The best post Ironman lightning fast recovery secrets (part 1)
Posted Oct 16 2010 7:00am
Researchers have suggested than an Ironman triathlon takes a minimum of 19 days recover, and possibly several more weeks or months.
And boy, I used to be convinced they were right.
For example, three years ago, I finished my fifth Ironman, and must admit that I was slightly annoyed at the intense pain that seared through my body for the week following the race. Attempting to climb or descend stairs was a formidable task; sitting down, standing up and going to the bathroom was a lesson in teeth-gritting; and hobbling through the airport on the way home was embarrassing and frustratingly slow. For nearly a month, I experienced "dead leg syndrome", and quite a bit of trouble even staying fit. It hurt to exercise, so I wasn't really motivated to do it.
In the years since that Ironman, as a coach and sports nutritionist I've learned a lot about recovery. But the ultimate assessment of my newfound knowledge was finally tested one week ago at Ironman Hawaii World Championships in Kona- a perfect race for me to use myself as a guinea pig and test how quickly the body can recovery from hills, wind, dehydration and high-paced competition stress. During the race I did not hold back, crossing the finish line at 9:53, with just one stop for a flat tire.
It has now been 5 days since the Hawaii Ironman. When I finished, I broke down on the beach, crying from the pent-up emotions of the race, but also grimacing from the razor blade-like feeling tearing into my IT bands, quads and hamstrings. But 5 days later, as I stand at the airport typing this post, my body feels a stark contrast to previous Ironman attempts: pain-free, spry and comfortable. In fact, just this morning, before leaving for the airport, I had an hour long cycling interval workout on the bike, and my joints felt fantastic - with my body experiencing absolutely zero variations in heart rate and speed compared to pre-Ironman rides.
And what about the day after, and the other 4 days since Ironman Hawaii? Using the recovery tools I am about to share with you in this post, I was shocked by how much more pain-free, light on my feet, un-stiff and recovered I was compared to any other Ironman attempt. So here, in this article, I will give you the secrets of lightning-speed recovery from an Ironman triathlon, broken down into four components Ironman and each day after Ironman: Activity, Supplements, Gear & Advanced Techniques.
Pre-Race Ironman Recovery:
Activity: Tight muscles can be full of adhesion and knots that tend to magnify stiffness during the race, and soreness after the race. I used a local massage therapist (thanks Tim Gilreath) to work on me 4 times in the final month leading up to Ironman, and in between sessions with Tim, included stick work or foam roller at least once every three days. To enhance hydration and limit free radical formation, upon arriving in Hawaii, aside from swimming every morning, I only trained twice - two very quick 30 minute outdoor bike rides followed by brief 15 minute runs.
Supplements: 30 minutes prior to the swim, I swallowed 6 capsules of a beta-alanine supplement for enhanced tissue oxygenation and 1 tablespoon of a greens supplement as a non-acidic energy source. As a potent free radical buffer, I swallowed a double dose of Synergy Sport powder - one of the most potent anti-oxidant cocktails on the planet. To enhance joint fluidity, I also supplemented double dosed with a pharmaceutical grade fish oil capsule from Bioletics in the final week prior to the race. Immediately prior to the race, in transition, I slathered my legs and upper body with topical magnesium, which can increase blood flow and displace calcium, a common contributor to post-race soreness.
Gear: To limit blood pooling pre-race, I wore geeky, calf-high compression socks for the final 3 nights prior to the race. This did not score me any points in the bedroom with my wife, but did help to flush the legs.
Advanced techniques: I utilized a Compex Sport Elite electrostimulation device in "Recovery" mode to keep the blood flowing whenever I was sitting around the house in the days leading up to the race. This gave me 30-40 minutes of daily electrostimulation. I also used this unit 5 times in "Exercise" mode for the month leading up to the race.