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Guest Blog - Rapid Race Recovery: The Truth

TriBlogsby TriBlogsJan 14th 2013
Today's Guest Blog is a real gem and is written by (currently) unbeaten ultrarunner and former elite triathlete Alice Hector. Alice still races tri to a high level, recently winning New Years' Day Triathlon in Edinburgh. She works at B2P Sports in Windsor, a specialist triathlon store, and is the author of their new blog, She has previously written for Triathlon Plus and Metasport, Singapore. Her blog today provides practical advice on race recovery as well as help on things to avoid!
Guest Blog - Rapid Race Recovery: The Truth

Rapid Race Recovery: The Truth

Most race recovery articles talk you through the science and theories without actually giving you the answer: what actually works and to what extent? Here I'll give you the run down on my own experiences, as an ultramarathon runner and former pro triathlete.

Racing is different to training in that you should throw everything at that event. Training should be consistent and not too intense as to cause damage that affects training the next day, whereas racing, that's the next level. Be prepared to have legs like lead; if you race hard, there is no hope that fatigue will not get you. It's how you manage it that determines how quickly you are back to full training.

Here are some realistic steps you can follow to help you recover from racing:
  1. WARM DOWN: Immediately after the race, try your best to swim/bike for 10-15 minutes. Jogging is still relatively high impact but if there's no chance of accessing your bike or a pool/lake, then mix jogging with walking just to keep the blood flowing after your hard effort. This will help (but won't prevent) muscle stiffness developing later.
  2. CONSUME: Drink copiously. Better to sip frequently than down a 2 litre bottle in a minute, and stick in a salt tab to replace all that lost sweat. Protein and anti-inflammatory foods are what you should seek (although in reality; chips often win). Anti-inflammatory foods? Yep, that'll include grapes, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, kiwis, olive oil, celery, ginger, garlic, curry powder, nuts, tuna, salmon, mackerel, black and green tea, and red wine (1 glass only!)
  3. COMPRESS: The more you can resemble a morph-suit, the better. We want to compress everything! Due to the forces of running and the duration of cycling in triathlons, it's usually the lower half that needs the most attention, so leggings or leg sleeves are a priority. The 2XU PWX range are amongst the most comfortable and have medical-grade dernier, meaning they give a top level of compression.
  4. REST: The single-most important thing you can do! The body is very good at repairing itself if left to its own devices. If it's forced to train with inflamed joints or damaged muscles, that's when ongoing fatigue and injuries undoubtedly arise. Sleep is vital as this is when the body repairs properly, so hit the hay as much as possible in the few days post-race. Rest does not mean complete inactivity, and you should incorporate some very light exercise to reduce stiffness and speed up recovery.
  5. STRETCH: Stretching will not help knots (tight muscles often lose their striation and become knotted and shortened as a result), so this is where massage takes precedence (see point 6). Dynamic stretching (leg and arm swings) is fantastic for releasing tight muscles and fascia, and aiding circulation, so it's a great idea to spend a few minutes on this first thing in the morning as well as before any exercise. For static stretching, any areas of tightness need a good 2 minute hold twice a day to make any real improvement. A cursory 20 second stretch will do nothing of benefit!
  6. ICE: Areas that are swollen or inflamed need ice asap; it does reduce swelling. Swelling is BAD and you'll need to rest and let that settle before even thinking about training hard again. I have iced religiously before and still needed cortisone, so it is not a miracle cure, but it does help.
  7. MASSAGE: Do not seek sports massage straight away. Your muscles are damaged, inflamed and dehydrated, and massage breaks down tissue even more, albeit temporarily. A very light rub aids circulation, but I have never been able to feel the difference whether I have had a 'tickle' or not. 48 hours after is the best time to get on the couch with your massage therapist. Bring a wooden spoon to chew on: for best results they need to go deep.
Guest Blog - Rapid Race Recovery: The Truth

Things to avoid

SITTING: This simple act compounds tightness in the hip flexors and pelvic region. Try and lie down or walk around rather than sit for too long. This is often easier said than done in our everyday lives but it's something to be aware of.

HARD PARTYING: 1 beer or glass of wine is actually said to reduce inflammation and aid recovery (although effects are not actually noticeable in my experience). Any more than this and you certainly will increase recovery time, as the muscles will remain dehydrated and the repair process will be compromised. Fine if it's a big race worthy of a big celebration, but be prepared go easy the few days after.

RUNNING: should be the last activity to reintroduce. Cycling and swimming are great as they are non-impact and you'll actually feel looser for doing something. As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as a 'recovery run' due to its high-impact nature. If you simply want to loosen off, it's far better to do something else! Keep the running at a minimum for the first few days.

Time to Recover

For me, a seasoned triathlete, a Sprint distance triathlon takes around 5 days to fully recover from, which is probably more than people think. For longer distance races or Ironman, it can be a good 2-3 weeks, with ultra running even longer (distance dependent). Everyone is different and my recovery is on the slower scale, so learn to listen to yourself. Most coaches just make educated guesses, so it's up to you to get to know your body. Have respect for racing and don't rush to get back into full training. Remember that recovery is as much a part of the training process as training itself.

If you are interested in joining B2P's Tri Club or are after any advice please contact our expert team at or check out
Guest Blog - Rapid Race Recovery: The Truth
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