It's hard to find a buzzword that's buzzier than 'recovery' right now. Whether it's protein shakes, whole food bars, compression socks, special shoes or magic mattresses it seems like the latest hack to optimise your recovery is just one purchase away.
It's worth delving into the idea of recovery, what it is and why you would want to optimise it, so that you don't waste money or energy that would be better allocated elsewhere. I’m going to pull apart the What, Why, When and How of recovery to help you make the right decisions and make the most of your training.
What is recovery in swimrun?
It's easy to throw the R word around, but what exactly do we mean from an endurance sports perspective when we talk about recovery? Wanting to 'recover' implies that damage has been done, fatigue has set in or fuel stores have been depleted and we want to return to 'normal'. Optimising that process can therefore mean three different things; minimising the damage caused, speeding up the process of returning to normal or providing the correct environment for the best possible adaptations to occur. Now all of this takes us to...
Why 'recover better' during swimrun training and racing?
Remember that in general we've chosen to create the situation where recovery is required. Whether it's training or racing we've pushed ourselves and created fatigue... but the goals of recovery are different if we're comparing racing to training. If we're training then the purpose of our exercise was to create stress to stimulate positive adaptations. It's counter intuitive to then use strategies that attempt to minimise the damage and therefore the focus after training is to optimise the quality and speed of the adaptations through rehydration, carbohydrate replenishment, looking after yourself and resting/sleeping. Things are slightly different if we've been racing, in this case the amount of damage caused is often much greater than we're used to and minimising the damage may also be desirable. In this case ice baths/cold water immersion and consuming anti-oxidants may offer additional benefits.
When to start swimrun recovery
A smart athlete starts before a training session even ends with a good warm down. 10-20 minutes of easy movement is ideal for relaxing the body and mind after some hard work. Obviously racing is different and you've got to be pretty keen to warm down after a hard swimrun, most athletes rightly focus on soaking up the atmosphere and reliving memories with their teammate and friends! Irrespective of whether you're racing or training it pays to have your post-exercise strategy prepared in advance. This means having dry clothes, fluids and food prepared in advance as well as planning the time and space to rest. Despite the focus on protein recovery drinks I generally suggest immediate post exercise nutrition is focused on rehydration and carbohydrate replenishment with protein ingestion coming later in the equation.
Swimrun recovery cheat-sheet
After swimrun training sessions:
1) Warm down at the end of the session
2) Have 500mL of fluid containing electrolytes and carbohydrates (20-50g depending on body size and exercise intensity). This may include some protein although this isn't critical.
3) Look after yourself, get clean, warm and relaxed. Try to schedule time to wind down after a hard training session, a little nap would be ideal! Continue to drink fluids containing electrolytes and some carbohydrate to stimulate rehydration.
4) Continue rehydrating and eating high quality unprocessed foods as part of your normal diet. Protein should form part of this. Avoid caffeine after training as this will interfere with your sleep patterns.
After swimrun races:
After a hard race all the above still stand, although if you want to try to speed up the recovery process you could include ice baths/cold water immersion and consuming anti-oxidants such as tart cherry juice.
When it comes to recovery, like so many aspects of training, it's easy to overthink it. The simple guidelines I've laid out above are all you need to know: drink, eat, rest, recovery. There are no secret hacks to achieving your goals, ultimately it comes down to intelligently engaging in consistent hard work and one of the best ways to optimise your recovery is to become fitter! Your body will be adapted to the load and you'll find you're bouncing back from training sessions faster.
Article by Luke Mosely, Real Endurance Coaching
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