25 Jun Prepare and Recover for a Half-Distance Triathlon
For some, training for a half-distance triathlon is a way to try something new, lose weight, get into better shape, or add a new challenge to their life. Once you have decided to embark on the swim, bike, and run training journey, you will need to consider, and treat yourself, like an endurance athlete. The long hours of training will quickly add up, your body and mind will be churning out numerous strenuous workouts per week, and, before you know it, you will be at the starting line. No matter what drives you to get out there on race day, it is what you do before and after the race that will make you a winner.
The Race Ready Tune Up
By now, you are probably coming off a couple of big weeks of training and can feel the exhaustion in your body. However, this is normal as you have begun your taper and all of that fitness will settle into your muscle fibers as you prepare for your race. About five days out, the pros suggest cutting your workout volume 50 percent from the week before. This allows your body to stay lose and stay in race mode. This is also the day that you want to work on getting quality sleep. It is possible you might be nervous or excited the night or two before the race, so it’s imperative that you work on getting your needed rest now.
About four days out, make sure you are not doing any intense workouts. At this point, you have maxed out your highest fitness potential with all of the training time you have put into your body. Professional triathlete Patrick Evoe suggests a couple of easy runs or bikes where you pick up the pace for short intervals of 15-20 seconds, just to keep the engine in your body turning over. If possible, look to get a pre-race massage to flush out lactic acid. Evoe recommends light foam rolling if you cannot get a massage.
Proper race day hydration and fueling will have a big impact on your performance. Proper hydration starts well before the gun goes off. At least 2 hours before the race you will want to consume, depending on your body weight, approximately 12-20 oz. of water to ensure your fluid levels are topped off. Much like hydration, race day fueling strategy begins well before the start of the event.
More than anything, stick to the foods and supplements that you have been eating as you have trained in the prior months. Race day fueling is about effective carbohydrate / glycogen management. The objective being to ensure your endogenous (liver and muscle) glycogen reserves are topped off and you have a well thought-out routine for keeping your exogenous (immediately available and absorbable) fuel routinely topped off. Effectively managing what and when you take in nutrition during the race will impact the rate you are using your glycogen and therefore your performance potential. Many pros and coaches recommend sticking to a larger breakfast, well in advance of the event, including carbohydrates such as oatmeal, toast, or pancakes accompanied by some low-fat and low-fiber foods. This will help with topping off the endogenous reserves. Too much fiber can cause irritable bowel issues so stay away from foods like fiber-filled cereals, fruit, and vegetables, such as broccoli. The night before the race, some coaches suggested to eat about half of your normal portions of carbs, around 60-80 grams and pairing it with a serving of protein like chicken or fish.
There are numerous options for carbohydrate supplementation race day fueling. Many of which that can definitely cause GI distress, something you do not need. Be sure to train with your carbohydrate supplement to understand how it works for you and your body in a variety of conditions. A supplement like XRCEL®, which comes in an array of delicious flavors and a bottle sporting 4.75 fluid ounces, will fuel you with a valuable dose of glucose, preparing your body for high performance come race day. XRCEL is an effective and super efficient carbohydrate choice for athletes thanks to the glucose-loaded extended-release micro-gels that help the carbohydrates rapidly absorb in the small intestine and provide a extended source of energy. XRCEL is any athlete’s efficient choice for keeping their engine fueled on race day.
In order to stay focused leading up to race day, pay attention to details such as making sure that your wetsuit, bike, and running shoes are all properly functioning. Get any equipment fixed or replace it if it’s not race-ready. It’s also important to have done some workouts in the clothes you will wear on race day in order to avoid discomfort or chaffing. Evoe suggests that “when it comes to your race plan, make sure you stick to your plan.” Finally, take a moment to visualize yourself having a great race!
Listen to Your Body
It is crucial that you put just as much effort into your physical, nutritional, and mental recovery as you did during the race. It is essential to keep your body moving. Sitting or lying down immediately after you cross the finish line is probably what your body is yearning for, but it’s the worst thing for your muscles. At the very least, stop and take a minute to try to stretch out any of those radiating muscles so that your blood continues to evenly flow through your system and you can allow your heartrate to slowly come down. No matter how old or young your muscles are, it’s important to spend a good 15-20 minutes stretching out.
Another important tip, post-race, is to lay down where you can put your legs up, like on a wall or chair, and let the lactic acid stream out of your muscles. You probably won’t be ready for a post-race massage for 3-4 days, but this will help with easing the soreness of your muscles. “Ice baths are actually great for all of those torn muscle fibers in your body. I am usually less stiff the days following a half-triathlon distance if I have taken an ice bath,” Evoe added.
Taking the day or two after your race completely off is a common recovery tool. “Listen to your body and use the next week as a recovery week, only doing light swimming and biking and avoiding the pounding that comes with running,” said Evoe.
Refueling Your Engine
To help with tissue damage and inflammation, it is crucial to get antioxidants in your body and help with oxidation. Colorful berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are high in antioxidants and will feed your muscles the relief it needs. Most importantly, do not forget to replace the glycogen stores you just burned during your race. Replenishment of energy providing nutrients after exercise is critical to your body’s recovery process. Glucose containing carbohydrates are optimal sources for energy replacement due to the fact that it is directly converted to energy, whereas fructose, other sugars, fats, and proteins require additional processing.
Whether you are a pro or an age-grouper, you deserve at least a week of restoration. Look to mix up your light recovery workouts by choosing your favorite, easy training sessions and do not workout intensely for a couple of weeks. “As the mind might tell you to get back to training, you need to remember that if you do not recover, you will not be racing anytime soon,” Evoe reminds us.