Triathlon training can be exhausting.  Depending on your race distance, you may be training 12 – 15 hours per week.  With all this stress on your body, how do you get stronger?   Training and recovery work together to facilitate an adaptation process by which you adapt and become stronger.  Both training and recovery are required for the process to work.  Here are some tips for understanding and maximizing your recovery:

What am I recovering from?  Intense training breaks-down your body by causing micro tears in muscle and soft tissue, stresses the nervous system, affects hormone levels, and causes other stress-induced reactions (e.g., inflammation, etc.).  To rebuild a stronger body, your body will need to repair injuries, regulate hormones, and perform other related processes.

How can I maximize my recovery?   

  1. SLEEP!! Deep sleep is the most important factor in your recovery.  You may need 1-2 hours of continuous sleep before reaching deep recovery sleep. To help reach this deep sleep, consider:  black-out blinds, eye masks, ear plugs, going to sleep at the same time every night, avoiding exercise 4 hours before sleep, avoiding computer screens 1-2 hours before sleep, reducing caffeine and alcohol, meditation, and sleeping in cool temperatures.
  2. Nutrition. Training produces inflammation in your body. Choose a diet that reduces inflammation.  Foods known to reduce inflammation include: dark-skinned fruits and vegetables (pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, plums, artichokes, spinach and broccoli), high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (cold-water fish, cod liver oil, fish oil), and natural herbs (turmeric, curcumin, garlic and ginger). Research suggests that cherry juice and ginger decrease inflammation and delayed-onset muscle soreness.  Avoid foods that may increase inflammation, such as processed foods, nuts and seeds, pastries, cereals, tomatoes and eggplants.
  3. Foam rolling.  Foam rolling keeps your muscles and fascia supple, improves circulation, and removes knots.  As you train, your muscles may create painful adhesions (a.k.a. knots), which are layers of tissue that have stuck together.  Training with adhesions causes a higher risk of injury to your muscles.  Foam rolling breaks-up adhesions, increases blood flow, and creates better muscle mobility.  Foam rolling can remedy problems in foot arches, calves, quads, ITB, glutes, and upper back.  Don’t roll too hard.  Use just enough force to feel a sensation in your tissue.  The correct pressure may cause pain, but not unbearable pain.
  4. Compression garments.  Compression garments have been proven to provide enhanced recovery after training.  Wearing them for a few hours after training will reduce muscle swelling and soreness.  They also increase circulation and nutrients to your muscles.
  5. Massage.  Sports massage has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote the growth of new mitochondria (energy-producing units in your cells).  Massage can help with pain relief, building muscles, and replenishing your energy system.  Weekly or bi-weekly massage can help you recover faster and feel more energized.

Practicing good recovery habits will enable you to reap the full benefits of your hard training.  Train hard and recover harder!!!