Rest and Recovery: How to Recover from Racing and Training Better

Does your training and racing leave you tired and shattered? Want to get back up and going quicker after events or training sessions?

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There are a range of things you can do to assist with recovering from events and training sessions. Most people don’t give themselves the best shot at recovering quickly so here is some advice to assist you do so.

Conducting an appropriate warm up will not only ensure you perform to the best of your ability, but will also avoid the body getting a shock from the level of exercise. If you give your body a massive shock it will take greater time and effort for the body to recover from it. By doing an appropriate warm up, you can avoid the body needing the extra recovery. By progressively moving into the warm up, starting slowly and gently, building to more intense efforts you will progressively increase your heart rate and ventilation rate and get the blood moving to the muscles.

A cool down will also greatly assist your recovery. How many people do you see finish a race and then pack up their gear and go home? Are you guilty of doing this too? Just going for a gentle jog or bike ride after a running race or bike race respectively will have great benefits to assisting to flush waste products from the body. It doesn’t need to be long. 10 minutes is ample for most situations.

Doing a hard training session or race isn’t a reason to reward yourself with crap food. After all you are what you eat. After you finish exercising you have a window of about 2 hours in which your body can optimally absorb the required nutrients. As time goes on this ability returns back towards its normal ability to absorb nutrients. Make the most of this opportunity to fuel the body appropriately. The focus should be on carbohydrates, but not at the exclusion of protein which is essential for repair and regeneration. A ratio of 4:1 is optimal, that is four times as many carbohydrates compared to protein. The carbohydrates provide the energy and the protein is the building blocks for the repair.

Stretching often gets left out of the training programme, but it shouldn’t. It doesn’t take long to complete and the benefits are immense. The inclusion of a weekly yoga class can do wonders for your flexibility and your performance as a result of its inclusion. Talk to your coach about this. After the session or race, stretch the muscles that have been worked the hardest/most first, if you don’t have time to stretch every muscle. If you have more time available work systematically through your body to ensure each part gets a good stretch. Click here for a stretching programme.

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As Euripides is quoted as saying: “Do not consider painful what is good for you”. A good massage can be slightly uncomfortable, but conversely it will increase blood flow and lymphatic circulation, increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, as well as flushing out any waste products that are present. Regardless of how stressful a massage is, any reputable massage therapist will always finish with relaxing strokes to minimise any immediate discomfort from the massage you have just received.

Having hot/cold contrast showers or baths can provide some great benefits. Using a plunge pool is great but not a practical option for most people. Conducting this recovery technique in a shower can be just as beneficial. Simply ensure you heat your body up using water as hot as you can tolerate for about 3 minutes, then utilise the coldest water your body can tolerate (or that your shower can supply) for thirty seconds. Repeat this three times. The hot water creates vasodilation of the blood vessels and the cold water stimulates vasoconstriction. The opening and closing of the blood vessels increases blood circulation and removal of waste products.

Recovery sessions can be conducted at low intensity (less than 70%) and for relatively short durations (less than thirty minutes in some instances). They allow for plenty of rest and are a great opportunity for technique work. They increase the blood flow over normal resting levels and this assists with the removal of waste products.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

I specialise in assisting first-timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at and 021 348 729.

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