in this mode our body is ready to face any incoming threats – in this case, stress – and this prevents us from relaxing. Our digestion slows, our heart rate remains high and these changes prevent effective recovery. Stress also reduces our immunity – and we all know that getting sick does not fit into a triathlete’s training schedule!

How to: Everyone manages stress differently, but a few easy options include meditation or mindfulness, a relaxation massage, getting outdoors and exercise!

Want to stay up to date with the latest training tips and tricks? The TriChicks Hub is filled with instructional videos in all things swim, bike and run. Access training drills, equipment advice and more, all within the Hub! Click here for more info and to start watching today! 

References

[1] Nutrition to support recovery from endurance exercise: optimal carbohydrate and protein replacement. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26166054

[2] Recovery Review: Science vs. Practice. J Vaile, S Halson, S Graham.

[3]The effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roll or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. Scott Cheatham, Morey Kolber, Matt Cain, Matt Lee. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637917/

[4] Is self myofascial release an effective preexercise and recovery strategy? A literature review. Allison Schroeder, Thomas Best.https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2015/05000/Is_Self_Myofascial_Release_an_Effective.16._2)